In 2007 when my book The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age was first published, the divide between so-called liberals and conservatives had achieved a strident tone. But the real reach of the divide had yet to be revealed until a combination of class warfare, racial prejudice and plain old nasty partisan politics emerged with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.
Obama’s election produced a political paradox for Republicans who were forced to admit that President George W. Bush & Company had done an absolutely terrible job in leading the country the previous 8 years. The GOP wanted to distance itself from Bush as a President but certainly did not want to accept any blame for the pain of his Republican reign. So conservatives adopted a strategy of claiming that Bush was not in fact a real conservative, but something else entirely. Maybe a Republicrat?
But the disavowal of Bush amounted to an essential denial of responsibility for any of the nation’s problems. Despite their potentially genuine dislike of the Bush Doctrine (Whatever it really was…) conservatives still basically rubber-stamped everything their once-favored son did while in office––right down to torture, illegal detention of prisoners, trumpeting illegal wars and gutting the nation’s middle class while giving away costly corporate welfare subsidies for industry, agriculture and the financial sectors.
All those giveaways, financial failures and protracted wars meant that President Barack Obama had inherited a nation in economic crisis, teetering toward a possible Depression.
But as far as Republicans were concerned, those were now Obama’s problems. “Hell, he even created half the mess,” they claimed. So true to form, Republicans stuck together despite the very evident rot in their patented ideology. Instead a new strategy emerged with ramped up attacks on the new Democrat in office, led by the promise of Republican Mitch McConnell who vowed to make Barack Obama a one-term president.
Despite this resistance Obama did manage successful policy implementation including passage of a health care reform bill that now covers millions of young Americans under their parent’s policies, and will someday protect patients from exclusion based on pre-existing conditions.* Obama also closed down military intervention in Iraq (but left the mercenaries behind?) and presided over the killing of Osama bin Laden. Conservatives should have been joyous over such news, but some even attempted to give credit to George W. Bush. Somehow.
Over issues such as these, America has become a giant battlefield for hardball politics. The far right wing of the Republican Party as represented by Tea Party candidates even caused a downgrade in America’s debt rating by threatening to default on the nation’s debts. Still, that constituted a form of heroism in the minds of some Americans. The nation was clearly in the throes of a brand new form of Civil War in which some would rather kill the country than have it run by anyone they choose to hate, and for any reason. Race. Religion. Sexual orientation. Gender. Political persuasion. These became the pillars of partisanship. But to what end?
Here is what I wrote in 2007: “The current-day battle between liberals and conservatives carries the same stridency and stubbornness that marked the first American Civil War. The difficult question we must face is whether we can anticipate the rise of a new form of “confederacy” in the modern age.”
To illuminate the subject, I provided some historical context on the American Civil War and how it came about:
“The original, Southern Confederacy stemmed from dissatisfaction with the state of the Union and the future of government. It might seem easy to assume that the Union was 100% on the right side of political issues in the Civil War. But no matter how correct the Union cause might appear in retrospect, the Confederacy was not by definition without virtue. As a political entity it may well have been justified in defending itself against economic and military aggression by the Union. And in spite of the notion that the ideology of the Confederacy was purged through the Civil War, the personal and political freedoms advocated by the South are alive and well today in modern society, woven into the politics of libertarians and other conservatives who contend that the best government is that which governs least. These principles the Confederacy sought to defend, and the sense of pride in defending moral principles has never been lost on the South. However unfortunate it may have been for the Confederate South to secede, one can admire the determination of the movement as symbolic of the American revolutionary spirit.”
The Tea Party attempted in some ways to reclaim these ideals as it emerged with its call for limited government, less taxation and claims that America was being taken over by political interests that were too intrusive in the lives of everyday Americans. The Tea Party was suspicious even of Republican leadership, making noise of secession from that party to lay claim to the core of American values, especially the Constitution. But still the movement was joined at the hip because it needed to share the mantle of power owned and dispensed by Republicans.
