I’ve focused here on the “Pure Case” of a Force of Brokenness taking over one of the main actors in the American power system, which has proceeded to wreak considerable destruction on American society and culture with the Republican Party as its instrument. But the problem of the rise of the power of “Evil” in America cannot be understood just in terms of the “Pure Case” one of the “actors” in the system — the Republican Party — became.
The problem in America has to be understood, rather, as a systemic problem.
“In every society, both constructive and destructive forces are always at work. But the balance of power between those forces is not constant.”
That is how I began a piece titled, “Cry the Benighted Country” – the one op/ed I chose as part of launching my 2015 book WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST.
(In that piece, I illustrated how that balance of power can shift by comparing England and Germany in 1910 and again in 1940. Two societies whose level of wholeness was reasonably comparable at the earlier time had become, thirty years later, separated — on the Good-Evil spectrum — by a vast gulf.)
But my real interest in that piece was how to explain how there had been such an adverse shift in that balance in the United States over the course of the previous generation.
To understand developments in the perennial “Battle Between Good and Evil,” we need to see not only what is happening to strengthen the side that is rising, but also what is happening to weaken the side that is losing ground.
So, in addition to looking at how the “infection” gets introduced into the system, we need also to look at what is happening to the society’s “immune system” that, if it were healthy, would be able to fight off the infection.
History shows there are a variety of routes whereby the Force of Brokenness can rise to dominate events, and wreak great havoc.
Besides America in these times, there are two other historical episodes — that I’ve studied fairly deeply – where such a force has gained in ascendancy and wrought catastrophic damage. The other two were 1) the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany, and 2) the coming of America’s terrible Civil War.
In a piece titled, “How Did America Come to This?” (published in early 2022), I concluded that neither example could illuminate why the adverse shift in that “balance of power” that developed in the United States from, say, the beginning of the 1990s until the present:
- The Force of Brokenness gained great power in Germany because of a succession of national traumas (1914-1933), which devastated the German nation at several levels: psychologically, economically, and in its collective politics.
By contrast, America in our era has had relatively smooth sailing. No traumas big enough to explain how the door had opened so wide for “Evil” to seize such power.
- In the United States, over the course of the generation leading up to the Civil War, the Force of Brokenness gained great power because of a huge issue – Slavery, on which which the power and wealth of the nation’s most powerful elite depended. The nation had struggled mightily for decades to contain and resolve the political conflict over slavery through the orderly means of constitutional politics, but ultimately without success.
In our own era in the United States in this era, however, there have been no issues of remotely such great magnitude. (Indeed, disputes over actual issues are a less prominent part of our present political battles than they generally have been.)
The adverse shift between wholeness and brokenness in America in our times requires a different kind of explanation. Evidently, “the Battle Between Good and Evil” can play out in a variety of ways.
We might find some major common themes – like the intensification of hatreds, of rage, of fears. But – as one might expect with a “battle” that is interwoven throughout the whole fabric of the human world – the number of developments (in child-rearing practices, in the economic system, in belief systems, in the values governing institutions, etc.) that can affect that balance of power between constructive and destructive forces in a society) is practically limitless.
I will be offering, momentarily, some ideas of how the power of Brokenness got amplified in that part of Conservative America that operates in the American power system—i.e. as a force struggling to gain control over the power of the state using the Republican Party as its instrument. It will not pretend to be a complete explanation, but I hope it will provide some illumination.
(Note that once again – as in the way “the parable of the tribes” explains how the Force of Brokenness entered powerfully into the human world with the rise of civilization –it is in the arena of Power that Evil shows its face most prominently. And it is there, above all, that the human future gets most decisively shaped.)
But given that the Republican Party became what it became, there are two other dimensions to the systemic factors that I want to explore, which have contributed significantly to the “adverse shift in the balance of power” between “constructive and destructive forces” (i.e. Good and Evil).
- What might be called “The Seduction of the Republican Base,” i.e. how a Force managed to move millions of “good” people (i.e. people whose participation in the society had been largely governed by their constructive values, feelings, beliefs) over to the side of Brokenness, where they would give their support to what they’d previously have condemned as Evil.
(As it happens, I had a particularly good “ring-side seat” to observe the dark transformation of those good conservatives, as I will soon tell.)
- And what might be called “The Failure of Liberal America (and the Democrats) to Protect the Nation,” i.e. how, when one side of America’s two-party system was getting hijacked by the Force of Brokenness, the other side – which was thereby of necessity cast into the role of Protector of the Good — had developed a set of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that disabled it from fighting effectively the battle that the other side thrust upon it.
After dealing with the Republican side, and with the seduction of their base, I will be going deeply into the roots of that Liberal Failure to Protect the Nation.
(One might also cite how changes to the American press contributed to this adverse shift, which I do include in that piece, “Cry the Benighted Country.”)
But first, a look at some relevant aspects of the evolution of the Republican Party in our times.