In the US, the End of Days.

I am feeling a bit impish today and so for no particular reason I thought I would share this thought, which I first posted over on twitter:

“Hurricanes, wildfires, floods, heatwaves, murder hornets, street protests, armed vigilante militias, a lethal pandemic and a corrupt authoritarian using the federal government for partisan and personal purposes. All that is needed this election year is a plague of locusts for the US to go full End Times.”

Or think of it this way. The US is like the drunk who finds himself waking up in a gutter covered in his own filth. He has reached an epiphany: he has hit rock bottom and can either seek treatment in order to sober up or he can die miserably in the street. Does he go seek treatment or does he continue on the same course? One choice is tough, the other easier. The body (politic) wants to return to the bottle but the mind says that it is time to quit even though delirium and tremors await.

The US political class needs to use this election year as an intervention that leads to the political equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous. The greed, corruption, hyper-partisan hypocrisy, corporate toadying, lobbyist revolving doors, slush funds and PACs–all of that has to go if they are to save the system from themselves. The question is, can they do it?

The problem is that in order for effective political reform to occur in the US the political class needs to understand that they have hit rock bottom. Not just in the person of Donald Trump but in the entire state of affairs involving the political system. It is dysfunctional, sclerotic, permeated with sleeze, deeply penetrated by vested interests and easily manipulated by money. It needs to be overhauled and revitalised.

I am not sure that the US political class understand this to be the case. Certainly not the GOP, which has used the deficiencies of the system to great partisan advantage. Not necessarily the Democratic Party, which has its own closets and skeletons to cleanse. So it remains to be seen if this election year will be the equivalent of a drunk’s epiphany for them.

Then there is US society. Still intoxicated on the myth of American exceptionalism and still addicted to its jingoistic militarism, armchair patriotism and sense of moral-ethical and physical superiority. Still under the spell of populist charlatans and Christian fundamentalist snake oil peddlers. Still profoundly myopic and inbred in its understanding of the larger world in which it exists. It too, must shake off the hangover and come to the realisation that the US is a hollow shell of its former self, a decadent and vulgar great power led by mediocrities now competing with rising powers not for world dominance but for a continuing place at the geostrategic table. It may not be at the point of eating crumbs yet, but the direction in which it is heading is evident.

The rot in US society comes from within. No external power has been able to do to the US what its own divisions and contradictions have done. What external powers have been able to do is exploit those divisions to their advantage in order to further weaken the US. After all, why confront the US while it remains military strong when a longer-term campaign of internal corrosion can undermine its ideological unity and military strength without firing a shot in anger?

Once nationally divided along the lines witnessed in Charlottesville, Portland, Kenosha and elsewhere, the rot born of societal malaise will seep into the US’s war-fighting capability (as it has already with regard to policy disagreements within DoD about the impact of Covid-19 on force readiness). When that occurs, the US can be more readily confronted at a kinetic and diplomatic level.

What is clear is that, even if the Democrats win in November by taking control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, if the US continues on its current path it will not recover. It may get out of the gutter produced by the four year bender that is the Trump years but it will only get as far as the equivalent of a park bench when it comes to political sobriety and societal health.

The ultimate problem is hypocrisy and delusion. No one wants to admit that the US is in decline and no politician will get elected if s/he honestly says so. Yet that admission is exactly what has to happen because it is the social and political equivalent of standing up in a room full of strangers and saying “hi, I am Uncle Sam and I am an alcoholic. I am here to change my life.”

That day may never come. But the End Days will.

15 thoughts on “In the US, the End of Days.

  1. Trump’s response to COVID-19 is not much different to how he’d respond to actual bio-warfare. Kind of like the response to Hurricane Katrina but on a nationwide scale.

    If Biden gets in & also wins the Senate, the bare minimum he needs to do – to name a few examples – are to unpack the Supreme Court, implement the NPVIC, plan for a potential George Speight scenario, & turn over Trump and his inner circle to the Hague.

    But as you mention, the rot goes beyond political reform. Is the possibility of Czechoslovak or even India-grade partition still far-fetched in a worse case scenario?

