The 2004 Party Realignment
A New Progressive Era Or Neocon FasicstDictatorship?

By Webster Griffin Tarpley
Washington, October 30, 2004 ­ If the 36-year cycles which have marked US history up to now continue to operate, next Tuesday's presidential election should mark a critical watershed election leading to a basic realignment in the power relations between the political parties, and to a new pattern of dominance in the Electoral College for the decades ahead. Most signs point to a decisive defeat of the Bush Republicans which will send that party into the opposition, where it may not long survive. 2004 will thus in all probability end the 36-year phase of political reaction and reflux which began in 1968 with the breakup of the Franklin D. Roosevelt New Deal coalition on the rocks of Lyndon B. Johnson's reckless and irresponsible war in Vietnam; next week's vote should thus mark the end of the Republican dominance in the Electoral College based on the Kevin Phillips cynical "Southern Strategy," which parlayed a southern racist backlash against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the end of segregation into a durable Republican majority. The Southern Strategy will most likely be supplanted by the gradual emergence of a new progressive coalition in the wake of crises in both currently existing parties.
The main wild card factor which could abort the emerging Progressive realignment is pro-Bush vote fraud made possible by CIA covert operations conduited through Diebold and other electronic voting machines. If this strategy should prevail, the expected realignment could be hijacked in the direction of a permanent neocon fascist dictatorship based on more radical versions of the 2001 USA Patriot Act and martial law, with the mentally impaired Bush as figurehead, and featuring geopolitical wars for world supremacy with Iran, Russia, China, and other countries ­ which the United States could not survive.
CRITICAL WATERSHED ELECTIONS ­ 1828, 1860, 1896, 1932, 1968, 2004
The phenomenon of critical or watershed elections ­ extraordinary elections which revamped and reorganized the basic power relations among the parties ­ was explicitly raised by the political scientist V. O. Key in 1955. In the following decades, this idea was developed by writers like E. E. Schattschneider, James L. Sundquist, and Walter Dean Burnham. By the 1990s, realignment studies had declined, partly because of conceptual inability to face the fact that the 1968 election had marked the beginning of a reactionary cycle. An exception was Kevin Phillips' The Emerging Republican Majority (1969), which both recognized and welcomed the reactionary turn. Rare references to realignment in 2000 have become rarer by 2004, despite abundant empirical evidence that a realignment is due and is actually happening.
Realignment elections are marked by high levels of voter concern and participation. A new dominant voter cleavage over basic issues tends to supplant the older one, thus reshuffling the political deck. There is frequently ideological polarization, often urged on by the minority electorate. Races in the House of Representatives tend to be dominated by great national issues, as distinct from local, regional or wedge issues which often prevail in routine elections. Parties that benefit from presidential realignments are also likely to capture both houses of Congress, as Roosevelt did in 1932. In realignment elections, American voters tend to be less manipulated and more able to recognize their own vital interests than in routine elections.
With these ideas in mind, let us briefly review the party systems which have prevailed in this country between the ratification of the present federal Constitution (1788) and today.
The first party system started with three terms for the Washington-Hamilton Federalists. But the cycle was to be dominated by the Jeffersonians, who incorporated anti-Federalist sentiment and later called themselves the Republicans ­ not to be confused with the Lincoln Republicans later on. After Jefferson's victory in 1800, no more Federalists became president; the Federalist Party itself collapsed because of its flirtation with nullification and New England secession in protest over the War of 1812 at the unsavory Hartford Convention of 1814. The last phase of this cycle, marked by virtual one-party rule, is called the "era of good feelings." The last election of this cycle, that of 1824, was decided by the House.
