Is America Disintegrating?


Crawford at Cologne Game Lab (2011)

My last post elicited this response from Chris Crawford. I post it unedited.

This essay triggered much thinking. I have been reading a lot of pieces surrounding this matter and am coming to some frightening conclusions. I have long believed that the American body politic is slowly disintegrating because the problems of our modern society have become too complicated for the average person to understand. This is what drives populism, the political philosophy that intellectual analysis of political issues must be replaced by “common sense”. But I anticipated that these problems would not come to a head for decades. Now I fear that I have been too optimistic.

The Supreme Court’s swerve to the far right has obliterated its legitimacy in the minds of the majority of Americans. Should a political crisis arise, its resolution of the crisis will command no respect; it will fail to prevent violence. Meanwhile, the right no longer respects the legitimacy of our electoral system. It is now attempting to “reform” the electoral system in a manner that will give it an advantage and will simultaneously destroy the legitimacy of the electoral system in the eyes of the majority of Americans.

An illuminating way to think about these issues was provided many years ago by a professor at Berkeley. To greatly simplify his idea, everybody views government as something like a parent. Conservatives see government as a father whose task is to enforce the rules and punish those who deviate from expectations. Liberals see government as a mother whose responsibility is to nurture and protect the citizenry. These two perceptions of government do not meld well, hence our political polarization. In times past, we hammered out compromises that preserved the system, but of late the right has become uncompromising and insistent that its perception of government must prevail.

I think we’ll get through the 2022 elections with a lot of anger and grumbling, but I now fear that the 2024 election will trigger the collapse of the American political system and the advent of serious bloodshed. The right will reject all of its defeats as “stolen”, and the left will contest elections in which the right has prevented or thrown out an excessive number of votes. The left’s challenges will get to the Supreme Court. If the Court has regained some sense, it will reject Republican election-rigging. If it does not, expect the conflict to spill into the streets. The right will eagerly embrace violence, believing that its ownership of guns will guarantee the massacre of leftists and the right’s subsequent conquest of American government.

Two years ago, in the run-up to the 2020 election, my wife insisted that we purchase guns. She was so paranoid that I indulged her fears and we bought some small guns. But now I think we should resume practicing with them.

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4 thoughts on “Is America Disintegrating?

  1. May I ask a similar question that was posed to Marshall Joseph Stalin back in 1945 about his thoughts on the Pope being part of the post war peace process? His anecdotal response, perhaps apocryphal, was: “How many divisions does the pope have?” In response, Pope Pius X11 said: “Tell our son Joseph he will meet our divisions in heaven.”

    How many divisions does this Supreme Court have? If they continue to lose any diminishing trust they still have, then they just might meet our divisions in the streets of America. They are in danger of reaping the whirlwind of their own creation.

  2. I mentioned the Stalin response many times in class over the years. But I think you’re right. When they call balls and strikes to favor their team rather than impartially they undermine their credibility.

  3. One could argue that the Supreme Court has the most powerful military organization in the world backing it up. Theoretically, a Supreme Court decision could be enforced by the US military. However, this would require the President to deploy the military against civilians, and the military to be willing to attack civilians — neither of which is plausible.

    The Supreme Court’s problem is that its loss of legitimacy may well result in a loss of enforcement, as well as numerous schemes to undermine its decisions. For example, a number of district attorneys in urban districts inside red states have already declared that they will not indict doctors or women for abortions. They can get away with this because they can always declare that the available evidence is insufficient for a conviction.

    Another example is the creation of a number of schemes to make abortion pills easily available to pregnant women in red states. These schemes are still under development, but I have little doubt that state laws against abortion will be readily subverted. Ironically, had the Supreme Court not reversed Roe v. Wade, the mobilization of resources to create such schemes might not have been possible.

  4. Insofar as much of what is happening now has happened before, I would have to optimistically say I don’t think so. Contretemps, in tracing the severity of egregious acts and boneheaded missteps, a more concerning picture emerges. The ordering of the following points is arbitrary and not intended to signify importance:
    * Acrimony between political parties and individuals seems to be at a pinnacle.
    * Citizen on citizen violence shows no signs of abatement—law enforcement is stretched beyond it’s limits.
    * Violence by law officers, and deaths of suspects/perpetrators during apprehensions are at unheard of numbers.
    * Race and racial issues have escalated, beyond anything imaginable. In parallel with this, civil rights are being denied all, race, color, national origin, sex, age, etc. notwithstanding.
    * Respectful treatment and other common courtesies, once valued and upheld, are disregarded: never apologize, it is a sign of weakness; when someone demands respect, that is not what is EXpected. The tacit, unspoken expectation is fear.
    * The notion of a Church/State separation has no application, aggravating all sorts of ethical, moral and legal issues. The Church sees no division on this. The State is cowed by the power and influence of a faith-based organization. In this limited, but crucial, sense, we are no longer a nation of laws.
    I could go on, but this is enough. Is America disintegrating? I am afraid so.
    Looks like it will rain again today.

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