Before World War II, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria (1931) provided a foretaste of the global confrontation that eventually took tens of millions of lives, including twenty million alone in Russia.
If you were only looking, however, at the time at the particularities of the Spanish Civil War or of the Japanese invading China and not seeing how the political and economic forces in play were the leading edge of something even larger, then you would -- as most did -- miss the significance of these events.
Many people are similarly missing the full import of the U.S. government shutdown. They think that the GOP is committing political suicide with its extortionate tactics over ACA (aka Obamacare) and "entitlement" spending (aka social programs and needed programs like the FDA's food inspections and scientific work re: global warming). They are misreading this political fight as one that will only damage the Republicans and benefit the Democrats and see the polls that indicate plummeting support for the Republicans as evidence of this.
Nothing, however, could be more incorrect.
This is not, however, how political power is actually exercised and democratic theory will lead you to misunderstand what is really going on.
What matters in public affairs and in the making and shaping of public policy is not who is in office or which party has the majority. What matters is how the central political questions are framed because how they are framed determines what the "solutions" to those problems will be.
To illustrate: if you frame the problem of the economy as one of excessive government spending on social programs (but not of government spending on the military), then the "solution" is to slash social programs.
If you frame the problem of security as the danger of (anti-state) terrorism, then the "solution" is to eliminate citizen's rights (privacy, probable cause, right to dissent, etc.) in the name of an ever-expanding apparatus of control (surveillance and the suspension of due process and the rule of law) geared to taking emergency actions designed to ward off the threat of "terrorism."
If you frame the problem of the shrinking funds for government spending on public needs such as jobs, education, and social welfare as meaning that you have to further reduce taxes on the wealthy so that they can supposedly create more jobs (right!), then the "solution" is to impose more and more austerity on the poor and middle classes and further enrich the very wealthy.
Are these three examples of framing not the dominant frames in official discourse? Do these frames not account for the decisions being made by our public officials, regardless of their party affiliation?
Ask yourself: are the radical right-wing getting their way and do they not represent the cutting edge of public policy-making, even though they lost the last two presidential elections?
While the GOP is suffering in the polls because of their extortion resulting in the government shutdown, notice that Obama has not done either of two things that he should do and you would expect him to do if he really was on the side of the people rather than colluding with the Republicans.
One, he has the power under the 14th Amendment to lift the debt ceiling so that the government could continue to pay its bills, end the shutdown, and avoid the disaster of default, but he refuses to use it.
Two, he and the Democratic leadership will not call out the Republicans for their fascist tactics and exploit and expose the fact that the Republicans are behaving in a criminal manner that is endangering the lives of people and setting a dangerous precedent for how a small minority can dictate the terms. We are not talking here about the equivalent of a filibuster when one or a few halt a particular bill from being passed. We are talking here about shutting down the government itself.
New rules are being set for how this government will operate. The shock doctrine, to borrow Naomi Klein's phrase, is being implemented as a device to pave the way for a government coup to take place. Before you dismiss this as alarmist talk please note that there are various ways and differing degrees by which a coup can occur. They do not necessarily need to involve an armed take-over, although such a classic scenario cannot and should not be ruled out of the question.
What we see right now is a rolling coup in the sense at this point of a tiny group holding the whole government hostage to its demands. The GOP will get at least some of its demands met in this next week. That is practically a certainty. And then it will move forward from there, advancing, not retreating, and demanding more and more until they get what they want.
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