The Unprecedented: The Question of “Why Now?”

Summary: I’ve tried to show, in previous entries, that the Republican Party of our times is acting in unprecedented ways. True, but a force similarly destructive arose in the decade leading to the Civil War. It is clear why that time was vulnerable to the entry of such a force of brokenness, inasmuch as the nation was divided by a persistent and quite fundamental issue: slavery. Today, there’s no such explanation for the rise of this force. No big issue. It is the brokenness that comes first, and whatever issue arises becomes a battlefield. It is as if our body politic suffers from a compromised immune system that has allowed opportunistic illness to move to a central place in the American system. There is some sort of “cultural AIDS” that has opened the door to the pathology. What explains the rise of so powerful an evil force in our times?

I have said repeatedly in recent years that the Republican Party has been taken over by a force more destructive and dishonest than anything before seen at center stage of American politics. The two previous pieces on “The Unprecedented” attempt to show how exceptional, extraordinary, abnormal in the context of American history this force is.

When I’ve made those declarations about the unprecedented nature of this force, I’ve frequently added the caveat: “with the possible exception of the decade leading up to the American Civil War.”

Soon, in a series-within-the-series under the title “This Evil Force Can Be Seen Moving Through Time,” I’ll try to show that indeed America has once before seen this “evil force” at center stage. I will seek to demonstrate a fundamental, organic connection between the force wreaking havoc in our times and that which drove this nation into Civil War. This will provide yet another means of making visible the empirical reality to which the idea of an “evil force” is pointing: for the replication of core patterns of conduct indicates the coherence of a force moving through time. What wrought havoc in the earlier time has now re-emerged and is manifesting again its destructive nature.

But even if we were to judge that the present eruption of an evil force is a second coming, as it were, and therefore not altogether unprecedented, there is something different about this time that we should find deeply troubling.

In the 1850s, the nation faced a deep-seated, quite major, and inescapably extremely difficult issue – slavery – through which an evil force could work its way to great power in the American political arena. With slavery, a significant dimension of brokenness embedded in the American body politic — a long-established way of life for a dominant American elite, representing a major share of the national wealth, was at fundamental odds with founding values of the American nation (“all men are created equal”); and there were important conflicts of economic interest between two well-defined geographical regions – provided the brokenness on which the nation could be split apart.

But in our times, there is nothing of the sort. Every issue that arises becomes a battlefield, but in our era it is not the issue that creates the brokenness but the brokenness that seizes upon any issue at hand. Our contemporary rise of an evil force to a position of great power seems to have happened just on its own, with no substance at its heart.

What this suggests is that there has been some deterioration in the overall fabric of goodness/morality/wholeness/integrity in the American civilization. It suggests that the American body politic suffers from a compromised immune system. It seems to be like the situation of a human body infected with the AIDS virus: with that immune system compromised, lurking diseases like Karposi sarcoma opportunistically take hold and kill the person. Likewise in America today: the political equivalent of Karposi sarcoma, lurking for generations in the recesses of the body politic, has opportunistically moved to a central place in the American power system because the system lacks the needed forms of resistance.

In its pure opportunism, this force has found in the Republican Party a channel to wreak destruction on the American organism. But it could only accomplish what it has done if the American body politic provided the opening.

It behooves us, therefore, to look deeper into the culture to see what has happened to weaken our cultural “immune system.”

How is it that something so extraordinary as today’s Republican Party can continue to be treated in our national discourse as “normal” and respectable, when it is so blatantly acting in unprecedented ways, all of them destructive of the fabrics of wholeness that have made this nation great.

Right before our eyes is something the likes of which no American has ever seen in a major political party– the terrible ugliness, the pack of lies, the destructive spirit, the spiteful and hostile way of rendering human relationships, the lack of even the suggestion of concern for constructive action to serve the common good.

Yet the American press, and the preponderant element of Liberal America, and the American people generally — i.e. the other major components of the American body politic — do not respond to this virulent pathology with anything like full recognition of how alien and dangerous and utterly unacceptable this party has become.

Beyond the Karposi sarcoma of which today’s destructive Republican Party is the manifestation, there is some sort of cultural AIDS that has opened the door to such pathology. More about this later in the series.

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  1. It may be, I say, it MAY be that what is coming to pass, as the end of Constitutional Government for the ‘former’ United States of America
    is the reward for iniquity.

