America’s Wrecking Crew and the Politics of Destruction

The politics of destruction have taken hold throughout America. Many politicians are part of a wrecking crew that is destroying America’s institutions.

America’s political wrecking crew comprises two groups. Extreme Republicans and Fake Moderates. Each group is destructive in its own way.

Extreme Republicans

The Extreme Republicans are trying to force a radical ideology of unrestrained capitalism and hyper-individualism on America. The only true believers this ideology has are a small class of plutocrats and intellectuals who think they will benefit from its imposition.

Since there is no popular support for their ideology. The Extreme Republicans play to the prejudices of their base of mostly uneducated white people. For example, some of their leaders promote racism and white supremacy, while others pay lip service to Christianity, traditional values, and nationalism.

With such an unpopular ideology, Extreme Republicans have no choice but to pander to the fake populist charlatan Donald J. Trump Sr. (R-Florida) who has passionate support among working-class whites and a growing appeal to some working-class minorities. Trump is incompetent, corrupt, and possibly insane, yet Extreme Republicans embrace his lunacy to implement their extremist agenda.

Worst of all, the Extreme Republicans have lost all touch with reality. Similarly to the Communists, they are so enthralled by their vision of utopia the Extreme Republicans cannot see the damage they do. For example, many Extreme Republicans still embrace Trump after his lunacy led to electoral defeat in 2018 and 2020 and the violence of 6 January 2021.

In another similarity to Communists, the Extreme Republicans attack any critic or opponent as evil or illegitimate. For example, they brand any effort to expand the welfare state as socialism and any criticism of capitalism as Communism. Recently, the Extreme Republicans have adopted insane culture tropes including denouncing antiracism as Anti-Americanism.

Fake Moderates and Phony Centrists

Fake Moderates and Phony Centrists are dangerous because they destroy institutions while pretending to support them.

For example, Fake Moderate US Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) claims to be preserving the traditions of the Senate. Yet, Manchin wrecks the US Senate by using the filibuster to enhance his own power.

Manchin is not a moderate because he embraces an extreme neoliberalism and a vision of limited government that was unrealistic and unpopular when Calvin Coolidge (R-Massachusetts) was in the White House. For example, Manchin opposes a $15 minimum wage, yet Pew Research estimates 62% of Americans want a $15 minimum wage.

In contrast, a true centrist such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson discerns where majority public opinion (the center) is and goes there. For example, Johnson’s Conservative government is expanding high-speed rail in the UK because most Britons want better rail service.

In addition, Johnson’s government has an ambitious agenda to decarbonize the United Kingdom by 2050. In particular, Johnson’s government is promoting small modular nuclear reactors and fusion research.

Conversely, Manchin opposes any federal effort to reduce fossil fuel use, to fight climate change. Yet Pew Research estimates 65% of Americans think the Federal government is doing too little to combat climate change. Moreover, 79% of Americans think the federal government needs to prioritize developing alternative energy resources, Pew Estimates.

Instead, Manchin believes American needs to rely on fossil fuels, including coal. Manchin takes this stand because his family makes money from the coal business. Politico alleges Manchin made millions from scrap coal. Politico also alleges Manchin uses his office to protect his family’s coal business.

Manchin is a grifting sociopath who hides behind a fake moderate facade. Worse, Manchin often allies with Extreme Republicans against his own party in order to gain power in the Senate.

For example, Manchin scuttled Democratic voting rights registration because passing that legislation requires abolishing the filibuster. To explain, the filibuster increases Manchin’s power as a Senator because it gives individual senators the right to block any legislation.

Without the Filibuster, Manchin would be just another Senator. With the filibuster, Manchin is a major national figure.

Greed, power lust, and ego motivate Manchin and his associate Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), not love of the institution. The two would rather destroy the US Senate and betray the Democratic Party than listen to the majority. Indeed, Manchin’s entire career is about trashing democracy so he can line his own pockets.

The worst danger from fake moderates such as Manchin is that many in the media and intelligent observers fall for their grift. These people praise Manchin as a moderate, even as he takes some of the most extreme positions possible. For example, opposing the minimum wage and voting rights, primary components of the Democratic agenda since the 1960s.

The fake moderates empower Extreme Republicans by making it impossible for Democrats to enact any legislation or reverse some of the worst Extreme Republican policies. For example, voter suppression which makes government less democratic and encourages civil unrest.

