Where do we go from here?
Recognizing bigger threats, post-election day
There is a plethora of great, post-election-day stories to choose from, but today I’ll offer a look at a couple of issues that most media haven’t already covered in-depth. The predicted, red wave, turned into a splash in a fish tank yesterday, for which I am grateful. To be clear, I am grateful that unlike so many Americans, political identity is irrelevant to me. I’m a problem solver, that looks at facts, context and opportunities for solutions. The bottom line… the currently, extremist controlled, Republican party had no facts and no solutions to offer. Like the rest of the Trump era, they exist only, on a diet of conspiracy theory-empowered, outrage. They are a threat to our democracy and yesterday’s election results, were indicator that a great many Americans agreed with my diagnosis.
Like the name TAT, the following is about a most significant threat to our nation, and today, I offer a bigger picture of the threats.
First up is the still significant threat to the nation by extremist, conspiracy theory-fueled movement claiming to be Republicans and conservatives. They are not, and for the simple reason that they have no agenda, no analysis, no solutions or recommendations. Their issues are merely anti-American talking points, often based on fantasy, not reality.
An excellent NYT article this morning, explains in detail, via an interactive report titled, “See Which 2020 Election Deniers and Skeptics Won in the Midterm Elections” how pervasive the threat to democracy still is. The Times article shows clearly that 210 Republican congressional candidates that either deny the results of the 2020 election or have questioned the results prominently, won races. Yes, this means, that what most of America saw on their ballot, was a party dominated by conspiracy theorists that won on faux outrage but have zero plan to help our nation with its long list of issues.
Professionally speaking, conspiracy theories, like urban myths are particularly dangerous narratives. They create over time, an identity for their followers that are more cult-like than otherwise. Victims of both cults and extremists of all ideologies, are more akin to rabies victims. Once fully infected, nearly impossible to cure.
Generally speaking, on the radicalization spectrum that begins with radicalization, that develops into extremist beliefs, will eventually lead many to become violent extremists. Once the threshold is crossed between extremism, into violent extremism or public displays of extremist behavior, recrossing that threshold towards recovery, doesn’t often happen. It’s an affliction that can lay dormant or intentionally hidden but never leaves entirely. Deradicalization programs are andecdotally indicate a slightly better recovery rate but such recovery depends on a great many factors and qualitative and quantitative data is still, mostly hard to find. Most are either unwilling or unable to commit to rehabilitation, especially if they remain in the same environment with other extremists. When entire states like most of the deep south and Midwest are dominated by such extremists, recovery is as hopeless as the aforementioned, “rabies.”
The second point that I’d like to make is that there is a far more dangerous threat, as the decades pass. That is the threat of two distinct identities, going to war. Those who have studies our Civil War of 1861-1865, know precisely how this occurs. Southern, plantation/ slave-based identity became as rigid as the abolitionist identity of the north, across the Mason-Dixon line. Although the northern states had right on their side, southern identity could not and would not allow facts, morality and reason to pierce their rigid, ideology that their identities were built around. Primary narratives (the core of which is about identity) were primarily religious in nature when used as propaganda. Coupling religion with propaganda (conspiracy theories can be one version of propaganda) is a powerful tool in the hands of those who use it for reasons, not based on the greater good.
Freedom, holding the American flag, is flanked by Christianity and Justice, and surrounded by historical figures including Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin. Humanitas reaches down to the manacled slave being restrained by the alligator King Cotton, sovereign of the dark underworld of the Confederacy.
Library of Congress
Today, we see the same between red and blue. This is also one of the reasons that George Washington warned so precisely about the rise of factions, or what we call today, political parties. In order to win, tribalism must become the rule. Everyone on the inside of the tribe is good and outside, are bad.
Today’s SCOTUS, with rulings that send so many previous federal issues to the states to control, abortion being the most prominent, has reemphasized the tribalism that led to Civil War. State governments, especially those in red states have long sought this change and have been particularly aggressive in shaping their state identities to match the rhetoric of their larger “tribe.” What we see today are two distinct national identities instead of one and both sit on tinderboxes, ready to be ignited by manufactured outrage. Like TX, the Republican platform actually includes measures/ agenda items that are blatantly anti-constitutional like, “religion in schools.”
The time that passes without reigniting unity over our actual American values, the fuse of those sitting on the tinderboxes gets shorter. This my friends bodes poorly for my typical optimism. It is what frightened voters yesterday too, even if they didn’t articulate this as I have. Extremism, once it takes the form of rigid conspiracy theory adherence, is the most dangerous threat our nation has had since the Civil War.
As an example, the Taliban were originally freedom fighters, evolving into resistance against brutal, post-Soviet withdrawal warlords who eventually took on the identity of rigid religious zealots. Their severe, often misinterpreted version of Islam became their ideology. That rigid ideology, supported by violence led to unspeakable human suffering. Most so-called “holy wars, usually do.” When it’s not religious ideology, its populism and rabid nationalism. We’ve also seen the same with the way Communism was used to subjugate whole nations. The racist ideology of Nazi Germany is another.
When rigid, extremist ideology, is the vehicle that immoral leaders use for power, misery follows. Any cursory read of history tells us this. The only question remaining is whether or not, we will listen as a unified nation or, tribes with unique but differing American identities, at each other’s throats. The only way to stop this is for those with morals and willingness to stand up for what is right and unify over our actual unified national narrative. To date, only a handful (literally) of Republican leaders have dared, and at great personal cost. The rest, ride the extremist current to more power, more lawlessness and our nation be damned.
Okay, let’s sum this up.
The combination of states creating separate identities based on the homogenous political tribalism is a threat. We also now see that when combined with a willful choice to avoid reality, make those tinderboxes become imminent fires. It’s not a matter of if, but when they erupt into flames. We’ve seen this before and if morally grounded Americans don’t stand up in force, as they did across much of America yesterday, these fires will burn out of control.
I’m not trying to rain on the parade of winners but let’s remember, this job isn’t finished until we have political factions that operate on reality-based morals, that actually define our remarkable but troubled nation.
The first step in any 12-step program worth its salt, is to first admit what the problem is. At the moment, much of America is still unaware and prisoner to their ideological beliefs.
The only belief system that matters is the functioning moral framework of government bequeathed to us by our founders. It’s not red, nor blue nor white, it’s the combination of all three. Never forget that the first word in our national title is, “United.”
Happy post-election day America.