How Did We Get Here?

I found Maria Gutzeit’s 28 November column “Watching the world burn” (link) to be very interesting and well-written. But I think her wish for a society free of partisan politics, though admirable and well-meant, is at its heart naïve and unrealistic.

The problem, I believe, is that we’re currently engaged in a cultural civil war in this country that’s every bit as profound and fundamental as the one that took place in the 1860s, though so far pretty bloodless. Thank God for that, at least.

Historically, political rancor, and even violence, is nothing new in this country. Elected representatives were known to whack one another on the head with their canes right on the floors of Congress; Burr killed Hamilton in a duel over politics; and, of course, there was the afore-mentioned Civil War itself.

World War II was the event that created a rare period of national unity which lasted well into the post-war era of the ‘50s and early ‘60s, when the world was rebuilding from that war’s destruction. That was the “Leave It To Beaver” era for which so many wax nostalgic, or mock mercilessly, depending on their political inclinations.

That era came to an abrupt and dramatic end with the riots at the 1968 Democrat Party convention in Chicago, which underscored the rise of the counter-culture that rejected the ethos of the later-named “Greatest Generation” – their parents’ generation – in favor of a radicalized vision of what American culture should be.

That counter-culture, firmly rooted in the ideology of collectivist socialism, ironically found its home in the very Democrat party it had so violently rioted against, and in the subsequent almost half-century rose to positions of prominence and power within that party. As a result of their de facto takeover of that party they’ve managed to radically alter its underlying principles to the point that they now reflect much of the agenda of those original radicals who rioted in Chicago.

We see much of its strategy deriving directly from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”, a primer for the counter-culture of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which is essentially a blueprint for political disruption and manipulation. This is evidenced by class warfare pitting the “haves” against the “have-nots”, and the demonization of the “one-percenters”, as well as the creation, proliferation, and perpetuation of “victim” groups, which then go on to even compete against each other for prioritization, leading to further fragmentation and balkanization of the society and culture.

In such a noxious and confrontational political climate, our national motto, “E Pluribus Unum” – meaning “out of many, one”, a message of unity – has been effectively reversed for all intents and purposes into its mirror-opposite, “out of one, many”.

In her column, Maria writes: “The win will come when we all sit down and acknowledge common goals and work on that without uttering the words ‘democrats’, ‘republicans’ or ‘politics’… Imagine if we focused on electing people to improve and implement good policy, rather than ‘win’ for ‘our side’.”

While I think that’s a very nice thought, I also think it’s about as realistic as a kid’s Christmas wish list as he tells it while sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall. The reality is that “politics” is how we determine public policy in this country, and there’s at least one very sizeable portion of the body politic that seems determined to completely redefine the social and cultural fabric of our society. To destroy it in order to replace it with a system that is completely alien to traditional American ideals and constitutional principles.

In consequence, we see the politicization of almost everything, even sports, which used to be one of the few remaining bastions of political neutrality. Instead, we see the NFL immersed in their “taking a knee” controversy. We see popular media – TV, movies, and even books – showcasing political correctness at the expense of entertainment value. Higher education has become, at many universities, a venue of indoctrination rather than enlightenment.

In this adversarial climate, I believe the wish for reconciliation and cooperation, though well meant, has very little chance of being realized.



©Brian Baker 2017

(Also published today in The Signal)