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History as written by those about to win

I somehow missed this capsule history of post-World War II from Matt Stoller. I think there's a lot to be said for it, so I'll quote a huge excerpt:

[The supplemental] is one step, not just directed at ending the war in Iraq, or at stopping Bush, but at ending a long-term trend towards an authoritarian national security state. Many of our media, economic, cultural, and political institutions have been directed towards such a state, and this is very much a bipartisan trend - it's not a coincidence that the 1984 ad had such resonance for IBM in the early 1980s and with Hillary Clinton today (I'm not arguing she's big brother, that's absurd, only that the ad resonates).

The roots of this state are traceable directly to an authoritarian South, a one-party unique region in America that has held the balance of power since the 1930s and that was and is dedicated above all to a race-based hierarchical society.

Thoughts? Read on:

Through shaping even progressive legislation, like the Wagner Act, Dixiecrats ensured that broad-based class movements failed. It's not widely-understood, but the reason the South flipped to an anti-labor stance in the 1940s is because the CIO had tremendous success in organizing multi-racial unions as World War II labor markets tightened. This was a direct threat to Jim Crow, and so Southern Democrats cooperated with Republicans to pass Taft-Hartley, a piece of legislation which basically made labor organizing impossible and turned unions into groups that can only advocate for their own survival. At the same time, there were massive pre-McCarthy purges of leftists and decertifications of leftists unions, leaving unions open to infiltration by the CIA, FBI, organized crime, and bureaucratic inertia. The biggest movement for social justice in American history - the labor movement of the 1930s - ran up against the South, and the South turned it into a pro-Vietnam reactionary force that rejected the New Left in the 1960s.

In 1945, there were more strikes than there had ever been in American history. From 1946-1948, the purges happened. And then the 1950s somehow placidly came, and women were no longer in the factories and African-American soldiers were somehow living back in segregated neighborhoods. It's funny, how history is written by the winners. ... That's when the national security state, the seeds of the authoritarianism that sprouted into Vietnam, Iraq, and a radically unfair media and economy, were fertilized.

And where were the liberals? Well, the liberals were going along with it, helping to cooperate with the Southern autocrats to destroy what they perceived as the existential communist threat (and eliminate their Henry Wallace-ite rivals within the Democratic party). The people that Peter Beinart fetishized destroyed the left from 1946-1948 ...

Like an organism, American adapted to this constitutional order. Highways sprawled outward, suburbs ate the landscape, cities died and were reborn, and American dotted the world with military bases. Education turned into a competition for credentials, a cultural war where the winners turned to legal drugs and the losers turned to illegal drugs upon which there was apparently a war. Wars on concepts actually became quite popular, often initiated by those from Texas. Democrats became the party of the status quo, Nixon criminalized politics, David Broder-esque pundit middle-managers infected discourse, TV became Geraldo-ified and the civil rights movement detached from its class-based origins and moved to a rights-based model even as black nationalists convulsed from within. The culture became lost in dreams and pain, addiction mainstreamed itself, a superwealthy class helped itself to everything, and young boys and girls adopted the role model of 'more'. The religion of America turned to anticommunism, which morphed nicely into anti-enlightenment and anti-reason. America today is full of promise, but this last fifty years has been ugly and full of spite.

The legislative strategy by the Democrats has been opaque, and allies such as Moveon have not sufficiently opened up the process to allow a genuine peak inside. But that is inherent to a legislative strategy in today's America, and this bill is only one step out of many that can take America away from our wars on concepts. Pelosi has detached the Democratic Party from its bipartisan consensus towards a national security state. The electoral landscape has as its governing party a coalition that has cut out the authoritarian South. And long-term, the authoritarian South can now be tamed, since its dependence on Federal subsidies has grown to become a serious addiction.

But reversing 60 years of a top-down national security state based political system doesn't happen with one election, nor should it. The public chose to be here. Now it's time that all of us, and all of us do have blood on our hands, choose to work to go in a different direction. It is messy. There is no one magic bullet, and in fact, the magic bullet concept comes from the top-down Hollywood consumer dream so prevalent in the national security state.

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Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

it doesn't cover what i see as an endless seesaw we've been trapped in since Nixon--one where the GOP runs up massive deficits and trashes trust in law and government as a force for good, then us Democrats have to come in and clean up but can't make real progress because of all the damage done, then the GOP comes back in and does the same thing again, then we have to come in and clean up again, etc...

I don't see an end to it, and i find it impossible to reconcile with any sort of real progress occuring, or even a halting of the reversals that began after WW2, as he so eloquently described. It seems that we've been going backwards since the 70s, and watching the rest of the world go forward.

Each succeeding generation--as a result of this trashing, then cleaning, etc--has less faith in government as a force for good, and cynicism grows and grows so that even small improvements seem out of reach, let alone big things like universal health, or better lifelong public education, clean energy, etc.

Submitted by lambert on

That's what devilstower wrote at Kos, and I think that makes sense:

For the last forty years, there has been only a single Republican administration. That may seem an odd idea. After all, at least a couple of Republicans have been elected over that period -- and a couple more have found their way to the White House through other means. No matter the name on the Oval Office door, the philosophy promoted by the White House has remained. This the Imperial Presidency of Richard M. Nixon, now brought to inglorious summer by the (adopted) son of Crawford. It was under Nixon that the philosophy of a supreme executive was gestated. It was under Nixon that the men who populate the current administration were taught their love for tyranny over justice. From Watergate, to Iran-Contra, to Iraq, Nixon's heirs have worked to chisel away the rule of law. With Snow's blunt declaration of independence, any remaining illusion that the executive branch continues to act as part of the government is removed. If this interpretation holds, if the congress can not exert authority over the executive, then we are a democracy in name only.

We've only wounded the beast. We haven't killed it, and it may be even more dangerous now that it's bleeding and maddened.

But let's look on the bright side: At least we've got its attention.

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

we have their attention, but we had it during Watergate, and during Iran-Contra, etc, and it did no good.

It's like when they say that prisons only make bad criminals into better criminals because of the stuff they learn while there---the GOP just changes their strategy and bullies everyone more and more, while raping and pillaging even more than before. All this shit by Bush and Cheney and Rove, etc, (in so many areas) now makes Nixon look like a piker, i think.

And we still have to clean up their mess each time instead of moving us all forward. We never get to accomplish things, while they do.