South Dakota Top Blogs

News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Monday, May 21, 2018

How politics became gang war

Putting a campaign sign in your yard is like displaying gang colors.   Politics has become more a matter of designating who you hate and battling for turf and power than of offering various solutions to problems and concerns.  In recent years politics has tended more and more to be organized around the principles of street gangs with their racial and bigoted divides.  Political campaigning often displays the aspects of mindless warfare between  gangs, such as the Crips and Bloods in Los Angeles.

The media has created the situation.  It began with Rush Limbaugh's relentless disparaging of liberals.  In doing so, he grossly misrepresented what liberals believe.  Little that Limbaugh claimed was true.  His claims set a record for untruth on the fact checker Politifact.  Limbaugh's response has been to attack all fact-checking.  

One of his most successful ploys was to hold individuals up for disparagement and defamation.  The prime example was his attack on law student Sandra Fluke when she advocated for birth control.  He heaped on the defamations to the glee of his fans and the dismay of people with moral sensibility.

Rush Limbaugh is America's Joseph Goebbels.  He created malice and disrespect among his followers. And that malice and disrespect became an integral part of American politics.   He paved the way for a disreputable person like Donald Trump to become president.

Therein lies a devastating irony. Supporters of Trump whine because they are disrespected by the advocates of decency.  They think it is unfair that people dismiss them as stupidly malevolent because they voted for and support Donald Trump.   Commentators upbraid liberals for contending that people who support Trump have branded themselves as stupid, ignorant, malicious dolts.  They say that  "elite" shouldn't think itself so smart.  

They miss the point.

Those who despise Trump and his supporters don't think they are smarter or better than the Trumpers.  They recognize a hopeless trend in the reversal of the progress America has made in socially and politically bringing the nation into line with the words of its founding:  liberty, equality, and justice for all.  Anyone who has made the most casual acquaintance with the facts of Trump's life and the words he speaks knows that The New York Times summary of his life and character is verifiably true:

Mr. Trump has spent his career in the company of developers and celebrities, and also of grifters, cons, sharks, goons and crooks. He cuts corners, he lies, he cheats, he brags about it, and for the most part, he’s gotten away with it, protected by threats of litigation, hush money and his own bravado.
He is not the subject of investigation because of his political opponents.  He is being investigated because of his vast criminal record, which has been recorded and published over the years.  He rejects the basic virtues that define what America has tried to become.

Thus, when people put a Trump sign in their yard or on their car bumper, they are broadcasting to the world that they approve of America's regression into a third world banana republic.  They declare themselves enemies of liberty, equality, and justice for all.  While they whine and whimper about being disrespected, they cannot grasp that the agenda they support has earned the disrespect.

Many Americans and people throughout the world think the U.S. as the leading proponent of democracy has come to an end.  They do not see Trump as a cause of America's decline but as a symptom of a change in the American people:
Even before Trump was elected, Europeans sensed that Washington’s traditional role as guarantor of the continent’s security and stability was slipping away, and that post-World War II ties were fading along with the generations that forged them.
The divide in America is a deep cultural and social fracture.  Americans are sharply at odds about the basic human decencies necessary for democracy to work.  Under Trump, those decencies have been trampled, but they are the essential values of democracy that have been derided as liberal.

The disrespect heaped upon "liberals" by Limbaugh and his parrots has washed back over them.  But the problem is not one of disrespect.  It is one of dismissal.  Trump opponents do not think it is possible to engage in a respectful dialogue with Trump supporters.  They have nothing to talk about.  Those who endorse the malignant corruption of Trump are to be avoided, not dealt with.  They have declared themselves enemies of the civil decencies.

When people brandish a Trump sign or the campaign sign of a candidate who endorses the Trump agenda, they mark themselves as contaminates of democracy.  Over the recent years,  I have noted accounts of people who have stopped talking to neighbors,  dropped out of social and civic organizations and churches to avoid any contact with those who have so branded themselves.

America's progress in extending civil rights in its quest for liberty, equality, and justice for has hit an obstruction that has stopped and reversed that progress.  The symptoms are not only a person of Trump's nefarious character and agenda occupying the White House; the more oppressing symptoms are the unarmed people shot by the police lying dead in the streets and the  weekly ritual of school shootings that leave promising students dead on classroom and hallway floors.  There was a time when such perverted injustice would have sent the citizens raging in the streets in order to save the country from demented tyranny.  Now, they cower with mindless thoughts and insulting prayers that express how little they value human life. Some say, use the ballot box to regain control.  But when half the country practices disrespect, chooses to believe in lies that support their lethal hatreds, or choose people like Trump to represent them, the political process will not restore the respect for honesty  and decency.  

Political campaigns are only diversions and distractions from the gang wars that are leaving the streets and schools littered with dead innocents.  Those heaps of bodies signal the death of the American promise.  

The question is how to respond to a gang war.  A tactic of passive resistance is to avoid the hostiles, do not engage them, do not patronize their enterprises, and let them isolate themselves.  America is a violent country, however.  It probably cannot be recovered and restored as the preeminent democracy.  The gang war is, in fact, a civil war--actually a war between the civil and uncivil.  If something like America is to survive, the country may have to be demolished, redefined, and rebuilt. 

As elections approach,  it is necessary to understand that we are in a gang war.  We can try to vote like we've never voted before to save some possibility of liberty, equality, and justice for all.  But campaign talk should not let us lose sight of those shot dead in our streets and schools.  Or that what divides the country is beyond reconciliation.  Liberals recognize that reconciliation with the forces that Trump represents will be the death of democracy.  Who can reconcile with malevolence?

When we were previously at this juncture in our history, it was over slavery.  Some thought the country should divide itself between slaveholding states and free states.  Lincoln did not think so.  As long as there were slaveholding states, there were people who would be denied freedom and even the status of being human.  We engaged in a war during which 360,000 Union soldiers and 258,000 Confederates lost their lives.  The result was the elimination of slavery and a long period of struggling through Jim Crow, women's suffrage, and economic inequality that extends up to the present moment when that progress has stalled.

We may like to think that the country may redeem itself in the voting booth.  But our history shows us that our most decisive moments came through war.  We are a violent country.


Porter Lansing said...

Hear, hear Professor. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

jerry said...

Very informative as always. I was reading some interesting numbers to me anyway, on the price of gas in South Dakota and in particular, Rapid City. $2.56 per gallon seems to be the new normal there so I could not help wondering how politics not only became a political gang war but also a shakedown war by the petrol gang.

The same bunch that stuck us with a tax cut scam are now sticking it to us again with higher gas prices that will erode the little tax cut that most of us received. Pretty slick and pretty well thought out for a gang of thugs unleashed on the helpless.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States