Regardless of the outcome of the presidential election next month, the United States is on the brink of radical change and a conflict between the reality-based community and those who favor ideology over reality. If George Bush wins, to echo Republican Bruce Bartlett in the New York Times, a civil war will break out in the Republican party, but the conflict will reach much further.
Having won a “mandate,” the neocons will begin the consolidation of their power and the final destruction of American liberalism that dates all the way back to Republican Theodore Roosevelt.
If the John Kerry wins the White House, the evolution will pick up steam, as well, as moderate and liberal Republicans and Democrats find themselves in an intellectual struggle with the quarter of the population that sincerely believes that their faith should be the guiding principle for the nation. Having seen the destructive strategies the far right religious fundamentalists used throughout the 1990s to sidetrack every initiative of the U.S. government that transcended their ideological limits, we can expect this to be as fierce a contest as the one with the Bush neocons if they win.
Either way, Republican or Democrat, the United States has a serious choice to make, whether it will be part of the 21st century community of nations or remain clinging to a 20th century geopolitical dream bolstered by fundamentalist Christian doctrine based in 19th century revivalism. That battle will take place in the press, in the media (from CNN to Howard Stern’s satellite radio program to the blogosphere) and in the classrooms, on the streets, in the offices and legislative venues across the country.
It will require a citizenry of dedicated participants, people who pick their fields and become expert so that they can argue the fine points of policy-making as it is hashed out in Congress, at the White House and in the field. We need to pick our battles and focus on them, in order to turn back the ideologues who ignore the realities of the world that we must understand and address in order to make meaningful changes in the course of history without plunging into a dark age of Christian versus Islamic fundamentalism, not to mention American fundamentalism versus European and Asian realism.
In Extreme Democracy, the book Jon Lebkowsky and I are putting together, we tried to get one simple point across—though I think we have long way to go before the book is published next year—that democracy today is a series of projects that small groups can undertake to have substantial impact on public discourse. If anything, the neocon/fundamentalist takeover of American politics proves this argument; the challenge now is for the rest of American society to join the battle. You can pick an area you care about, a subject you know or are willing to learn and have a tremendous impact because of the availability of tools for amplifying your voice in society.
Democracy hasn’t changed because of the Internet. It has become more intense, but it is still a contest for the hearts and minds of your fellow citizens. The battle for the future of the United States will begin on the day the election is resolved (let’s hope it takes a month less than in 2000), what are you going to do?
For my part, I’ll be dedicating a large part of my efforts here to documenting reality, digging into federal law and policy enforcement based on my having done that kind of reporting for a living over the years. Look for changes in the layout and organization of this blog as we head into the beginning of the American Evolution of 2004-2008.