It can be instructive for the sake of illustration to compare what U.S., and the West generally, is going through politically now with earlier periods. The example that always comes up is the period following the First World War when the ruling classes realized that murdering 20 million young, mostly men, in the conflict did not stifle a rising labor movement as they’d hoped, and they resorted to installing genocidal fascist regimes where they could.
But this is reality, this is today. It is not like any other period for that reason alone. The challenges facing humanity are unique. We are truly, as they say, in uncharted territory, although strangely enough, I am inclined to believe that the Founding Fathers really had an idea that something like what we are encountering today was a distinct possibility.
That’s because the barbarism of the autocratic regimes they were familiar with, if anything, matched or exceeded what we’ve seen since, although not on the scale of the mass genocides of the two world wars of the past century that, in total, cost over 200 million lives. And as far as crooks and traitors are concerned, they were readily present then at the highest levels.
The two tools our founders built into the U.S. Constitution to redress these kinds of horrors were popular elections, on the one hand, and impeachment proceedings, on the other. Each and every election, under the Constitution they ratified, has the potential to overthrow the existing government, in an orderly and lawful fashion that would optimize the capacity of the armed forces to align with the outcome.
The same is true of impeachment, set up as an orderly process that gives the lawful Congress an ability to remove a crook or a traitor in a way that keeps the enforcement arm of the government aligned with the outcome of the process.
Internal insurgencies in the U.S. have always been held to a minimum for these reasons. The only serious threats to the nation have come from external interventions, in both cases by the British: the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The latter, although appearing to be an internal matter, was a proxy war that the British were careful not to be identified with too closely. Still, it took a wildly unlawful declaration of secession and armed conflict to attempt a forced change in the government.
But while today’s circumstances are closer to the period that led up to the U.S Civil War, those who now hold out for a festering insurgency of angry old white men with guns unleashing an attempted coup against the lawful U.S. government, taking attempts to remove Donald Trump from the Presidency as their imagined cue, lack anything like a needed popular consensus.
Unlike the Civil War, theirs would not be a declaration of war, but a coup in the likeness of a tinhorn Third World dictatorship. Those only succeed where the rule of law is weak, and that is not America. The pro-gold standard right wingers who tried a military coup against FDR shortly after his inauguration failed miserably because as much as they tried, they could not rile up any faction of the military to go along. The vast, vast majority in America holds to the rule of law.
Assassinations never change much, and as for elections, well, angry old white men are on the way out, big time. The Tea Party/Trump phenomenon is the last gasp of the old, swinish male chauvinist order that is being swept aside by the new, fresh, smart, young legions of inspired human beings of all shapes and stripes who are dedicated to realizing the American dream as the best of our Founding Fathers envisioned it.
This is conditional, however, on a single main component called “courage.” The advocates for our American democracy need the steel will of an Abraham Lincoln to fight ruthlessly, inspired not by selfish self-interest or hate, but by the universal values embodied in that critical phrase in our Declaration of Independence, modernized slightly for today’s world, affirming “the inalienable rights of ALL persons.”