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.