All that amounted to was an even bigger ball of trouble in which the politics of corporate largesse take over the entire process, as predicted in The Genesis Fix:
“Perhaps the most likely scenario is the formation of a “neo-Confederacy” around “doctrinal states” or politics focused on “Red” and “Blue” states. Proponents on either side of the political fence have begun to see the value of the “winner-take-all” approach. We are not far from a moment in history when battles over doctrinal authority could lead to a new secession in the hands of the “neo-Confederates” and the states they represent.
But there are other issues afoot as well. The next Civil War may be fought not in the fields and forests of America, but in courtrooms where armies of lawyers battle over the rights of corporations to control America’s life and politics. Corporate lobbies and revenue now influence every facet of American life. The largest corporations and the individuals who run them have more money and power than many countries in the world. It is not a stretch to say that one cannot become a governor, senator or representative without the backing of corporations. A neo-Confederacy of corporate largess already exists in America, and it is not limited to the Republican side of the political fence. It may not be long before the power vested in corporations becomes a self-fulfilling mandate and America will be forced to choose between its original model of a democratic republic recorded in the Constitution and a new, corporate society that is ruled by companies who run the business of America. Whether we have the courage to resist this takeover of American life is a question for our age.”
All it took for that prediction to come true was the ruling of a court case known colloquially as Citizens United, which essentially granted corporations the same rights as people, and privacy to boot, in making unlimited political contributions and buying advertising to support partisan interests.
The impact of the case has already essentially determined the outcome of an election in Wisconsin where the recall of Governor Scott Walker was initiated through citizen protests over destruction of collective bargaining rights for public workers, among other issues. Outside money resulted in a 7-to-1 spending imbalance between Walker and his opponent. That same month the Republican candidate Mitt Romney coincidentally (or not so much) raised more funds than incumbent President Barack Obama.
Meanwhile the battle over social issues raged across America with conservative religious factions damning gay rights as President Obama stood up for equality for people of all gender and sexual orientation. The modern day form of slavery or at least discrimination continues for many citizens denied full rights of citizenship in America. Their rights are consistently denied by conservative, legalistic and literally interpreted religious interests standing on the wrong side of history, again.
It will no doubt be a long and ugly fight just as the first Civil War divided the country, and the fight has really just begun. It remains to be seen whether the battle will spill blood on the streets and hills of America. That depends, we must assume, on whether half of America can come to its senses and stop believing in the God of money and power over the God of mercy and tolerance. It appears some political interests believe strongly in the former and not at all in the latter, much less as a political strategy and brand of social justice.
Here is how The Genesis Fix outlined these issues:
“Corporate largesse has a close relationship with the power of doctrinal politics. Any government owned and run by business will obviously favor the interests of business over that of individuals. When religion adds to the clout of corporate government by giving its stamp of approval to something so profound, powerful and self-fulfilling as the military-industrial society, then a nation has lost its grip on democracy and turned itself over to commerce as rule of law.
Part of the reason doctrinal politics, economic aggression and triumphal religious language make such a potent combination is that all three appeal strongly to a sense of personal pride. Some people refuse to distinguish between the three.”
And that is where we stand. Americans have not changed much in the 100+ years since our nation immersed itself in Civil War. It is our inability to collectively define and rationally justify our various convictions that gets us into trouble. But it gets much, much worse when commerce and greed get to decide our fate and start our wars. Just as a reminder: the bible tells us that God does not like that one bit.
*Republicans claim to hate the health care reform bill on grounds that it is a form of medical socialism and would result in “death panels” where the government gets to decide who lives and dies. Yet the bill actually shows much more respect for life than the current corporately controlled, profit-oriented (and therefore often Darwinian) health care system that notably excludes millions of Americans from even basic coverage.
From a religious perspective: God tells us life itself is a pre-existing condition. No one gets out alive. Health care is designed to protect quality of life while we are here. That basic fact seems lost on the ideological opponents of health care reform, who turned on Obama with vicious fervor even though their candidate of choice in 2012, one Mitt Romney, essentially built the same system when he was governor of Massachusetts.