Amerikkka

I tend to view the United States as Amerikkka, an inherently unequal society, indeed as a constitutional oligarchy.[1] I see Donald Trump not has having introduced something new to the country, but as having brought authoritarian populist mob rule to effective control of the U.S. government[2] and as having encouraged paleoconservatives, especially white supremacists, to display their colors.

The progress of the 1960s was during my childhood. My mother would point out that when she was married to my father (she divorced him in the 1970s), she couldn’t even have a bank account in her own name. Others would point to progress for LGBTQ+ people.

But I have seen and suffered neoliberal regression from a relatively prosperous (for middle class whites) 1960s my entire adult life. Neoconservatism has further institutionalized a belligerent response to any challenge, foreign or domestic, to U.S. values, which are much more blinkered than we usually imagine, though we should remember that the genocide against American Indians, the Mexican-Amerikkkan War, and the Monroe Doctrine established the country as imperialist, from even before its beginning. Neoconservatism has also synergistically fed off and propelled a ferocious backlash to the 1960s that continues to this day.

And though they have now all but lost the culture war,[3] social conservatives have incrementally eked out a legal rollback of sexual freedoms, including on sexuality education and abortion, with contraception likely up next. They have managed a stalemate, for the moment at least, on women’s, gay, and LGBTQ+ rights, and yes, I think you can in one way or another reduce all of these to being about sex, in which both biological women and men are essentialized to their procreative capacities.[4]

The social conservative emphasis on reproduction seems originally, and I suspect still, intended to preserve white, especially wealthy white, privilege, where in binary fashion, the failure to reproduce amounts to “race suicide.”[5]

At the New Yorker, Robin Wright has a different, more conventional image: Her premise is of the U.S. as a place of religious freedom, which social conservatives have never conceded; so-called “democracy,”[6] albeit really a republic;[7] and of an imagination of economic opportunity[8] in which, according to myth, anyone could succeed. This premise is not and never really was true, but it’s important to remember that the illusion, no matter how illusory, was largely accepted in many parts of the world, including in the United States, and her point is that it legitimized the country in a way that few, if any, other countries enjoyed.[9]

Wright begins by resorting to polling,[10] wherein the response rate likely remains between six and seven percent or even lower,[11] but moves on to more substantive qualitative work. Her article is worth a read, and what she really shows is that the illusion has now been stripped away, both domestically and internationally.[12]

This, beyond a decloaking of white supremacism, is Donald Trump’s legacy. The presidency of a delusional raging narcissist-in-chief has been a horrible thing to behold. The man is a black hole and he sucks the rest of us down with him into unfathomable depths.

But if a first step in solving problems is to acknowledge that they exist, the stripping away of illusion, that false image of Amerikkka, is a service, both to ourselves and to the world.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “A constitutional oligarchy: Deconstructing Federalist No. 10,” Not Housebroken, June 7, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/22/a-constitutional-oligarchy-deconstructing-federalist-no-10/
  2. [2]Though now controlled by the putative opposition party, the House of Representatives can do little without Senate concurrence and seemingly relies on its ineffectiveness for empty gesturing that merely appears to challenge a neoliberal consensus.
  3. [3]Elizabeth Bruenig, “In God’s country,” Washington Post, August 14, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/08/14/evangelicals-view-trump-their-protector-will-they-stand-by-him/; Rod Dreher, “Abortion Forever,” American Conservative, June 29, 2020, https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/justice-roberts-abortion-forever-supreme-court/
  4. [4]George Lakoff points to this essentialization for women in Moral Politics, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2002). But men’s freedoms are constrained by it as well.
  5. [5]David Benfell, “The connection between ‘original sin,’ misogyny, and white supremacism,” Not Housebroken, November 25, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/11/25/the-connection-between-original-sin-misogyny-and-white-supremacism/
  6. [6]Robin Wright, “To the World, We’re Now America the Racist and Pitiful,” New Yorker, July 3, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/to-the-world-were-now-america-the-racist-and-pitiful
  7. [7]David Benfell, “A constitutional oligarchy: Deconstructing Federalist No. 10,” Not Housebroken, June 7, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/22/a-constitutional-oligarchy-deconstructing-federalist-no-10/
  8. [8]Robin Wright, “To the World, We’re Now America the Racist and Pitiful,” New Yorker, July 3, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/to-the-world-were-now-america-the-racist-and-pitiful
  9. [9]Robin Wright, “To the World, We’re Now America the Racist and Pitiful,” New Yorker, July 3, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/to-the-world-were-now-america-the-racist-and-pitiful
  10. [10]Robin Wright, “To the World, We’re Now America the Racist and Pitiful,” New Yorker, July 3, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/to-the-world-were-now-america-the-racist-and-pitiful
  11. [11]Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/27/response-rates-in-telephone-surveys-have-resumed-their-decline/
  12. [12]Robin Wright, “To the World, We’re Now America the Racist and Pitiful,” New Yorker, July 3, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/to-the-world-were-now-america-the-racist-and-pitiful

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