  2. How could Biden unpack the Supreme Court?

    He couldn’t send Drumpf to the Hague becuase the US doesn’t accept ICC jurisdiction. Biden could accept it (unlikely 2bh, but let’s say) but even if he did it wouldn’t have retroactive effect. But why not have Drumpf tried by a US court? He has committed plenty of crimes in the USA.

    I don’t think a partition is likely.

    I wish Biden called him “Drumpf”. Calling him Trump legitimises him.

  3. The ideal scenario: failing Justice Thomas having a medical emergency that makes him unable to do his job, the pasts of him & Kavanaugh come back to bite them in the arse, harassment & other suits against them are reopened & heard to their conclusion, & both get the heave-ho.

    Also, the Trump Regime has packed numerous judiciaries, not just the SCOTUS, with its cronies, so impartial hearings may be doubtful.

    If there isn’t a partitioning in the long run, there may still be Troubles-grade violence regardless of who’s in the White House.

  4. “No one wants to admit that the US is in decline and no politician will get elected if s/he honestly says so.”

    – Make America Great Again

    I’d argue a lot of the partisan rhetoric is built around the idea that America is in decline because of the folks on the other side of the aisle. What’s harder for them to admit is that their framework for democracy isn’t fit for purpose.

  5. Ted:

    Good point about about the blame game. Certainly that is Drumpf’s line, and Obama certainly (and rightly) pointed out that he inherited a mess from Bush 43. The real irony is that in fact both sides are right–each of them have contributed to the US decline, albeit not in equal measure IMO. Their failure to address root causes of this decline while covering it with a veneer or trappings of strength has made it likely irreversible, only in part because external actors took the opportunity to build up into power contenders and because the nature of global capitalism required a turn away from the the US as a core manufacturing hub, leaving it dependent on others in the global commodity chain.

  6. “The problem is that in order for effective political reform to occur in the US the political class needs to understand that they have hit rock bottom. ”

    You do realise that is why Trump was elected. American electors looked at Clinton & the Democrats and chose Trump, despite his flaws.

    Kumara what are you smoking fella?

    It is going to be hilarious to come back here in a few months when Trump wins in a landslide. The Dems have got worse since Clinton if that were even possible. Biden both senile and corrupt. He & John Kerry are on tape threatening to have IMF funds withheld from Ukraine unless the prosecutor investigating Biden’s son’s company is sacked. Unbelievable.
    Barr/Durham is starting to indict the sedition and deep state/Dem attempts to overthrow a democratically elected leader. The truth is coming out.
    Socialism’s long march through the institutions is coming to it’s inevitable conclusion in the US. Anarchy on the streets is a step too far.
    I have faith in the constitution and the common sense of the US voter.

  7. @Kumara: I don’t think you understand how the Supreme Court works. There are only three ways for a Justice to leave the Court. Death, retirement and impeachment. And we know the problems with impeachment. It is far from clear that Kavanaugh and Thomas’ sexual crimes, even if proven, would constitute grounds for impeachment.

  8. “No external power has been able to do to the US what its own divisions and contradictions have done.”

    I wonder how much the US has required an external threat to keep itself together… Prior to WW2 the US was pretty distributed, then after that they had the communism. Islam was tried but it hasn’t stuck.

    I think eventually the US will break apart, but whether that is in 20 years or 200 I don’t know.

  9. Phil, whatever I smoke, it sure as hell isn’t made by BAT or Philip Morris. And Putin, Chavez, Orban, Mugabe & Erdogan happened to be elected too with pledges to keep to their constitutions. We know how that turned out.

    I’m antsy about anarchy alright, and to name some examples of it: Kyle Rittenhouse, Jeremy Christian, Robert Bowers, JP Earnest, Cesar Sayoc, Dylann Roof, Sheriff Clarke, Stephen Paddock, Elliot Rodger, James Fields…

  10. Given that he bought most of his medals and decorations at a thrift shop, it is possible that he mistakenly bought an Anarchist medallion amongst them. As for the others, I think that it is a stretch to confuse things like white supremacists looking to make a so-called “boogaloo” in order to accelerate the race wars they so much desire with anarchy properly defined. The latter is not chaos or violent. Contrary to popular (and wrong) definitions of anarchy as synonymous with lawlessness and disorder, it simply means grassroots self-governance amongst free willed individuals. None of those mentioned by KR are that.