The second party system begins in 1828 with Andrew Jackson's victory over National Republican John Quincy Adams. 1828 marks the emergence of the Democratic Party. The Whig Party, an incoherent anti-Jacksonian congeries, emerged to express opposition to King Andrew. This second system is characterized by increasingly tragic failure: after Jackson destroyed the Hamilton-Henry Clay Second Bank of the United States, the Panic of 1837 bankrupted many states and put the nation on a track of economic crisis which helped to bring on secession and civil war. Democratic presidents during this phase are weak one-termers like the mentally unstable Franklin Pierce (the ancestor of Barbara Pierce Bush and thus of the current tenant of the White House) and James Buchanan, the quintessential doughface (or northern politician with pro-slavery principles). The exceptions are two Whig war-hero generals, William Henry "Tippecanoe" Harrison, and Zachary Taylor, both of whom died shortly after taking office. The Whigs collapsed in the early 1850s, partly because of their failure to deal with the rising sectional issues, and partly because of Winfield Scott's bid for the Irish vote. The anti-immigration Knownothing Party rose and quickly disappeared during the 1850s.
The main feature of the third party system is the rise of the Lincoln-Seward Republicans in 1860, when the Democrats split into a northern wing under Douglas and a southern wing under Breckenridge. The basis of the Republicans was the rejection of slavery in the territories and the "slave power conspiracy," as Seward phrased it. After the Civil War, Republicans routinely won elections by waving the bloody shirt of the Union dead, while the ex-Confederates voted Democratic to spite the victors. During the 36 years of this cycle, the two separate terms of Grover Cleveland were the only Democratic victories. But Cleveland failed miserably in the face of the Panic of 1893, when he turned control over the US public debt to Morgan and the City of London, while telling ordinary Americans that the free market dictated their starvation. Hatred of Cleveland was expressed in the term "Cleveland cafes," which referred to the depression breadlines of the time. Cleveland's refusal to alleviate the misery of average Americans would stack the deck against the Democrats in 1896, guaranteeing the decisive defeat of William Jennings Bryan and with it another 36-year Republican cycle.
The fourth system is the system inaugurated in 1896 by the victory of Republican William McKinley over the Democrat-Populist Bryan. Here the issue was inflationary silver coinage vs. the deflationary gold standard, with the McKinley Republicans embracing big business and gold. Many traditionally Republican farm states supported the Democrat Bryan, but the great plains, the intermountain west and the south were not enough to defeat the pro-GOP northeast, the Midwest, and most of the Pacific coast. The two exceptions during this cycle are the two terms of Woodrow Wilson, who won thanks to Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party splitoff from the Taft Republicans in 1912 ­ a split promoted by J.P. Morgan. This era brought the Federal Reserve, the FBI, the income tax, and World War I. By the 1920s, the Republicans were run by an oligarchy of Senators operating in smoke-filled rooms (like the one that chose Harding in 1920), while the Democrats were controlled by a different Wall Street faction around Raskob. The Democratic tickets of 1924 (Davis, a Morgan partner) and 1928 (Al Smith, a disciple of Grover Cleveland) were the most right-wing fielded by that party until Gore-Lieberman in 2000. As a result, the LaFollette Progressives broke away from the Democrats in 1924, somewhat along the lines of Ralph Nader in 2000.
The most celebrated critical watershed election in American history is Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1932 landslide victory over Herbert Hoover, the failed Republican who presided over the Great Depression, and who failed to use federal power for the benefit of the masses. FDR assembled a national coalition of big city Democratic machines, the solid south, labor, racial and ethnic minorities, women, and some farmers. The financier elite, by contrast, hated Roosevelt and accused him of class treason. FDR's unprecedented four terms inaugurated an epoch of a middle class majority, rising real wages and living standards, rising levels of trade union organization, social progress, dignity, scientific discovery and strong defense. Instead of a regime composed of the federal government plus Wall Street, as under the Republicans in the 1920s, the New Deal was based on a broker state which mediated between Wall Street on the one hand, and the new mass trade union organizations on the other. The New Deal state unlocked the secrets of the atom and put humanity on the moon, while holding off Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. The exceptions during this phase are the two terms of Dwight Eisenhower, which resulted from the willingness of Harry Truman, a puppet of oligarchs, to attack the New Deal labor base, plus Truman's failure to end the Korean War.
