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Thursday, 10 March 2016 08:45

However the 2016 Election Ends, the Civil War for the Nation's Soul Will Continue

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aaaaaaaaaaaaacivilwarmarch10The Union and Confederate Armies may have signed an armistice in 1865, but the Civil War continues for the soul of the United States. (Photo: Alvin Trusty)

There is an uncivil Civil War taking place in the Republican Party.

In part, it is animated by whether the festering racism inherent in this nation's founding premise of white superiority -- a premise that fueled slavery and the decimation of Indigenous populations -- will resurface in a contemporary form of governance by bigotry.

Donald Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again," contains demagogic appeal. It is a coded call to "make America white again": to ensure that it is a nation characterized by white patriarchal rule, the oppression of people of color, the condoning of violence to resolve perceived grievances of white privilege, the use of torture, and all the trappings of white settler colonialism.

The Civil War ended more than 150 years ago, but an armistice was never signed concerning the conflict over white patriarchal privilege.

Here's the essential conundrum: The United States was founded -- and the Constitution was written -- by men who rejected the notion of a monarchy, but believed in a federal government that was elected and run by white males. It was also "unified" with the acceptance of slavery as a practice in half the nation, along with the belief that killing off the Indigenous population was a patriotic act of expanding white civilization.

However, the Constitution allowed for a dynamic democracy, in large part through the amendment process. (The theory of "Originalism" -- which views the Constitution's meaning as fixed -- is a canard.) The document also proclaimed the notion of equality, in theory, although the historical context was that only white males fully enjoyed these rights. 

This is a principal reason that the Republican majority in the Senate is delaying the approval of the fifth swing vote on the Supreme Court: The GOP wants to hold out for a Scalia-style "originalist" -- a person who regards the Constitution as a static document. The appointment of such a person would help continue to move legal precedent concerning the Constitution backwards.

Donald Trump viscerally understands the sordid, corrosive desire to restore an era of white male supremacy. Trump launched his presidential run at a time of shifting demographics. The probable emergence of a majority non-white US population is challenging this country's groundings in deeply embedded structural racism. Such tension creates an opportunity to exploit wrath and resentment, particularly during a period of decreasing economic status for the non-professional class.

Michael Winship, whose commentaries frequently appear on Truthout, wrote recently that after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, Robert Kennedy addressed a grieving, stunned and disbelieving crowd of Black supporters:

Kennedy calmed the spectators [in Indianapolis]. He spoke - without notes - for nearly five minutes. "What we need in the United States is not division," he said. "What we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country."

Last night's Democratic debate brought home the contrast between a debate about the nation's potential progressive future and a schoolyard debate about returning to a sordid, bigoted past. Bernie Sanders supporters can be profoundly cynical about Hillary's Clinton assertion that it is only realistic to accept incremental "progress." Backers of Hillary Clinton can argue that Bernie Sanders' call for a political revolution cannot be achieved in a nation that faces fierce obstructionist political and institutional forces. However, both Clinton and Sanders were debating last night over the future -- with the major point of contention being whether the goal of the Democratic Party should be modest change or larger transformation. The debate in Miami was about the Unites States moving ahead, not relighting the bonfires of xenophobic hate.

It is hard to understand how the 2016 election can end well, because even if the winner is not Trump, the armies of the night have been summoned forth. Their ignited anger directed toward "the other" is not going to quickly vanish. As we commented in a February commentary, "Trump is unleashing the smoldering violence of the white mob."

The battle for the soul of the United States is a Civil War that has never truly ended, as commentator Steve Jonas has noted. Tragically, it appears destined to continue -- newly energized and ignited - well after this presidential election is decided.

Not to be reposted without the permission of Truthout.