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Sunday, December 13, 2020

A repost from the past, and possibly from the future

 The overwhelming decision of the Supreme Court against the Texas lawsuit suggests an interesting generational change there.  While two of the Boomer Republicans, Thomas and Alito, wanted to hear the case (albeit without providing the immediate relief the states demanded), the three Gen Xers that Donald Trump appointed weren't in the least interested.    While they are dedicated conservatives, they evidently are not partisan warriors.  That is at least marginally good news.   I do not yet feel confident that President-elect Biden will take office without some serious problems in the next five weeks, but Trump appears to have lost his last path to victory.

Being slightly under the weather this weekend--absolutely nothing to worry about, let me assure you--I am not going to try to write a whole new post.  Here instead is one of the more important ones that I ever did, now more than eight years old.  I'm afraid that the Republican strategy that it described is about to return.    

Struggle

One of the most important readings about the Vietnam War that I have ever encountered is a chapter by the late Douglas Pike, a real authority on the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, about dau tranh, or struggle, the philosophy behind the Vietnamese Communist revolution. Dau tranh, Pike explains, had two forms: military and political. Of the two, the political was far more important, and indeed, the Viet Cong always had several times as many active political workers as soldiers during the Vietnam War. Their mission was to rally their own troops and sow confusion among the enemy, doing whatever they could, in particular, to make the South Vietnamese government unable to function effectively. They also infiltrated that government at every level and tried to influence the views of enemy forces. Their goal, essentially, was to reduce society to chaos and allow the well-organized Communist Party to take over. The other day I raised some eyebrows in a small group setting by suggesting that the Republican Party has been practicing dau tranh for more than twenty years. It has now crippled government at all levels and has a good chance of reducing much of the United States to chaos in the next ten years.

Dau transh in its current form started with Newt Gingrich's all-out assault on the Democrats in the House of Representatives, whom he was determined to demonize in order to take away their majority. Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge, now signed by almost every Republican in Congress and thousands more in state legislatures around the country, is another form of dau tranh. So, of course, is the ceaseless drumbeat of propaganda day after day, week after week, year after year, on Limbaugh, Hannity and the rest. So is the attack on the authority of the mainstream media, universities and scientists. Oddly, while this attack on government probably did more than anything to land us in our current economic mess, the mess also makes dau tranh more effective, because it undermines confidence in the government. Conservative Republicans have also waged long-term dau tranh within our legal system, using the Federalist society to develop a network of conservative lawyers and judges and packing the courts whenever they can. Jeffrey Toobin has analyzed the increasingly significant results of that effort in a series of articles in the New Yorker.

I was moved to write this post because I have to deal with dau tranh almost daily myself in managing this blog. One of my regular readers is a fanatical right-winger who probably posts 50 comments a week here, week in and week out. They are not really comments, for the most part--they are links to some piece of right-wing propaganda, often accompanied with personal abuse towards myself. I think I know who he is, although we have never met face to face, and I also regard him as the prime suspect for having put my name on the Obama=Hitler email which is still circulating, even though he denied it when we were both still on the same discussion forum. (He was kicked off the forum when his dau tranh and personal abuse went too far.) I warn, of course, on the blog, that abusive anonymous comments will be deleted, but he berates me for doing so nonetheless. The attempt to keep the extreme Republican view of the world in the foreground is a key element of Republican dau tranh, just as it was for Nazis and Communists.

The Republicans' real target is the idea that dominated the last century--the idea that human reason can design, and create, a better world. That is why Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson have been given places in their Pantheon of villains. I'm afraid they have sufficiently discredited that idea that it no longer dominates our political life, and might be disappearing altogether. Their lust for power is much, much greater than their respect for the truth. This is the threat the nation faces. Pike also argued provocatively in one of his books that there was no known counter-strategy to dau tranh, and I'm afraid he may have been right.

3 comments:

Bozon said...

Professor
Hope you feel 110% tomorrow!
Re your classic post, and the march of reason, I can think of nothing more apposite than a sentence from Wade, Before The Dawn:

'The vocabulary of evolutionary biology does not include the word progress, for evolution has no goal toward which progress might be made.' p. 177

All the best

Bozon said...

Professor
I hope you are right about this.
My intuition about the Court, from past scrutiny of it, suggests not.

"...The overwhelming decision of the Supreme Court against the Texas lawsuit suggests an interesting generational change there. While two of the Boomer Republicans, Thomas and Alito, wanted to hear the case (albeit without providing the immediate relief the states demanded), the three Gen Xers that Donald Trump appointed weren't in the least interested. While they are dedicated conservatives, they evidently are not partisan warriors...." DK

All the best

Unknown said...

There will be no progress toward unity in the US until the Boomer generation (mine) and what remains of the octogenarian Silent one are altogether dead. Like a fouled test tube, the contaminating influence of these generations must be excreted into the dumpsters of history so that following generations can deal with the corrupt remnants, including extreme individualism, alternate truth, Darwinian economics, spineless collaboration and abrogation of any social contract. Expecting no guarantees, suspicious of hope, place the fate of this country and its democracy in any hands other than the gnarled, calloused, grasping ones of our current generations of leaders.