The end of the New Deal and the onset of the sixth party system was provoked by in 1968 by Lyndon B. Johnson, who allowed the Bundy brothers, Harriman, McNamara and other oligarchs to embroil the US in the Vietnam War after the 1963 Kennedy assassination and the fake 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, a variant of Operation Northwoods. The shattering of the Democratic Party on the Vietnam issue was symbolized by the lawless police riot against peace demonstrators at the Democratic convention in Chicago in August 1968, which represented a major crisis inside the Democratic Party. In addition, the old south was gripped by a wave of reaction against racial desegregation and the provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which was opposed that year by George H. W. Bush. This caused the old south to begin to switch its loyalty from Democratic to Republican. As the old Democratic Solid South went for the GOP, formerly rock-ribbed Republican New England and environs inclined to the Democrats. Working-class voters left the Democrats to join Nixon's chauvinistic silent majority, and later the cultural populist Reagan Democrats. Wedge issues, starting with race and including abortion, gun control, school prayer, homosexuality, etc., were used to divide the electorate. These were demagogic and manipulative issues which made little difference in the daily lives of most people, but they were seized on by vocal minorities to polarize and dupe the electorate, chipping away at the FDR national coalition. The theory of wedge issues was developed by the vicious Lee Atwater, a Bush 41 election adviser, who learned the practice from the southern racist Strom Thurmond, who needed wedge issues to get elected in Democratic South Carolina, where Thurmond had become one of the first southern Republicans to protest civil rights and desegregation. Real wages and living standards fell, especially after Nixon demolished Roosevelt's Bretton Woods world monetary system in 1971-73; the US standard of living has now fallen by about 50% since the time of JFK, if the decline in average weekly earnings, the increased cost of insurance, education, and medical care, plus the lengthening of the work week and commuter time are all taken into account. Percentages of union membership in the work force are in free fall since Reagan's union-busting attack on the Air Traffic Controllers, and total industrial employment has now fallen below 10 million for the first time since the nineteenth century. The US has a merchandise trade deficit of around $500 billion and a real federal budget deficit of about $750 billion for 2004-2005. The country is bogged down in unwinnable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as a result of the warmongering agitation of the neocons, a tiny ideological cabal with no mass base. This phase has been marked by the growing influence and escalating machinations of a secret government based in part in the CIA and FBI, as reflected in the JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King assassinations, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Watergate, Iran-contra, and the 9/11 terror attacks, among other incidents
According to the average 36-year periodicity displayed in the past, 2004 should accordingly be the year of a major party realignment. Do empirical facts on the ground support the expectation of realignment that derives from the end of a 36-year cycle? There is strong evidence that they do.
Observers of all persuasions agree that the 2004 election campaign has been the most polarized, the most vehement, the most passionate of any in recent memory. Politicization has reached into the most remote corners of society. Much of this can be attributed to George W. Bush personally, as the most hated president since Herbert Hoover. By his shameless demagogy, his ignorance, his arrogance, his obvious mental impairment, his hypocrisy, his mendacity, and his barbarian mannerisms, Bush has mobilized the best in American society against himself. For the more knowledgeable, Bush is the president who did nothing to prevent 9/11, and then took a leading role in the fabrication of the myth and the coverup of why it happened. He is the object of universal execration across the planet: in Canada, a "moron," and in Germany "Adolph Nazi." By the cunning of history, Bush has supplied the indispensable subjective ingredient for a major realignment ­ the one that Marxists will never understand: overwhelming personal animosity against the leader of the hitherto dominant party. Bush demonstrates the Leibnitzian principle that although evil certainly exists, it often does great good in spite of itself.
The hallmark of the post-1968 cycle has been voter apathy, with only one half of potential voters registered and only one half of those registered voting, meaning that only 25% of adults get to the polls. This year, signs of increased politicization and increased participation are everywhere. The usual leftist constituency groups are operating at a high pitch of mobilization, from the AFL-CIO to the Sierra Club to the National Organization for Women. They are joined by new activists from unaccustomed strata.
After about 1972, US college campuses were graveyards of political activity for three decades. This year, they are up in arms: the issue is the draft, and the widespread belief, supported by solid evidence, that the Bush administration is planning to reinstitute the draft, probably now extended to women, to provide cannon fodder for the endless wars dreamed up by the neocons. Bush's contortions in the debates and the tactics of the House Republicans show how much this issue is hurting the GOP: it mobilizes not only students from college down to middle school, but also their parents. It sums up the question of how many wars a second Bush regime will start, which the debate moderators were too cowardly to ask. Students are being stimulated by Rock the Vote, Votergasm, and other online efforts.
