To continue with the Dickens referenced employed in my title, it was the worst of times, and it was the far-worse-than-than-that times, even if you are a member of the 1%. For whether you realize it or not, your country, and your entire international system, are in the gravest of jeopardy.
I've chosen this as my starting point after I found myself reflecting back to the presidential campaign of 2004, a sour experience that nevertheless makes the more recent one seem like Athenian democracy in its heyday by comparison. You may or may not recall that the Democratic nominee, John Kerry, selected fellow U.S. Senator John Edwards as his running mate, based in part on a desire to balance the ticket geographically (North and South), and also to incorporate Edwards' economic message from the primaries. In that message, Edwards liked to tell a tale of "two Americas, one rich and one poor." Of course, concerns about the post-9/11 world outweighed Edwards' efforts to build his primary campaign and, later, the Kerry/Edwards campaign around the crisis in economic equality, and George W. Bush was re-elected (or elected, as I prefer to say it) to the White House. It probably didn't help Edwards as an avatar of economic equality, of course, that he was a wealthy plaintiff's attorney with a somewhat colorful personal life.
Still, Edwards had a point, and that point has only grown sharper in the Donald Trump era, where a real estate tycoon compromised from almost every direction and with no practical experience in government nevertheless managed, on his first try, to "win" the highest office in the land, thanks to the Electoral College, the Russians, the FBI Director, and who knows how many other electoral tricks the GOP had up its sleeve. Trump's place in the Oval Office does more to reflect the current dominance of wealth over people than does perhaps any other single fact, alternative or otherwise.
In any other country, in any other period in history, this state of affairs and its attendant instability would led to some sort of upheaval in the status quo. That upheaval might be violent, and might not directly lead to a new and better status quo. But currently, there is no center, moral or otherwise to our society, and something would have to give. And yet, we seem to just be "chugging along," grimly determined to grind it out, while kidding ourselves that we can get through this disaster of a government without any lasting harm to our society, as well as to our system of government.
Because the tale that we should be considering is not one of two cities, or two nations, or two economic classes. It is, primarily, a tale of two parties.
In the one case, we have a party that was born and organized in the mid-nineteen century around the twin poles of national unity and personal freedom. As the century wore on, this devolved into a business-first perspective that, when combined with anti-Communism in the twentieth century, began to devolve into a cult, one that became obsessed with evaluating the patriotism of everyone. Finally, in a desperate attempt to stay alive, it embraced a new set of twin poles, white supremacy and fundamentalist religion, that turned its pro-business slant into a new capitalist creed that could broker no compromises with what it saw as "the welfare state," even when the advocates of that state were advancing causes designed to save everyone (e.g., fighting climate change). Today, that party is willing to do whatever it takes to unilaterally impose its will on everyone, turning the tools of democracy against the people to ensure perpetual control of the system. Democracy in name, in short, but nowhere in fact.
And what about the other party? The one that takes its name from democracy.
That party's first president was Andrew Jackson, a man who, his shortcomings notwithstanding, knew how to fight. And fight it did, from Jackson all the way into the twentieth century under Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. And then, suddenly, somehow it stopped. Whether it was purely out of concern of being seen as "too socialistic," or whether in fact it mirrored society in becoming so relativistic that it saw nothing as truly being worth a fight (unless their constituents took to the streets themselves), that party suddenly lost not only its voice, but its backbone. And, along with those things, and with a few intervening exceptions, it started to lose elections. A lot of them. Today, nowhere in this country do they have control of any of the levers of power, except for a small handful of states. Its constituents live in terror--a terror that is justified by the anger and contempt that the other side feels for it, as well as an awareness of the means that the other side is prepared to use.
One party heartless, the other faint of heart. One party with a confused head, the other with an empty one. One party that can do nothing but fight, the other too scared to think of the word. One party with voters who will cheerfully vote for someone to enslave them, the other with voters that permit the enslaving, because they'd rather wait for the kind of "perfect" candidate who never shows up.
In this sorry state of affairs, what nation needs to try and take us prisoner? We may already be dead.
Please prove me wrong, America, and soon. Either take over the Democratic Party and give it a soul and a pair of fists, or start a new party with both of those things. I think the world, even the atheists, might be praying that we do one or the other.