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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/25/21

The "Insurrection" and Its Discontents: "American Exceptionalism" Revisited

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History is being written in the United States today. Even the most pessimistic about the prospects of American democracy have rarely ventured out this far while offering a bleak analysis of America's future, whether in terms of political polarization at home or global standing abroad.

As shocking and, certainly, telling as the images of thousands of American protesters taking over the symbols of America's federal, representative democracy in Washington DC on January 6, it was only a facet in a far more complex and devastating political trajectory that has been in the making for years.

While mainstream US media has conveniently attributed all of America's ills to the unruly character of outgoing President Donald Trump, the truth is not quite so convenient. The US has been experiencing an unprecedented political influx at every level of society for years, leading us to believe that the rowdy years of Trump's Presidency were a mere symptom, not the cause, of America's political instability.

Even the storming of the congressional halls by angry pro-Trump crowds did not fundamentally alter the make-up of America's political affiliations. Not only did Democrats remain firmly Democrats, but Republicans also remained entrenched in their republicanism and their allegiance to President Trump.

The House of Representatives' vote on impeaching Trump, held on January 13, hardly registered a significant shift even among establishment Republicans. Only 10 Republican members of Congress voted to impeach Trump. But how about ordinary people -- have they changed their views on Trump following the congressional insurrection? Hardly.

According to an Economist/YouGov poll published on January 13, 69% of all Republicans surveyed said that activists from the anti-fascist, leftist group, Antifa, are to be blamed for the takeover of the Capitol. While 22% said they are "unsure," a meager 9% agreed that Trump's supporters instigated the violent events, which, even then, should not automatically be understood to be an admission of guilt.

These results should not come as a surprise. The mistrust in the government and media in the US is so widespread that the country is experiencing two parallel political realities, each committed to a fundamentally different set of aspirations. Each side perceives the other as the enemy, and while still believing in its own version of "democracy," it no longer agrees to any functional definition of the term.

This has not always been the case.

In their seminal book, "Manufacturing Consent," Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman provided a most comprehensive analysis of how the "system" -- the government/ruling classes, big business, and mainstream media -- have invented the most effective mechanism which allowed the US to ensure two naturally contradicting realities: persistent popular consent within a seemingly democratic governance.

"The beauty of the system ... is that ... dissent and inconvenient information are kept within bounds and at the margins so that, while their presence shows that the system is not monolithic, they are not large enough to interfere unduly with the domination of the official agenda," Chomsky and Herman argued.

Years later, Chomsky contested that, underneath this facade of democracy, the US is, in actuality, a plutocracy, a country that is dedicated to serving the interests of the powerful few. He also argued that, while the US does operate based on formal democratic structures, these are largely dysfunctional. In an interview with Global Policy Journal in 2019, the famed linguist and historian further asserted that the "US Constitution was framed to thwart the democratic aspirations of most of the public."

While these realizations have served as the core of the US Left's ideology, it was most interesting to see American Right constituencies leading what they call the "revolution," referred to by mainstream media as "insurrection." Equally interesting, many of Trump's supporters actually come from working-class and lower-middle-class America, itself a fascinating subject in its own right.

Regardless of what may transpire in the official investigation of the Capitol's upheaval, US political polarization, the breakdown of trust between the public and the ruling elites, along with their media allies, will continue unabated. Undoubtedly, the consequences will be dire.

But there is another consequential crisis that is also brewing, "American exceptionalism," a rare meeting point between Democrats and Republicans, is facing its greatest challenge since its coinage sometime in the mid-17th century.

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Ramzy Baroud is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold (more...)
 

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