To borrow the classic nautical metaphor, the American ship of state is in distress and facing the direst dangers in my memory. I have spent a lifetime studying the history and analyzing the politics and projecting the future of nation states. I have seen and even witnessed the disappearance of governments, regimes, states, and nations. Yes, this could happen here. It is already evident that the United States of America that emerges from this crisis will be very different from the United States of America that has reached this point. The Democratic and Republican parties which have aided and abetted the development of this crisis will either fade into history or emerge dramatically, possibly radically altered.
Specifically, the victorious insurgents have occupied the capital. Their leader is ensconced in the presidential palace and his minions are trying to settle into their new lives as rulers and adjusting to life in the capital. They’re finding this harder than they expected. It seems that actually governing a country requires more than just sitting in an office and writing decrees. Those who have made the government function are cycling through the fight or flight – or collaborate – reflex. History tells us that insurgents make lousy bureaucrats (who are the folks you need to run things) but which if any of the bureaucrats they now find around them are friendly?
What do you do after the capital has fallen and you’re out of power? That’s easy and very hard at the same time. Clausewitz talked about that, and others talked more precisely about what you do next. The first step has already begun with the mobilization onto the streets, into the cyber world, to the phones, and to the mailboxes, the new grass roots rebellion against the insurgent regime is already emerging. This energy needs to be united into the broadest coalition that can gathered together. Issue by issue, person by person, find out what motivates them, what do they want to change, what do they really want or need, and determine how many people want the same thing or something similar enough that they can work together. The focus must be on issues and solutions that bring people together rather than drive them apart; disagreements need to be broken down to the smallest working parts and, wherever possible, reassembled into agreement on possible solutions. This is not work for the capital. This is work for the “provinces” – street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, and community by community. Hard, street pounding, shoe leather consuming, face to face work done one on one at first and then group on group, all the time focusing on bringing people together rather than driving them apart.
Among the issues that must be addressed are changes that will take the power away from those with a vested interest in continuing the current political stagnation and back into the hands of an active, committed citizenry.
End Gerrymandering by taking redistricting away from legislators and placing it in the hands of nonpartisan panels, commissions, etc. with access to the best statistical, demographical, and topographical techniques.
Support the greatest possible franchise by protecting access to voter registration and to polling places – fight voter ID laws and other restrictions on voter eligibility and access and where necessary initiate programs to help obtain required IDs for legal voters targeted by restrictive measures.
Campaign finance reform – support measures that curtail or eliminate corporate campaign donations or compel such donations to be identified publicly.
This kind of grass roots mobilization, activism, and organization will take a long time and a sustained effort. Groups across the country can help each other with ideas, share experiences, coordinate their efforts on specific issues, and share funds and resources. The Democratic Party is too burdened by old ideas and has been too slow to respond to this altered political scene to be the source of this local activism. Where it has a presence it can and should be included in the coalitions that need to emerge but the repair, reconstruction, and rescue of that party should not be the first concern of the population – their job is to organize and fight to preserve the nation.
What both the Democratic Party and those Republicans who recognize the danger can do is to be democracy’s rear guard in the capital. They must resist the ‘new normal’ and the related radical changes in any way they can using the powers of incumbency and their roles as the wheels and gears of representative democracy. In the capital the Democratic Party will have to carry the banner while the real coalition is being built across the country, to emerge at some point in the future as a cohesive resistance that can point to a proven track record of governance at the village, township, county, district, town, city, and state levels – and present the body of new ideas that have been proven in those locations. And these local and state governments will represent the growing power and support needed for the final push on the capital and the true taking of the government by and for the greatest number of people.
The people united can never be defeated.