Protesters march in opposition to the contentious issue of Brent Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. "Stop Kavanaugh March DC" by Susan Melkisethian, through Flickr via Wikimedia Commons
Nearly every source across the political spectrum agrees that the present position of American politics is new, dangerous and unsustainable.
Whether the complaints are leveled at the Trump administration’s drastic reforms or at the obstructionist politics of the “resistance,” most opinion pieces hearken back to a previous time — one defined by civility, moderation and political unity.
Simply put, this alleged previous state never existed; what really came before the current political climate was actually very similar to what exists now. The failures of today are the logical conclusion to which previous policies have always led.
Many will point to the election of Donald Trump (and the response to that election by his opponents) as the catalyst for this departure from politics as usual. Despite what these pundits claim, Trump and the political trajectory behind him were not just a “fluke.” Rather, they are the fulfillment of deep, foundational flaws in American society.
America was built off of the genocide of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of millions. The original intention of the Constitution created a disgustingly unequal society wherein women were considered the wards of their fathers and husbands, immigrants were denied any real representation and African-Americans were counted as three fifths of a person.
This is not to say that this reality is the goal of the Trump administration. Instead, the administration is after the mythology that surrounds this political reality, of noble and moral patriots soberly steering the nation on a trajectory that would make America a great power. The quiet hope is that if those conditions can be recreated, so can those successes.
The reality is that this ideology has run its course and resulted in the current dire political situation. There is no reason to suspect that, if it were even possible to return to that political state, it would not just immediately degenerate back to the one that exists now.
Opposite the Trump Administration, the Democratic resistance hopes that the “checks and balances” of the original American political system could be used to reign in the present revisions to it. However, the “checks and balances” of this system were made to enforce the power disparities promoted by these revisions, not undermine them.
Indeed, these checks and balances were touted at the time by the framers of the Constitution as a way to keep the country balanced between “tyranny” and “mob rule.”
On the surface, this seems sensible until one realizes that these terms meant very different things to the founders. The mob was made up of everyone besides white natural-born landowning men. Tyranny similarly did not mean the oppression of the masses, it meant the loss of privilege for that ruling class.
A real path forward is the rejection of the flaws of American society and the embrace of an alternative that addresses those flaws in a way that preexisting political structures cannot. Rather than falling back on systems of marginalization to save the country, a bold path free of those systems must be forged.
In many cases, this path is already opening in the form of political outsiders, like Bernie Sanders or the Democratic Socialists of America who offer an alternative to liberal American capitalism and nationalism.
However, these are only the beginning of what must be a whole new approach to American politics which, in time, will be as universal as the present system.