    As one Party promotes moral confusion, yes Promotes, masquerading initially as benevolent Tolerance

    The Great Spirit, Author of Liberty and the laws of moral life, has withdrawn
    and allowed the god of This World , yes, the spirit of dominion and oppression
    to invest the ‘powers’ of BOTH parties to play out his/it’s meanness until and unless(?) they, the lost stampeding herds of this land should be corralled and calmed and remember from whence came the green pastures and still waters in the beginning.

    Though the Real powers in operation guiding human destiny seem to have escaped
    the interest of ‘modern’ scientific investigation

    It may be simpler than you think . . .

  2. David R said,

    “Though the Real powers in operation guiding human destiny seem to have escaped the interest of ‘modern’ scientific investigation”

    I am not sure this fits with what you’re talking about, but actually there has been significant work done on how ‘the Real (earthly) powers’ are studying and learning and getting better and better at using television–doing experiments with “focus groups” etc. to further the powers’ interests against most people’s interests except the interest in being entertained. I think that’s a big part of it, no kidding.


  3. As a reminder on simplicity, there is rule from antiquity that is still used today, known as
    Occam’s razor.
    Summarizing a long discussion: If you don’t know the answer, then start with the simplest explanation, the one that requires making the fewest assumptions.


  4. Yet another cross-reference to David Brin’s blog follows. Done it before and it will probably happen again from time to time.

    Brin opens with two major “cheats” as he calls them.

    First, the new House “Science” Committee (Brin uses the square quotes in the original) requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency to make public all data, scientific analyses, materials and models before promulgating any regulations. Sounds great, right? Transparency and openness in government, which is one thing President Obama also promised! Rah-rah-rah! But, Brin notes, not so fast — no symmetric requirement on industry which could potentially be the worst polluters. So, effectively, such a requirement would very effectively hamstring the EPA.

    Second, voter registration. As Brin puts it, requiring more stringent ID policies is not intrinsically evil, but doing so instantly, in ways which severely increase the onus specifically on voters likely to favor the Democratic party, is a cheat. Brin asks, which of the “red state” governments, which seem to tout the need for voter ID the strongest, do anything at all to help people obtain such ID? Another cheat. As Brin puts it:

    “States routinely give “compliance assistance” to major corporations, when new regulations apply to them. But apparently not one red cent has been appropriated in any red state to help the poor, or young, or women, or minorities to get the required ID, a move that would also help them in so many other aspects of life. In some cases, simple access to ID might them to STOP being poor.”

    Note: I think the claim about NO help for people to obtain the ID is a bit hand-wavy. It’s an important enough point that I would like to hear of contrary evidence — evidence that such help has occurred and been significant — if anybody here can provide it.

    I bring this up because of Andy’s subject here — the “unprecedentedness” factor. As Brin puts it in his blog post, written approximately the same time Andy wrote his:

    “This is what the once honorable and intellectual movement of Goldwater and Buckley is reduced to. Not winning elections based on the merits of their evidence or by comparing the outcomes from their party’s past periods of rule. Rather, all efforts go to cheating, cheating, cheating and more cheating. And if you support this cheat [the voter ID cheat], then no amount of arm-waving will let you escape the clear fact — that you are a cheater, too.”

    Andy has added blackmail to cheating, as he wrote several times about Republican legislators at the national level holding the nation hostage during budget negotiations.

    If you want to read the whole thing, it is at:

    The title refers to the second half of the post, which talks about the Tea Party’s dominant propaganda about the “tax on tea” as a significant irritant prompting the American revolution. I’ll close with one more quote to summarize the material there:

    “If you watch cable news or heed Facebook-snarky jpegs, you might believe the Big Grievance that provoked the American Revolution was “bureaucracy” … and a tax on tea.

    What… you actually believe that? Bureaucracy? And a tax… on… tea?

    Actually read. The grievance — the Big One — that Ben Franklin spent 7 years in London fighting, was that British king and lords and oligarchs owned 60% of the land in the colonies and refused to sell it or even let it be taxed by colonial legislatures, resulting in economic stifling.

    The other Big Grievance was against parliamentary laws that forced all trade to pass through a few ports and monopolist corporations owned by the king and lords.”

  5. I shared the David Brin article with some family and friends. To a couple of friends I added a bit later, “Gotta look out for those ‘Facebook-snarky jpegs.'”


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