Manchin killed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 which could have federalized elections and undid voter suppression efforts by Republican state legislators. By refusing to kill the filibuster, Manchin ensured that bill’s defeat.

Many observers think Democrats could suffer major losses in the 2022 mid-term elections, partially because of Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression. The Lewis Act could have banned or limited those practices.

The Danger from the Politics of Destruction

Frighteningly, America has seen such Politics of Destruction before in the 1850s. The Politics of Destruction was one of the principal causes of the Civil War.

For example, the 1850s had its version of Extreme Republicans, the Fire-Eaters Extreme Proslavery Democrats and Secessionists. An unholy mixture of racism, greed, and ideology similar to the beliefs of the Extreme Republicans drove the Fire-Eaters.

Many of the Fire-Eaters were slave owners who built an ideology to defend the peculiar institution. In the 1850s, slavery was a Big Business that made many Southerners rich.

Southern Intellectuals such as John C. Calhoun (D-Carolina) created an ideology to justify and defend slavery. That ideology reminds me of today’s defenses of fossil fuels and Climate Change denial.

To explain, Climate Change deniers refuse to acknowledge a real danger because admitting the danger threatens their revenue source. The fire-eaters defended slavery because it was their revenue source.

For example, Bloomberg estimates the value of America’s four million slaves was around $4 billion in 1860. Bloomberg claims the slaves’ value exceeded the value of all the railroads, factories, and banks in the United States in 1860. Thus, slavery, like Climate Change denial, was about the money, not ideology.

The Fire-Eaters refused to compromise on slavery to protect their pocketbooks. For example, they refused to work with any Northern politicians who opposed slavery. In addition, Fire-Eaters trashed longstanding comprises designed to defuse the slavery controversy.

For example, the Fire-Eaters forced Congress to pass the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Theoretically, The Fugitive Slave Act required any US Citizen, even freed blacks, to help US Marshals and bounty hunters recapture escaped slaves.

Predictably, The Fugitive Slave Act was unpopular in the North. Some historians and pundits blame The Fugitive Slave Act for the collapse of the Whig Party and the rise of the Republicans.  

There were also many Fake Moderates in the 1850s. The most prominent 1850s Fake Moderate was US Senator Stephen A. Douglas (D-Illinois). Douglas, the US Senate’s most powerful Democrat, engineered compromise after compromise.

The most destructive Douglas compromise was The Kansas-Nebraska Act. Before The Kansas Nebraska Act, there were no efforts to create slave states north of the 36th parallel. However, The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed settlers in the Kansas territory to vote to allow slavery.

Disgustingly, greed was Douglas’s principal motivation for pushing the compromise. To explain, Douglas owned enormous amounts of real estate in Chicago. Chicago was the probable Eastern terminus of a Transcontinental Railroad running through the Kansas and Nebraska territories.

The Politics of Destruction and Civil War

Douglas thought The Kansas-Nebraska Act would boost his property values. Hence, Douglas risked Civil War to make money. Just as Joe Manchin will risk rising sea levels and flooding to make money.

Douglas’s shoddy scheme collapsed when Fire-Eaters realized they could create a slave state (and gain two more US Senators) in Kansas by rigging the election. Consequently, Fire-Eaters sent in armies of thugs of and mercenaries to seize the territorial government and a create a slave state.

The result was open warfare between pro-slavery and antislavery forces in “Bleeding Kansas.” Bleeding Kansas drove the rise of the Republican Party and helped Abraham Lincoln (R-Illinois) reach the White House.

Hence, the 1850s Fake Moderates efforts at compromise helped create Civil War. One way the moderates sparked Civil War was to drive distrust of government. By 1860, many Northerners, including Lincoln, believed the federal government was under the control of a Fire-Eater conspiracy called the Slave Power.

Those Northerners voted Republican because they thought, correctly, Republicans could force the Fire-Eaters out of power. In 1860, Republicans won the White House and both houses of Congress. In response, state governments under Fire-Eater control left the Union and organized the Confederacy. That led to an all-out Civil War in 1861.

Americans need to fear the Politics of Destruction because our history shows the politics can lead to Civil War. I predict the political battle of the next decade will be containing the politics of destruction.