Senior citizens are up in arms as much or more than the college set. Anyone who has spent three hours on a flu shot line over the past weeks has heard Bush cursed and reviled by seniors with walkers and wheelchairs. Seniors have heard Tommy Thompson refuse to import available flu shots from Canada, since that might open up an avenue for the procurement of cheaper prescription drugs ­ which it is Thompson's task to prevent, in service to the drug cartel. Other seniors have had to go to Canada or Mexico for their shots. An East German immigrant on a flu shot line in Maryland was heard to say that waiting three hours for basic immunization ­ and perhaps not getting it ­ was typical of the communist East German regime. For many seniors, Bush has brought communism to America.
Youth in general, and ghetto youth in particular, seem to be responding to the appeals of such music luminaries as P. Diddy, Eminem, and the many rappers and hip-hop artists who have entered the fray against Bush. The "vote or die" slogan may be awakening the inner city ghettos from decades of despair and passivity.
Jurisdictions across the United States report an increase in registered voters of 10%, 15%, 20%. Republicans, who have always preferred low turnouts, know that this is a grim portent for them. The GOP has responded with attempts to intimidate voters and to prevent them from voting. Nothing makes a person prize his or her vote more than the certainty that someone else wants to take that vote away. The resulting commitment to vote at all costs is enhanced by memories of 2000, when CIA-Bush voter suppression and intimidation were already practiced on a grand scale. The Bush family, it should be stressed, views an election not as a battle for votes, but as the occasion for covert operations and coups.
Because of the 1968-2004 pattern of voter apathy, the great economic issues of living standards, employment, health care, and the rights of working people have been neglected in favor of the wedge issues, from race and abortion to school prayer and gun control. These issues were important to small groups, but such small groups were important when only 25% of adults voted. The signs for 2004 include not just a bigger turnout, but a decline in the manipulative efficacy of the wedge issues in favor of the great themes of war and peace, wealth and poverty, sickness and health for the vast majority of the people. Books about metro and retro America, or what's the matter with Kansas, suggest that the secrets of the current cycle are now too well-known to retain their manipulative power.
Finally, the current election is dominated by references to the two previous watersheds. 1968 is represented by the endless debate about the Vietnam-era records of the two candidates. 1932 is present as the end of Herbert Hoover, the last president who, like Bush, has presided over a net loss of jobs. These are eerie and uncanny echoes that seem to suggest that the wheels of history are indeed inexorably turning.
If this massive influx of new voters is real, why do the polls show a close race, or even show Bush in the lead? When new groups of voters come forward, even honest polls will often not detect them. The calculation of likely voters and registered voters that underlies all polls can only be an extrapolation of what has happened in the most recent previous elections; there is no other basis for this determination. Therefore, by definition, traditional polling cannot reflect the mobilization of voters outside the established voter pool. In 1994, no polls predicted the Democrats' loss of House and Senate, partially because new voters entered the fray in protest against the Clinton-Gore failure to deliver health care, and Gore's NAFTA policy. Another peculiarity involves the fact that voters on college campuses often do not have land-line telephones, but rely on cell phones instead. Pollsters generally do not call cell phones, and many young people would not answer them if they did. So the entire youth anti-draft cohort, probably the key to this election, is hardly represented in the polls. Older people, for their part, are often reluctant to discuss their real preferences with anonymous strangers who call their homes. Is the caller from FEMA or the FBI? Expressing support for Bush often seems the safest course. Finally, some polls are simply dishonest, and are falsified by the CIA-Bush faction in order to give some credibility to the planned vote fraud.
The term "voter fraud," favored by the controlled corporate media, is misleading and tendentious, since it suggests fraud by voters, which is not the issue. "Vote fraud" is a more accurate description; the fraud is managed top-down, by the electronic voting machine companies and the CIA-Bush faction.
Some will now object that, while Bush is indeed an ogre, four years of Kerry give little cause for celebration. This is broadly true, although we should remember that an election campaign may not be a good indicator of what Kerry will actually do: FDR, we must remember, based his winning 1932 campaign on balancing the budget, which is reality became one of his lowest priorities.
