Ginsburg’s death and McConnell’s hypocrisy is the final straw.
At 67 I’ve seen the country rocked many times: two Kennedy assassinations, Martin Luther King assassination, Vietnam War, Kent State, Watergate, Three Mile Island, 9/11, 2009-2010 economic crisis, mass shootings, the Trump election, COVID-19 and zillions of other events in between. Now comes the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and McConnell’s patently hypocritical rush to replace her.
Through it all, this “great experiment” as it’s sometimes called — American Constitutional democracy — has endured. It’s useful to recall that the U.S. Constitution was ratified just 233 years ago in December 1787. That’s but a blip in human history which has seen great societies rise and fall. Despite this, the liberal side of my Gemini ‘twinship’ has clung to a belief that American democracy would last forever. It’s the only world I’ve lived in and it’s felt like it will survive forever — until lately it seems quite fragile.
My other Gemini twin has known for a long time this isn’t true. I’ve known this “democracy” is not an equal society where “we’re all in it together.” This is a class-divided society. We all talk about the “working class” and the “middle class” but then euphemistically refer to those above as the “Upper Class” or “the 1%.” What they really are is a Ruling Class. This class is comprised of just a few hundred families whose vast ownership and wealth give them immense power and influence over the functioning of society. They have pull that you and I will never know.
The Ruling Class is not monolithic, however, and it doesn’t have absolute control. This is not a one-person dictatorship, it’s a bourgeois democracy. The Ruling Class manages its affairs through government and decides policy through two parties, the Democrats and Republicans, which reflect their differing opinions.
This system has worked quite well for a long time, particularly when economic conditions are good as they were during the long expansion following World War II. That post-war expansion, however, started running out of gas in the mid-70s and things have been going slowly downhill since. The most recent low point was the 2009-2010 “Great Recession.”
The Ruling Class is in a jam these days, with few ways to expand its wealth beyond massive tax cuts and all manner of paper gimmicks, what Marx called “fictitious capital.” While pressed economically, the rulers are also confronted with demands for expanded freedom and equality (Black Lives Matter, LGBT, immigration) better access to healthcare, union rights, and more. On the right, there are demands to clamp down on the above combined with all manner of conspiracy theories with no factual backing yet with growing acceptance.
The struggle between Democrats and Republicans reflects all of this. The Ruling Class and its two parties are in crisis, divided on what course to take. They’re unable to resolve their problems and manage society efficiently. Politics has become polarized to the point where for many compromise is anathema. Differences seem irreconcilable. Decorum and civility are breaking down. It seems the system itself is now imploding under Trump.
Trump isn’t the cause of this crisis, surprising as some may find this. He’s the result of a dysfunctionality that has been growing for years. Voting Trump out in November may relieve some of the immediate pain, like removing a bullet, but the wound will remain. In this analogy, the wound is infected and won’t heal. It will worsen and threatens the whole body.
My liberal twin mentioned above has been clinging to illusions that simply aren’t sustainable any longer. The Ginsburg/McConnell fiasco is just one more event among zillions, yet it’s an epiphany where I’m forced to finally declare that I can no longer give credence to the mythology of this system. It’s time I stop trusting in Santa Clause. My other twin has known better since the early 70s when I first became a youth activist.
Some readers will ask “If not this, then what?” The answer is socialism.
Socialism is a word that conjures up different images in peoples’ minds, some not so good. What I mean is a system in which the working class — the overwhelming majority — collectively decides the policies and course of the country rather than the few ultra-wealthy families. By now I think they’ve demonstrated the ruinous course they’re driving us down. I’ll explore the idea of socialism here in greater depth over the coming months and recommend resources for additional information.
For now, I’ll close by saying to both parties, “A plague o’ both your houses!” Which is more than a little ironic in this age of COVID.
Title image: Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash
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