Guest editorial: Is the U.S. ripe for revolution?
It’s difficult to look at our ongoing national political contest and not think that our system is in the unprecedented process of being turned upside down.
One of our major parties has been taken over by a leader and a very large group of dissidents who are pushing it in directions never before seen.
Racism, misogyny, sexism, immigration, civil rights and the endorsement of violence, are only among the most prominent areas that have seen changes in attitude during this election cycle.
During the Cold War, largely because of its preoccupation with Soviet-sponsored “revolution” around the world, the United States’ intelligence community put together profiles of countries likely to be vulnerable to revolution. They were monitored because ongoing developments gave a good idea of the extent to which any given country was either entering a revolutionary state, or maintaining a non-revolutionary status quo.
The primary indicators for revolution were: a large gap between the wealthy and the less affluent, an absent or shrinking middle class and the disaffection of large portions of society with those who held power and used it. Looking at contemporary America in those terms, one could assume that the U.S. is entering some sort of revolutionary phase.
Let’s take a look at current realities in our country, in addition to those outlined above, that might precipitate coming change:
• The richest 1 percent of the American population owns over 40 percent of the country’s wealth. The top 1 percent earn 24 percent of total national income, while those 15 percent (46.2 million people) who live below the poverty line earn 3.4 percent.
• The net loser, apart from the poor, is a disappearing American middle class. During the decade from 2000 to 2010, Americans in the middle of the pay scale saw income go down 7 percent, while the richest 40 percent actually gained wealth. Additionally, 14 million Americans are unemployed and 8.8 million are part-time employees.
• The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has given extraordinary and unprecedented political power to the rich and to corporations, in effect, removing that power from ordinary voters.
• Republican and Democratic administrations have refused to prosecute the most senior members of the U.S. banking community for their role in the recession and financial crisis of 2008, despite clear evidence of law-breaking.
• We have a totally dysfunctional Congress (approval rating in the teens) that cannot work across party lines.
In addition to that, we are faced with some realities that could lead to violence in such a revolutionary environment, augmented by the Republican candidate’s continuing allegation that, should he drop in the polls the election is “rigged.”
• We have a Republican presidential candidate who has attempted to subtly encourage violence within his followers and in the “Second Amendment people.”
• We have a powerful and effective NRA fighting any and every move, however nonthreatening, to our Second Amendment rights to exercise any control, however sensible, over the type and sale of weapons.
• We have more weapons in circulation per capita than any country in the world, and absolutely no ability to further limit either their type or distribution.
• We have increasing racism against blacks and now, Muslims, along with increased violence and ambivalence within police departments about how to handle it.
• Most importantly, however, particularly when coupled with our extensive gun ownership, we have an extraordinary rise in the numbers of “militia groups” and their membership. According to USA Today, the “Southern Poverty Law Center tracked 1,360 anti-government groups in 2012, an eightfold increase over 2008, when it recorded 149 such groups. The explosive growth began four years ago (it reported then), sparked by the re-election of President Obama and anger about the poor economy.”
It is generally acknowledged that these groups share a common belief in the imminent rise of a tyrannical government in the U.S., which they believe must be confronted through armed force. Militia News believes that “Tyranny Will Rule If Hillary Clinton Takes The Oval Office,” that “Violence In The Face Of Tyranny Is Often Necessary.” It continues on about “manufactured civil unrest,” “the approaching endpoint of Democracy,” “Liberty fading,” and a “Corrupted FBI.”
In a recent interview on Vermont Public Radio, the interviewee, a young, educated, white, married father of two from the South, when asked what effect the election of the Democratic candidate would have on the country, replied that there would surely be a revolution. He went on to say that he was in the process of joining a militia group.
Violence and racism are increasing. The public is being given permission during this campaign to blame immigrants and minorities for whatever problems white people are facing. This could preface major trouble ahead as Americans pursue the new revolution.
Haviland Smith is a retired CIA station chief who was, among other things, chief of the counterterrorism staff.