In any case, the argument here is not that Kerry has merit. The main point upon which he is to be preferred is that while Bush gives every sign of being a mentally ill president, kept going by psychopharmaca, 10 hours of sleep, and three hours of running every day, Kerry seems to be in reasonably good mental health and capable of working a normal day. It is not wise to let madmen near the nuclear button, and Bush seems close to qualifying for exclusion under that rule.
The main argument in favor of ousting Bush is not so much Kerry as the possibility of bringing about structural change in the current system. Ironically, this possibility hinges more on the nature of the Republican Party than it does on Kerry.
The Republican Party used to have an ideology. This ideology was based on limited government, isolationist foreign policy, favoritism for the white middle class, and fiscal responsibility. G. W. Bush has, by his actions while in office, destroyed every tenet of this ideology. Were the Republicans the party of fiscal responsibility? Bush, with a federal budget deficit of almost $500 billion (in reality much more) has beaten his own father's record of $290 billion. Were the Republicans leery of nation-building, and anxious to accommodate isolationists? Bush has invaded two countries, sent troops to dozens more, and talks of a fantastic neocon plan to democratize the Middle east and the world, while demanded some $250 billion from the taxpayers to fund it. Were the Republicans the party of limited government? Bush's prescription drug plan does little for senior citizens, but does provide hundreds of billions of dollars to the pharmaceutical cartel. Did the Republicans pose as the defenders of the native white middle class? In service to financiers and sweat-shop owners, Bush is now ready to bring in multitudes of super-exploited Mexican and other guest workers on a revolving door program that will send them home when they are used up, all the while driving down domestic wages. Were the Republicans the party of the free market? No free market to import cheaper drugs from Canada, says Tommy Thompson, even though NAFTA is supposed to have removed those trade barriers. These examples could be multiplied, but the pattern is clear: not a single point of the GOP creed has survived the Bush tenure of the White House.
GOP Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is deeply concerned about the future of his party. Professor Andrew Levine of the Institute for Policy Studies agreed in a C-SPAN seminar at the end of August that the GOP might face collapse. How could this come about? The glue that holds the country club, board room, libertarian, rural and Bible-thumping constituencies together is no longer a defunct ideology, but Bush personally, the exercise of power, and above all the GOP's ability to loot the federal budget. The gravy train goes from Enron and Halliburton to KBR to a myriad of faith-based boondoggles and corporate welfare. If the GOP were to lose the White House, Senate, and House, it is not clear that it could survive in the opposition. The party might break up, or it might be reduced to a small minority, as after 1932.
If the GOP threat receded, the first to pay the price would be the Democrats. The survival of the Democrats in recent years is due far less to any positive qualities of theirs than to their one reliable claim: they are not the Republicans. The Democrats are the lesser evil, and it is the monstrous iniquity of the GOP that keeps them afloat. For the Democrats, the Republicans are the one all-purpose alibi. If the GOP threat were not so urgent, the centrifugal forces within the Democratic Party might take over, for this party too has evolved into an artificial construct. This started with Tony Coelho and has continued with Terry McAuliffe, Clinton's evil genius even more than Richard Morris. The Coelho-McAuliffe doctrine is that the Democrats do not need mass organizations, since they can get almost as much financing from rich parasites as can the GOP. This has created a situation where the Democrats cannot forcefully defend working people, since doing so might scare off their fund raising base among wealthy oligarchs. It has also made the Democratic Party unusually vulnerable to the Malthusian preferences of those oligarchs.
