Tuesday, February 20, 2024
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America’s Culture War

The current debt-ceiling issue is a phony crisis with a hostage scenario in a massive culture war. The right-wing dream is to replace a pluralistic democracy with an authoritarian government favouring a strong Christian nationalist perspective on all issues.

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By Kenneth Tiven

Donald Trump as president avoided two impeachment judgments, managed to get a huge tax break for the rich, and his triple Supreme Court appointments shifted the Court hard right in its thinking. The latter ended a national right to medical abortion. His most faithful followers continue to believe he is capable of making America into an authoritarian nation with policies that disparage any and all “others” in a multi-ethnic society.

Instead of a second American revolution, the nation is trapped in a grinding culture war fought over issues such as abortion, family planning, personal sexual issues, what schools teach, just to name several. Call it dichotomy or hypocrisy, but the political party that claims minimalist regulation of business wants maximum control over personal rights and behaviours.

Trump’s current campaign and relentless fund raising demonstrate this is a repetition of his grievances over the 2016 campaign and his loss in 2020. Democrats control the presidency and the US Senate, while a four vote majority in the House of Representatives gives Republicans control. Republicans are determined to hold both the US and the world hostage over the impact of a government default on financial obligations, since dollar-based trading underpins much of the world’s financial well-being.

During Trump’s tenure, the debt ceiling was raised three times with Democratic political support, despite the GOP tax cut for corporate interests that added trillions to the national debt. The debt-ceiling law dates to wartime when Opposition politicians wanted to handicap the government’s ability to borrow to help pay for supporting allies’ efforts abroad. The US Constitution’s 14th amendment requires that all government debt approved by Congress must be paid. Republicans want budget cuts affecting already spent money as a “reward” for any approval. President Joe Biden has said this is unacceptable. We shall soon see if he uses the 14th amendment untested in court against a Congressional law passed decades ago.
If there is a next Trump (or any Republican) administration, it will hit the ground running with a Retribution Agenda formulated by right wing institutions using their four years in the wilderness preparing to enact a radical overhaul of the federal government unlike anything we have ever seen in this country. The insurrection in Washington on January 6, 2021, failed, but was a flashing red light for what was underway. This revolution is based on propaganda, not on policy. Proud boys, right-wing militia groups, and individuals living on a diet of rage and hate continue to plan if their favourite candidate loses in 2024.
Today right-wing American politicians rant about people and organizations they despise as “WOKE”, a made-up concept to cover people with whom they disagree on social and political issues. This thinking is made more menacing at a time when hate is weaponized daily in certain media.
The 2024 presidential campaign is underway, fought by the forces on the right with behavioural issues, not practical policy considerations. As the latest issue of The Economist put it: “Unfortunately, the Biden doctrine fails to rebut the narrative of a nation in decline and it has not resolved the tension between the country’s toxic politics and its role as a linchpin of a liberal order. Unless America looks out at the world with self-confidence, it will struggle to lead it.”

—The writer has worked in senior positions at The Washington Post, NBC, ABC and CNN and also consults for several Indian channels

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