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Demand For Change

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The Unseen Enemy
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America’s Future: A Quiet Evolution Or Violent Revolution

By James Donahue

Americans are watching the presidential campaign this fall with quiet skepticism. We see Barack Obama, a dynamic black man with a scary Islamic middle name, emerging as the possible front runner over John McCain, a 72-year-old Republican senator who we are almost sure will give us four more years of what we already have.

There is something exciting in the air. We used to call it hope but it may be more than that. This man, Obama, is a smart, calculating, smooth-speaking and extremely cool-headed man who just might be the kind of president we have needed for a very long time. He has a golden tongue and the mental ability to step into the rubble left by the failed Bush Administration and offer the United States . . . and possibly the world . . . something we sadly lack at this time of woe. It is called leadership.

It looks like we might just be able to elect Barack Obama. But he is bucking a political machine backed by powerful big business interests that have cleverly stolen American elections in the past, and there is a fear it might happen again.

This is why there are groups out there keeping a keen eye on the voter registration process and the polling places, watching out for the kind of tricks that put Bush & Co. in office in the last two elections. We look at the aging McCain, listen to the silly rhetoric coming from the lips of his running mate, Sarah Palin, and wonder how they could ever pull it off this time around.

But we hear about the Palin rallies where voices in the crowd accuse Obama of being a terrorist, a radical Muslim (which he is not) and even sound like terrorists themselves when they yell out things like “kill him!” This week we heard of two Florida newspapers that received threat letters, and a KKK pamphlet found inserted in a newspaper in Oklahoma. It appears that the racism card is being played to the extreme.

Sara Robinson, in a thought-provoking article for Campaign For America’s Future, warned that she believes that after being “ground down to the stump by the mostly losing battles for the past 30 years, Americans are showing signs of either getting the candidate of their choice this year or preparing for trouble.

Robinson said sociological research has suggested that “America may be far more ready for far more change than anyone really believes is possible at this moment. In fact, according to some sociologists, we’ve already lined up all the preconditions that have historically set the stage for full-fledged violent revolution.”

The article cites seven “tentative uniformities” laid out by Crane Brinton that were the common precursors that set the stage for the Puritan, American, French and Russian revolutions. “Even more interestingly: in every case, we got here as a direct result of either intended or unintended consequences of the conservatives’ war against liberal government, and their attempt to take over our democracy and replace it with a one-party plutocracy. It turns out that, historically, liberal nations make very poor grounds for revolution – but deeply conservative ones very reliably create the conditions that eventually make violent overthrow necessary.”

Robinson noted that “our own Republicans, it turns out, have done a hell of a job.”

So what are the seven conditions identified by Brinton?

--Revolution happens in economically advancing societies, at the point where a long period of rising living standards and high expectations comes to a crashing end, leaving citizens in an ugly and disgruntled mood. The collapsing economy, growing unemployment and runaway inflation created by bad lending policies appears to fit that mold.

--A gap between the upper and lower classes gets wider and there is a suppression of the lower classes. This appears to be more and more evident in America where fewer and fewer people are controlling more and more of the wealth, and the middle class is disappearing. Robinson notes that “conservative policies have opened the wealth gap to Depression levels; put workers at the total mercy of their employers; and deprived the working and middle classes of access to education, home ownership, health care, capital, legal redress and their expectations of a better future for their kids.”

--Emergence of intelligent leadership for change. Robinson notes that during the late 40s to early 60s young people grew up in a economically advancing nation rich with opportunity and expectation. Many went to college. Now they are finding the institutions they believed sound being sold out from under them and all of the greatness that America once boasted seems to be collapsing. She wrote that “revolutions catalyze when these deserted intellectuals make common cause with the lower classes. Much of the energy of this election is coming right out of that emerging alliance.”

--Incompetent government. Robinson notes that history shows “there has never been a modern revolution that didn’t start against a backdrop of atrocious government malfeasance in the face of precipitously declining fortunes.” We can relate to that.

--Revolution occurs when the ruling classes fail to lead in times of crisis, a need to adapt to new conditions and technologies and meet challenges of world change. Most Americans complain that the Bush Administration has failed them in meeting the challenges of Hurricane Katrina, global warming, peak oil, the Iraq War and now an economic meltdown that is spreading globally.

--Economic reversals spur revolutions. Robinson writes: “almost always these reversals occur when inept and corrupt governments mismanage the national economy to the point of indebtedness, bankruptcy and currency collapse.”

--The final condition is that of a government that uses force to control its people (police brutality, tapping telephone, Internet and other forms of private communications, and aggressive military actions against other nations without cause.) “This kind of capricious, irrational ineptitude in deploying government force leads to public contempt for the power of the state, and leads the government to withdraw their consent. And, eventually, it also raises people’s determination to stand together to oppose state power.”

Robinson wrote: “Thirty years of Republican corporatist government have failed us in ways that are not just inept or corrupt, but also have brought us to the same dangerous brink where so many other empires have erupted into violent revolution.”

She concluded with the thought that Obama is “walking away with the moment” because he talks of hope and change, words she said many of his followers “are clearly hearing as a soft word for revolution.

If elected, Robinson said she sincerely hopes Obama can and will deliver. “If those preconditions are all still in place in 2012, the fury will have had another four years to rise. And at that point, if history rhymes, mere talk of hope and change will no longer be enough.”