Discovering the right wing echo chamber

It is a little disturbing to discover I have been echoing the right wing. I can take solace in that it is not just the right wing.

Thomas Friedman offers a worrisome perspective that the tone of political discourse in this country resembles that in Israel just prior to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Eric Boehlert sees a parallel in the prelude to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Gore Vidal predicts a dictatorship soon. Newsmax posted, then withdrew–and dismissed as an uncompensated blog posting–a column (text preserved here) suggesting that “patriotic general and flag officers [may] sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a ‘family intervention,’ with some form of limited, shared responsibility.”

In abstract, it is difficult to say whether such talk increases or decreases the risk that an assassination or a bloodless coup will occur. It might be seen as a trial balloon. If the hysteria in the country is loud enough that moderate and opposition voices appear to be drowned out, plotters may evaluate their opposition as insufficient, and may decide to proceed. On the other hand, if the mainstream media reacts with alarm to the possibility of a coup or an assassination, if more besides Friedman object, plotters may let discretion get the better part of valor.

It is worth noting that Defense Department lawyers representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay mounted the only effective opposition to George W. Bush (president “43”) administration policy. Even now, the Patriot Act appears likely to be renewed with weak civil liberties protections. Al Franken felt he had to read the Fourth Amendment to a Justice Department official. Courts express reluctance to enforce law against intelligence agencies. The civilian government is dysfunctional, dramatically failing even to pass meaningful health care reform that a near two-thirds majority of the population supports. Friedman suggests that “George H.W. Bush, president ’41,’ [may] be remembered as our last ‘legitimate’ president” and argues, “We can’t go 24 years without a legitimate president — not without being swamped by the problems that we will end up postponing because we can’t address them rationally.”

A coup or an assassination will not resolve deep divisions in the U.S. electorate which appear simplistically along regional lines with the South against the rest of the country but are probably more nuanced with liberal parts of the country concentrated in high population counties and conservative areas dispersed over wide swathes of suburban and rural parts of the country. Even a dissolution of the United States would only move the acrimony to more local levels. But a coup or assassination might satisfy right wing nut jobs.

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