Summary: A quick response to the comments and emails about the previous post (and the new article by Fallows). We are angry sheep! Here us roar!
As usual, James Fallows of The Atlantic goes to the heart of the matter. From his new article, an email from a university librarian in the Midwest:
I’ve never actually written to a journalist before, but I was one of the 1,252 people arrested this weekend in front of the White House. I also live in the rural Midwest and your source is right. People are close to revolt. I think it will be a five year process of movement building, but even my very conservative staff of library assistants all cheered me on when I told them what I was doing. The people I interact with here and the ones I met in DC are all fed-up at a deep and fundamental level.
All of the people I know who are capable of rational thought also understand that the combination of (we’re rural so pretty much everyone gets climate change) climate change and energy issues, lack of jobs, and the refusal of government to provide us with basic services means that a new revolutionary social movement is needed. Food prices are soaring, gas prices are making it hard for people to get to low paying jobs, and the amount of suffering because of lack of access to medical care is dire.
… How far does Congress think they can push before they get pushed back?
These are the words of someone annoyed with life. Sad, but there is near-zero basis here for political regime change. He mentions some liberal causes (e.g., anthropogenic climate change) with little broad popular support. He’s unhappy about some unchangeable features of the world today (e.g., high food and energy prices). He vents some typical partisan steam, such as “All of the people I know who are capable of rational thought” agree with me. He does not show any commitment to action: working for a candidate, circulating petitions, making contributions, hosting discussion groups, etc.
This dreaming about revolt is especially nauseating in a Republic. We elect our representatives every two years. Fantasizing about revolt is the opiate of people too lazy to work the political machinery designed by the Founders.
Revolts occur when people have political grievances and see regime change as a solution. There is nothing pointing to a solution in most of the political whining that passes for political analysis in 21st America. Nor the basis for a broad revolt in the Left’s panic about climate change and the Right’s crusade against taxes and social security.
What will the American people do?
The most likely response of the America people is nothing. How did the Romans respond to the death of the Republic? Passively, with irony, detachment, or resignation. The philosophically inclined adopted Stoicism, Epicureanism, or Hedonism. The religiously inclined adopted one of the mystery religions (esp popular in the Army), or something different like Christianity or Judaism.
For more information
(a) News about the frightened sheep formerly known as Americans:
- “The shadow of suspicion falls in the Mall of America“, Salon, 7 September 2011 — “Visitors who have done nothing wrong are winding up identified in counterterrorism reports”
- “A Call to Courage: Reclaiming Our Liberties Ten Years After 9/11“, ACLU, 7 September 2011
- Glenn Greenberg’s analysis of the ACLU report, Salon
I should not have been surprised, therefore, when I heard every one of my seventeen members introduced at home as “the best congressman in the United States.” But I was not prepared to find each of them polishing this individual reputation at the expense of the institutional reputation of the Congress. … Individual members do not take responsibility for the performance of Congress; rather each portrays himself as a fighter against its manifest shortcomings. Their willingness, at some point, to stand and defend their votes contrasts sharply with their disposition to run and hide when a defense of Congress is called for. Congress is not “we”; it is “they.” And members of Congress run for Congress by running against Congress. Thus, individual explanations carry with them a heavy dosage of critical commentary on Congress.
Other posts about this on the FM website
The previous post in this series: A Washington Insider looks at America, but does not understand what he sees, 7 September 2011
About American politics:
- Lilliput or America – who has a better way to choose its leaders?, 19 November 2008
- About campaigns for high office in America – we always expect a better result from the same process, 17 June 2009
- More about the tottering structure of the American political regime, 17 August 2009
- Please put on every milk carton: America’s political class is MIA, 17 November 2009
- Campaign finance reform = incumbent protection, 20 December 2009
- The breakdown of the American political system, pointing to a new and better future, 2 February 2010
- More people participating in politics: is this good for America?, 20 June 2010
- Programs to reshape the American mind, run by the left and right, 2 August 2010
- Which political party will best protect our liberties?, 10 September 2010
- Our leaders have made a discovery of the sort that changes the destiny of nations, 1 September 2010
- Polarization and hot rhetoric conceal two similar political parties. Will we ever notice?, 29 October 2010
- We have the leaders we deserve. Visit McDonald’s to learn why., 30 October 2010