Historians have a tendency to simplify events as a kind of shorthand. A result of this practice is that various historical events get “pegged” to other events. A good example is the idea that the Roman Republic failed when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army. But historians know the Republic had been struggling for some time and had become vulnerable to an ambitious egomaniac. They also know that Julius Caesar never declared himself Emperor. That title was first conferred on Caesar’s adopted son, Caesar Octavian. Caesar, himself, had become Pro-Consul, a position recognized in the Republic. The difference was, Caesar became Pro-Consul for life. The point is, the fact that we now teach that the Roman Republic became an Empire when Caesar crossed the Rubicon is because that’s the single most important act during a long line of other, smaller acts that led to the perversion from Republic to Empire.
Assuming humanity manages to survive at all, future historians will look back at the failure of the Republic of the United States and look for a distinct event they can tie to the fall. Their history will show, without question, that the long-term track that brought the Republic down was an intentional attack by the upper economic class on the norms and institutions of the country by co-opting the Republican Party.
I’m aware that history is happening now, right now, all around me, all the time. It’s one thing to look back at what, say, Jefferson wrote to Adams but right now, I’m very interested in what Hannity wrote to Trump. And Ingram wrote to Trump. And Trump, Jr wrote to Meadows, not his own father. Nice. It’s history, happening right now.
But it’s only this moment in history, the latest act in this absurd play. It goes back, to my mind, to when Newt Gingrich started misusing English to misrepresent things in an effort to undermine them. For example, before Gingrich, there existed an Inheritance Tax. It was designed to keep too much money from accruing in too few hands in order to serve the better health of the larger society. It worked. Rich people hated it because it kept too much money from accruing in too few hands (theirs) and served the better health of the larger society. Gingrich hired a guy named Frank Luntz to come up with “alternative descriptions” of things like that, then pressed the Republicans in congress to use the new, preferred, and, coincidentally, derogatory terms. Suddenly the Inheritance Tax – a tax on income from an inheritance – became the “death tax” – a god-forsaken tax on dying fercrissakes…
No. I’m wrong. I think the first salvo in the class war was the election of Ronald Reagan and the introduction of so-called ‘Supply Side Economics.’ It was a scam. It fooled a lot of people. Reagan was a true first salvo in the class war, but there have been far too many opportunities to stop the process since Reagan. He’s not the Rubicon moment.
Gingrich’s pernicious behavior is also one of the key moments but not, I think, the one that will get the historical peg as THE moment. I’ve been watching for it. There are many. Bush 41 being a one term President because he raised taxes in an effort to help America. Clinton dismantling the independent media in this once-great nation, allowing 5 corporate interests to effectively control the message. (Surprise, surprise, their message is ALWAYS corporate friendly.) Bush 43 ignoring warnings from his intelligence people, allowing the September 11 attacks, then using them to launch, not one, but two wars AND initiate constant and complete surveillance of the American people by the American government. The American War – wherever it’s happening in any given moment – keeps wealthy people wealthy. It’s why we keep bombing and bombing and bombing. It’s good for the One Percent, bad for everyone else.
It hasn’t ONLY been the GOP, of course. It could be Barack Obama pretending during the campaign that he was going to bring universal health care to the US, only to unilaterally drop the promised health care plan and provide only a “less than,” corporate-friendly insurance program. But I don’t think that will be it, either. The fact that corporations ALWAYS win in this once-great nation is a measure that Fascism, Mussolini’s version, has already taken hold. Mussolini defined Fascism as the marriage of corporation and state and asserted it’s authoritarian nature as preferable to socialism, liberalism, and democracy. Preferable to democracy. Keep that in mind as you watch one red state after another undermine the voting process in America. They keep passing laws that essentially say they’ll just ignore the outcomes they don’t like and simply declare their preferred winner.
But the fact that Fascism HAS taken root in the US only demonstrates that the Republic – much like the Roman Republic of old – has long since been under attack and corrupted. It’s only the outward sign, the one moment when the masses begin to understand that something has changed that will be pegged as the end of the American experiment…and I think I’ve finally realized what that moment will turn out to be: Covid-19.
The One Percent, making tools of the weakest thinkers and most gullible members of our society, co-opted the Republican party and declared their dedicated opposition to the health of the United States. But it has been a slow-moving coup. Everything that has happened could have been reversed. It’s very difficult to point to one moment and say, “THAT’S the one, that’s what did it…” Caesar crossing the Rubicon was an irreversible act and the single event I seek must be likewise irreversible. That’s why I think history will settle on the pandemic as the “moment” of the fall of the American Republic.
The tools of the GOP have been conditioned to believe that science is for suckers, private industry can do no wrong, and that government can do no right. Wrong, wrong, and wrong, but that’s their position. It has helped the One Percent lead the tools to wherever they needed to go to create upheaval and discontent. Then the pandemic hit. There was a moment, just a brief moment, when the conservative talking heads and thought-shapers wavered. In the face of a pandemic, despising science meant a death sentence for many of their own acolytes and they knew it. They considered, for maybe one day, telling the tools that, just this once, they could trust science. They should wear a mask and get the vaccine when it became available. They could go back to being obnoxious contrarians after the threat. But in the end? They didn’t.
They seem to have determined that giving cons truth, any truth, even one time, might well undermine decades of misinformation and seeded mistrust. If experts could be right once, couldn’t they be right twice? They couldn’t risk it, so the tools were conditioned to fight back – against science, against America. They don’t even want to. Despite all the shouting and spittle, the cons fear Covid-19 and WANT a cure. They’re just not allowed to use the one that works, so they’re trying anything, everything else in a desperate attempt to “own the libs.” (I confess, their stupid, self-inflicted deaths ARE teaching me something about them but I doubt it’s what they want me to learn.) The tools WILL stand against doing the right thing because that’s what they’ve been told to do. Their loyalty to their party, um, trumps their loyalty to the United States and even to humanity.
When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he knew he was sending a message. The Republic had become expendable. When the conservative bubble directed it’s minions to die for the cause, they were sending a message, too. The autocrats seem to feel their control over the country is strong enough, they no longer need their tools to maintain disruption and feigned discontent. The tools have become expendable.
I think the fall of the American Republic will be pegged to the pandemic in the same way the fall of the Roman Republic is pegged to Caesar crossing the Rubicon. It’s an irreversible moment in history. Rome was never the same afterward and the US will never be the same afterward – if there ever IS an “afterward. What crawls out from the rubble will be a perverted and corrupted version of the United States of America. After Octavian, the Roman Empire went into a long decline that eventually led to the empire’s irrelevance. The American slide won’t last as long. We have far more competitive enemies than ancient Rome faced.
The bright side? It looks like our authoritarian strongman is going to be Donald J. “Donnie the Dumbass” Trump, a man so stupid, so corrupt, so completely incompetent, he makes Mussolini look like a political genius. So…there’s that…