Without the Bush/Republican threat to enforce Democratic party unity, the Democratic Party might split into the two groups which can be observed within it: on the one hand a Democratic neocon group around figures like Senator Joseph Lieberman, and on the other hand a Howard Dean-Teddy Kennedy-Jesse Jackson progressive tendency. If Kerry really means to continue the war in Iraq, he would have to choose between these two groups, and the Dean-Kennedy-Jackson one would undoubtedly be more numerous. The party landscape would presumably recompose over several years in ways which cannot be predicted, but which might well be far more promising than what seems feasible today. The positive alternative can be summed up as follows:
On the other hand, if Bush retains control of the White House, we can expect a neocon fascist dictatorship or martial law emergency regime in 2005 or 2006, possibly as the result of synthetic terrorism. The neocons are in a desperate flight forward mentality which seeks to avoid the penal consequences of what they have already done with Valerie Plame, the Niger yellowcake forgeries, the Israeli mole scandal, and the Chalabi betrayal of state secrets. The neocon preference is for early war with Iran. War with Russia and China cannot be excluded somewhat further down the road. Bush 41 invaded Somalia even after being defeated at the polls, and this should remind us that the war and synthetic terrorism dangers will remain high even if Bush is defeated at the polls. This option can be portrayed graphically as follows:
The divide between the ouster of Bush, followed by progressive realignment, and Bush victory, followed by neocon fascism, is beyond doubt the 9/11 myth. Bush has made the 9/11 myth the exclusive basis of the GOP convention and the current campaign; he has no other issue but the demagogy of fear and terror. If the myth crumbles or even erodes, Bush's ability to retain power is impaired. If the myth holds, Bush will be very difficult to oust.
Here the signs are mixed. Howard Dean noted that many thought the Bush administration knew about 9/11 in advance, and objected to a terror alert designed to step on Kerry's convention bounce, but Kerry and Edwards have failed to hold Bush systematically accountable for his passivity before 9/11, and for freezing that day. However, a Zogby International poll in late August showed that just under 50% of New York City residents did not believe the official version, and thought the US had foreknowledge of the attacks; slightly fewer in New York state agreed. The October Harpers Magazine in a cover story calls the 9/11 commission report a "whitewash," a "cheat and fraud." Jimmy Walter has placed ads attacking the myth in major US press organs. A flash website on the internet debunking the government contention that a Boeing 757-200 hit the Pentagon has attracted a mass audience, forcing an article on this subject in the Washington Post. For the highbrow, last week BBC-2 television broadcast "The Power of Nightmares,"
a documentary which contends that al Qaeda simply does not exist, except as a "myth" and "dark illusion." This myth has been created by failed politicians whose slogans no longer work, and who are desperate to keep their power. (Fox News is apoplectic about the BBC program, and is rumored to be planning a slander of the 9/11 truth movement for Halloween.) For the lowbrow, Howard Stern has hosted spokesmen for the 9/11 truth movement told his 13 million listeners that he does not believe a commercial airliner hit the Pentagon; a cruise missile, he says, is a far more plausible explanation. To this must be added the collective impact of dozens of websites, plus conferences in Berlin, Lucern, San Francisco, Toronto, New York City, and the recent Los Angeles Citizens' Grand Jury ­ all multiplied through innumerable internet radios, videocassettes, dvds, and streaming web postings. One hundred left liberal notables and 9/11 researchers, including Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti, Ralph Nader, and Howard Zinn, have recently demanded the re-opening of 9/11 and have petitioned New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to undertake this task.
Will it be enough? Will the American people capitulate to Bush's nightmare vision of endless war and pervasive terrorism? Or will they vote to knock the current discredited system on its ear? We'll soon find out.
Recent US political history has been punctuated by repeated attempted and successful coups d'etat. In 1995 Gingrich sought to seize control of the government by shutting it down, but was defeated by Clinton. In 1998, Clinton's impeachment was a successful oligarchical coup, but his attempted ouster in 1999 was a coup that failed, because of Clinton's popular support against the impeachers. The stolen 2000 election was a classic neocon cold coup. The synthetic terrorism of September 11 was another coup, this time carried out by the invisible government. The grant by the Congress to Bush of war powers in 2002 was a violation of the Constitution, as Senator Byrd stressed; this was another coup which succeeded. The Iraq war of 2003, illegal on the domestic and international planes, was yet another successful coup. The planned coup of 2004 called for more synthetic terrorism, a wider war, and another Bush stolen election. Countervailing factors have so far prevented a new wave of synthetic terrorism and the opening of a wider war, say with Iran. The great issue is now whether the planned stealing of the election through Diebold and voter intimidation can be checkmated.




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