Blain’s Morning Porridge – July 4th 2022: The US’ Past will determine its Future.
“The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”
This morning: The US has been a great Anglo-Saxon creation and experiment, but the way in which 6 conservatives hold the reins of power, and are showing they are prepared to flex them is causing rising doubt.
Happy Birthday America!
Traditionally on July 4th I go out for a proper lunch in the City with mates to remember all the very many good things about America – including our careers in finance. Thanks! But this year.. I’m working from home and wondering about the future. I am seriously worried about America, and wondering if it’s all our fault? (US Readers – today’s Morning Porridge may contain nuts and the merest smidge of ironic sarcasm..)
Here in the UK we should celebrate American Independence with more enthusiasm. After all, it was an absolute stroke of genius – on our part!
Independence Day was the culmination of our great plan to improve the UK. It was brilliant for its time. Over centuries we’d come to realise the main issues in the UK were down to a whole host of conflicting demographic and people problems – which we easily solved by exporting them elsewhere.
In the 1600s the new Britain (not yet the United Kingdom) emerged from millennia of mostly slaying each other: Britons against Saxons, Saxon against Angles, Angles against Scots, Scots against Picts, Everyone against Vikings, Scotland vs England, Britain against Spain, France and anyone else wanting to have a go, Religious Wars and Civil Wars.
Suddenly, peace (of a sort) broke out. The aristocracy moved from damp draughty castles into nice modern stately homes. The peasantry moved from disease riven mud-hovels into brick-built boxes in new cities. People stopped dying of preventable diseases and a lack of soap, and the population began to boom.
The UK is a small island, and we don’t really have the space. We wanted to avoid the kind of unpleasantness we’d seen generated by civil wars, rebellions and overly dangerous political and religious ideas – like levelling up or social equality, questioning the divine authority of kings, or further outbreaks of religious intolerance.
Hence, we came up with the wizard wheeze of exporting all the useless pains-in-our-backsides to New World across the Atlantic. So:
- We got rid of surplus impoverished second, third and n+1 sons of the minor aristocracy (drones by any standard), and the middle classes by offering them land in the fertile south and shipping them off to found new agricultural estates.
- We winnowed the cities of surplus labour by offering “opportunity” in the new world – shipping them off to work the land, build the cities and direct the industry and commerce of the new provinces.
- We got rid of our religious nutters. The frankly dull, boring and mostly harmless ones dressed in black were shipped off to the new world and promised they could do whatever they wished in terms of their religion. They happily established themselves in New England and in typical Puritan style started burning old women as witches because the milk had gone sour. The more radical Catholic dissenters were shipped south.
- The Scottish/English borderers – who’d spent centuries raiding each other – were offered Northern Ireland, or if particularly violent, given land in the New World with added attraction of being able to fight the French to the West and North.
And every time we experienced a national tragedy, like wars and clearances in Scotland, or famine in Ireland – there was plenty of space for the inconvenient survivors in the colonies. As the colonies grew, it was easy to persuade bright young folk that a lifetime spent paying back the costs of their economic migration was worthwhile.
Brilliant. Britain’s population excess solved.
We got rid of our unnecessary surplus, and foisted them off on the Americas.. which then had the absolute temerity to complain about being taxed by London. Ungrateful little tykes. Enough is enough. Despite the fact we’d help them get established and protected them from the marauding French, we had our second genius moment. Why pay for the America’s to be our national dumping ground…? Let them pay for themselves!
So we engineered a rather lame revolution, helped them write a rather ironic constitution that befuddles them still to this day, persuaded them to sort themselves out by adopting ridiculous political structures, and left them to get on with it, confident, in time they’d see things our way and become an English Speaking bastion on the unfashionable side of the Atlantic..
Which from our perspective; has pretty much panned out as planned.
But the fervid mix of hotheads, genetic misfits, bad ideas and even worse behaviours we shipped out do seem to be battering into each other rather appallingly these days.. All of which leads us to a comment in Sunday Times yesterday: “Why America is in such a mess” There were a couple of lines that really stood out:
- “Did the rebellious colonists of 1776 create a country dedicated to the radical idea of human equality? Or did they create a fundamentally conservative republic shaped by Christian values? And, critically, who gets to decide, and how do they do so?”
- “When George Washington left office in 1789 he warned of the curse of “faction”. His dream was of a republic run on consensual lines by silk-stockinged gentlemen farmers.”
- “The most worrying development is the collapse of faith in the legitimacy of the national government. The Senate, the Supreme Court and the presidential electoral college are, by design, anti-majoritarian. Those institutions enable an organised minority, in the 1850s as now, to impose its will on the rest. An NPR poll published last week indicated that 58 per cent of Americans had no confidence in the Supreme Court, while a University of Chicago poll found that more than a quarter of US voters believed it might soon be necessary “to take up arms against the government”. If government is no longer seen to be based on the consent of the governed, the outlook is bleak.”
Two weeks ago the world was shocked and surprised when the Supreme Court of the USA reversed a previous judgement giving women rights to abortion.
Last week the Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate and set targets for fossil fuel carbon production – effectively handing control back to republican states. Many Republican law makers still accept massive funding from the coal, oil and gas lobbies.
And, it was at this point I came across a Thread on Twitter by Thom Hartmann outlining a doomsday scenario for US politics:
- Assume the Democrats could win the popular vote in 2024 and win enough electoral college votes to hold the Presidency. However, Republican controlled state legislatures (with majorities for the Dems) then declare they are awarding their states electoral votes to the Reps. The US Constitution lays out the process of the electoral college, but does not mention the popular vote or the will of the people. It says “in such manner as the legislature may direct”. It may seem obvious it should be demographically determined, but in the most powerful democracy on the planet, semantics and the courts could well rule.
The Thread goes on to point out the 2000 US election, which hung on Florida votes, had three Supreme Court Justices citing the primacy of the State Legislatures to assign the votes – including Clarence Thomas. Since the last election many republican controlled states have amended their laws to allow the legislature, not the actual number of votes, to determine who gets the electoral college votes.
The Hartmann Twitter Thread is well worth a read. It’s scary and suggests that if protests erupt, they would be quickly quashed by militias, and protest organisers arrested for “seditious conspiracy” against their state legislatures.
There are two ways of looking at the current myre in the US. Either is just a young nation still finding its way towards further greatness with some issues still to resolve – which I sincerely hope. Or, its on a terminal collision with itself. Probably time to reform the 246 year old operating system.
That’s really not what we had in mind when we let the US go its own way back in 1776, but I guess it’s a consequence of the folk we exported…. And, no… they can’t send Trump back.
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