  11. Pablo
    What do you think of Niall Ferguson states belief that Cold WR 2 has started. Trump was the first to identify China communist party as a threat to global peace and capitalist democracy. Obama was a asleep at the wheel while China had 8 more years to advance. At least Bush had the excuse of fighting Al qaeda.
    Domestically America seems to be repeating the riots of 1968. Certainly there will be much needed reform of policing and hopefully control of over mighty unions once democrat mainstream agrees.
    It feels like America is doing what Churchill suggests. Trying everything else before doing the right thing. Britain has done the same over Brexit.
    Trump is going to win the next election and the fact nobody rebutted my comment above suggests you all secretly agree.
    The US economy is bouncing back strongly. China has been revealed for the global threat it is. Trump is signing Sunni Arab peace deals. Iran has had its terrorist mastermind killed and knows that trump won’t put troops on the ground but is happy to use American remote military power.
    Huntington clash of civilisations is still real. Us and the west will prevail against China in Cold War 2 because its path of market democracy remains preferable including to all but the most nationalist Chinese CCP members.
    That still feels a very long way from end of days.

  12. Hi Phil.

    I think that no one responded because your first comment was so divorced from reality that it simply (and sadly) did not merit a response. it made me think that you have taken leave of your senses.

    This post is somewhat better and I tend to agree with you that the PRC has emerged as a major threat to world order and that Obama is in part responsible for that by leaving it relatively unchecked during is administration. I also think that the PRC’s behaviour has a lot to do with internal divisions within the CCP and Xi’s attempts to consolidate the control by his faction. In doing so he may have bitten off more than he can chew, what with his ethnic cleansing of Uighurs in Xinjiang and increased Han-favoring social and cultural authoritarianism in general and his bullying of India, South China Sea neighbours and arguments with Africans, European, Australians and Yanks. It shows an intemperance hat is uncharacteristic of Chinese strategic thought and planning, which suggests that Xi’s position may not be as solid as it outwardly appears.

    The agreement between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE is just a marriage of anti-Iran convenience that is no more than an opening of diplomatic and limited commercial relations. It is not a peace deal, it was not negotiated by the US as a principal (it was Netanyahu’s idea born of his own political desperation) and it will force the Palestinians into a harder line. That may be Netanyahu’s objective, so that any move on the PLO part to move closer to Hezbollah and Iran will allow him to pursue his genocidal practices against the Palestinian people. As for the Sunni oligarchies cutting a deal while abandoning the Palestinians–it shows that all along they could give a rat’s ass about the plight of those people, all that blather about Arab solidarity notwithstanding. The Palestinians are the new Kurds: used and manipulated when it suits, abandoned when it does not. There will be a price to pay for that.

    We will simply have to keep our bet about the US elections. Drumpf will do everything in his power–and there is a lot that he can do–to prevent it from being fair, free and universal. He, Barr and their congressional and media minions will pull out all stops to keep Biden from restoring dignity to the presidency and some semblance of comity (not unity, because the place is too divided) in US society. But assuming that all the inevitable litigation will be fast-tracked to the SCOTUS and that local, state and federal forces obey the constitution and do not side with the right-wing militias he will call upon to hit the streets, then the nightmare known as the 45th presidency will finally come to its ignoble end. Or so I hope.

  13. I know it is not relevant to the main post but I have some ideas about the shift away from Palestine among the Gulf States – I think it is a generational change in their leadership. There was a strong attachment to pan-Arabism and Arab nationalism among the prior generations of leaders largely because their informal political education took place in a context of anti-imperialism. Now these post-imperialist states are becoming regional imperialists themselves and tend to view other actors (state and non-state) in terms of “what can they do for me?” and the answer with Palestine is frequently “not very much”. MBS in Saudi is the most prominent and commented on example of this generational change in perspective but he’s far from the only one.

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