IT CAN HAPPEN HERE


I am intrigued that throughout history characters like the fictional Benzelius “Buzz” Windrip and the very real Adolph Hitler arise to disrupt and distract.

My post today is an excerpt from Richard Rorty”s book Achieving Our Country; Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America

In 1998 Richard Rorty, American philosopher and academic wrote of the emerging political and social divisions in America and predicted the emergence of a “strongman” in American politics. Whether readers agree or disagree with Rorty’s writings the fact that he wrote so directly about this phenomenon almost 20 years ago is intriguing and merits reflection.

“Sometime in the 70’s American middle class idealism went into a stall, under Presidents Carter and Clinton, the Democratic Party has survived by distancing itself from the unions and from any mention of redistribution and moving into a sterile vacuum called the ‘center’. The party no longer has a visible noisy left wing–a wing with which the intellectuals can identify and on which the unions can rely for support.

” Union members in the United States have watched factory after factory close, only to reopen in Slovenia, Thailand, or Mexico. It is no wonder that they see the result of international free trade as prosperity for managers and stockholders, a better standard of living for workers in developing countries and a very much worse standard of living for American workers. To make things worse, we often seem more interested in the workers of the developing world than in the fate of our fellow citizens.

“Social scientist Edward Luttwak, suggested that members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers, themselves desperately afraid of being downsized–are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for–someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernistic professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel ‘It Can’t Happen Here” may then be played out. For once such a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen.

“One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

“After my imagined strongman takes charge, he will quickly betray the expectations of his supporters, make his peace with the international super-rich. People will wonder why there was so little resistance to his evitable rise. Where, they will ask, was the American Left? Why was it only rightists like Pat Buchanan who spoke to the workers about the consequences of globalization? Why would not the Left channel the mounting rage of the newly dispossessed?”

Why is History committed to repeating itself?

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