Monday, November 05, 2012

Reich: "We the People, and the New American Civil War."

This is a topic so obvious that quite a few of us have tried to ignore it. On the election's eve, don't expect encouraging reading.

We the People, and the New American Civil War, by Robert Reich (Huffington Post)

The vitriol is worse is worse than I ever recall. Worse than the Palin-induced smarmy 2008. Worse than the swift-boat lies of 2004. Worse, even, than the anything-goes craziness of 2000 and its ensuing bitterness.

It's almost a civil war. I know families in which close relatives are no longer speaking. A dating service says Democrats won't even consider going out with Republicans, and vice versa. My email and twitter feeds contain messages from strangers I wouldn't share with my granddaughter ...

I've been reading American Civil War history since I was a babe in the burbs, and there is an accumulated weight of recollection as to the intensity of feeling that took little to ignite into vitriol worse than what is being described by Reich. It was a nasty time, it took a century to even begin recovering from it, and now we seem intent on repeating aspects of it. I attribute this to sheer, unalloyed ignorance of history. Maybe it would be better to omit history, and simply refer to our abundance of just plain ignorance. Back to Reich:

 ... But I think the degree of venom we're experiencing has deeper roots.

The nation is becoming browner and blacker. Most children born in California are now minorities. In a few years America as a whole will be a majority of minorities. Meanwhile, women have been gaining economic power. Their median wage hasn't yet caught up with men, but it's getting close. And with more women getting college degrees than men, their pay will surely exceed male pay in a few years. At the same time, men without college degrees continue to lose economic ground. Adjusted for inflation, their median wage is lower than it was three decades ago.

In other words, white working-class men have been on the losing end of a huge demographic and economic shift. That's made them a tinder-box of frustration and anger -- eagerly ignited by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and other pedlars of petulance, including an increasing number of Republicans who have gained political power by fanning the flames.

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