The quickest way to get two or more people to be subservient to you is to get them to hate each other. This is one of the oldest truths in the world, and it should be self-evident. One of the most impressive feats of social engineering in world history was the splitting into halves of American culture. I don’t mean to imply that it was 100% percent planned in a smoke-filled back room, but these people really know how to take advantage of a useful situation.
America is divided in a way it never has been as the 2017 clashes in Charlottesville demonstrated. This was different from past clashes like blacks v. the klan or cops v. hippies or even abolitionists v. Anti-abolitionists. It was the cops’ job to beat up hippies and African Americans. Antifa and white nationalists come from more similar back grounds, and their demonstrations are purely extracurricular.
I find it fascinating that these extremes (in this case Antifa and white nationalists) are just about the same size, and that their broader ideological tribes (Democrats and Republicans) are also around the same size. Take a look at this chart of all presidential elections since 1960.
Not since Nixon in 1972 has any president won by more than 10 points, and the parity is only becoming more and more precise. This century, the percentage differentials have been as follows: 0%, 1%, 4%, 2%, and 0%. The only victory that was at all decisive was Obama’s over McCain after the national revulsion over the failures of the neoliberal status quo of the Bush Administration and McCain choosing a mentally-challenged running mate. And, even then, it was only 4%. From a sociological standpoint, this seems very unlikely to happen naturally. What you would expect is for one party to take the lead for a generation or so, then for the other party to reform or a new party to form and take the lead, then repeat. This is generally what we see in more loosely controlled democracies.
The media machines representing each of the two American parties are comparable in their scope and reach. They have each developed efficient, tightly sealed echo chambers with their own sets of facts.
According to released internal document, the CIA began infiltrating media organizations in the 50s under a program called Operation Mockingbird, and it’s all been downhill from there. All major news in the US is owned by just 6 corporations. So, whether they’re telling you to vote blue or red, they’re still telling you that the other half of American citizens are your enemy and that regime change in Syria and Venezuela is awesome.
They hook you in by manipulating your emotions. In the case of the red media, this usually means appealing to your Christian faith and patriotism, while the blue media exploits your sense of social justice. Once they have you hooked, you’ll notice them selling imperialism to you. You’re instincts may at first disagree, but then you remember that these are the same people who share your values, and, after all, they’re experts. The base upon which all their imperialist rhetoric is founded is the underlying assumption of American exceptionalism. “You’re different,”they tell you, “you belong to an enlightened fraternity of beings. Everything we do is, by definition, noble. And I promise, it’s just a coincidence that all these bad countries have a lot of oil.” Do you ever find it odd that these two groups that market themselves as opposites always come to the same conclusions on all the most important issues?
The rank-and-file tribesmen of these two sides have way more in common with each other than they do with their respective chiefs. But they hate each other. Anyone can see that the anger has been switched on full blast. People are losing their minds. People on the red team think that the country is being destroyed from within by a radical socialist insurgency, when the reality is that America is the least socialized country in the developed world, and there are just a few milquetoast, international centrists who are trying to bring the American government into the 20th century. People on the blue team think that a Hitleresque agent of a hostile foreign power has usurped his way into the oval office and is intent on destroying all of the country’s proud and trusted institutions, when the reality is that disenfranchised, formerly middle class people voted for a Republican, who is slightly dumber and more impulsive than average but no more or less corrupt that average, because he said he wasn’t going to ship anymore jobs overseas.
What’s weird is that now these two teams are so discombobulated and incoherent that it’s hard to even define what their ideologies are. As best I can tell, they are mostly just anti-the other team. The red team used to claim to be in favor of family values, small government, and balancing the budget; now they represent the polar opposite of that. The blue team used to be non-interventionist and suspicious of big authoritarian bureaucracies like the CIA; now they are the polar opposite of that. But people seem to be following along, and the two teams are still about the same size.
In the early 20th century, there was such a thing as the ‘moderate center.’ That was back in much simpler times when the teams made sense. As you saw on the above graph, half the country doesn’t vote. Conventional wisdom will tell you that this half is in the center. But if you take it policy by policy, independents are now considerably to the left of the so-called ‘left wing’ party, the Democrats, who are now indistinguishable from moderate Republicans. I think this is a first in American politics.
The so-called ‘center’ is now occupied by radical warmongers. It is now ‘moderate’ to support the ongoing genocide in Yemen.
As far as I know, not one of the campaign ads for the 2020 Democratic primary have mentioned a single policy. It’s all about being better than the red team. The blue team, which is a right-wing party on the international spectrum, doesn’t like to have a platform. They sell a feeling: a feeling of superiority and virtue. They still got that 25% that eat it up, but that’s all they have, so they lose, despite being the so-called ‘left-wing’ party in a fundamentally left-wing country. The red team has their 25% as well. They maintain it out of faux economic populism and fear of a mythical Marxist revolution.
It’s not going to get any better. 2020 is going to be a showdown. How will the red team react when a milquetoast international moderate centrist like Bernie gets the nomination? They’ve been propagandized into thinking he’s a radical communist hell-bent of destroying the country by implementing common sense proposals that the rest of the world take for granted. And what will the blue team do when Trump gets reelected? He is the man they’ve been propagandized into thinking is a Kremlin agent hell-bent on destroying the country by implementing standard Republican policies
It’s going to be a wild ride. One might even call it an engineered cultural civil war.