The American Winter is reshaping America just as the Arab Spring reshaped Egypt and Tunisia. One-by-one corrupt politicians have been driven out of office, just like the Arab Spring, and a populist attitude has taken command with the view that the old way of governing must die.
Since January three US state governors have been indicted or are under investigation for corruption. Just like the Arab world, there are calls to reform a brutal and arbitrary criminal system that has resulted in the widespread incarceration of America’s minorities and a demand to restore voting rights for this economically apartheid-ized population. The leaders of this revolution also, like the Arab Spring, want equal rights for all citizens.
America’s place in history can not only be compared to the current Arab Spring but also to the French Revolution, the grandfather of all populist revolts. However, with one huge difference: In America, Louis XVI, the French king at the time, is leading the mob storming the Bastille, the notorious French prison of that time.
The comparison of the cause of the American Winter to the cause of the French Revolution rings true. Social and economic inequality in France had reached an all time high with modern capitalism hitting high gear and the wealth of the nobility had not “trickled down” to the urban and agrarian poor.
France’s finances were in shambles after the high cost of the Seven Year War with Britain, and subsidizing the growth of democracy in the American Revolution (sound familiar with US intervention in Middle East?). It had lost control of its financial system and the government was paralyzed. Like America’s rich of today, France’s rich of the period were villainized and were seen as an oppressor class.
Finally, the 1780’s saw a massive drought with crop failure like the current drought that has gripped much of the Southwest and California. France’s drought, like America’s current Climate Change event, has exposed a government that this is driven by self-interest and political dissension.
The American Winter is in reaction to an unprecedented loss of confidence by the American people in their government.
As the recent Gallup poll shows, dissatisfaction with US government effectiveness has reached an all time high of 65 percent. That dissatisfaction rating compares to similar levels in extremely economic challenged Southern Europe and post-Mandela South Africa.
The American Winter is being driven by the executive and judicial branches of the government and largely treats Congress, with a dismal approval rating of 13 percent, as the government that it is overthrowing.
Eric Holder’s Department of Justice has recently indicted ex-Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell on corruption charges, and it is currently investigating North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on corruption charges. In the case of North Carolina, the initiation of the investigation broke all records for swift action. The message is clear: the old way of wealth and privilege is dead and you can trust the government to defend you against corporate and political greed.
Two weeks ago Duke Energy caused a massive dump of coal ash in a local river and this was after the McCrory administration squashed two public interest lawsuits during the last few years. These lawsuits were brought by environmental groups regarding Duke Energy’s handling of toxic coal ash. Each time the McCrory administration stepped in and stopped the lawsuits and settled with Duke for a minor fine and did not require them to fix the problem. The problem is that McCrory worked for Duke for over two decades and it looks like preferential treatment at best or a significant conflict of interest since McCrory owns a large block of Duke shares.
In Chris Christie’s case, the Justice Department is investigating the use of Hurricane Sandy funds for political gain, and the closure of the world’s busiest bridge–the George Washington Bridge–which connects New Jersey to New York City. The Christie administration even had its own Marie Antoinette moment. During the four day bridge closure when traffic was brought to a standstill on the New Jersey side to punish a political rival, emergency and public safety crews were hindered in providing services to people with injuries and in one case a woman needed transportation to a hospital, and children were stranded on school buses.
A Christie administration official paraphrased Antoinette’s famous line, “Let them eat cake”, when told of the chaos and suffering, he said, “Those are the children of Buono (Christie’s political foe) voters.”
The American Winter’s message is clear: the old style of corrupt indifferent politics is dead.
The Obama administration has chosen to ignore its own federal law and looked the other way when a populist movement to allow smoking of marijuana passed in two states. It has also proposed that current federal law be changed on harsh mandatory sentencing on certain drug possession crimes. This is in recognition that over 50 percent of prison population is in jail because of drug offenses and African-Americans and Hispanics make up a disportionate percentage of the prison population.
Rounding out the effort to ease tension in the minority communities, President Obama has proposed that convicted felons get their right to vote back after they have served their sentence. This is in contrast to current law that bars them forever from voting.
The Judicial Branch, once again holding the actions of Congress and state government authority in question, has made it clear that the old-guard, conservative view denying equal rights to all citizens is not part of the revolution creating the American Winter. Federal court after federal court have confirmed that marriage equality is an equal rights issue, and the old guard’s view is out of date.
Obviously, the American Winter owes more than a nod to the Occupy movement of 2011, which was a traditional boots-on-the-ground revolt and suppressed Tahrir Square-style by the police, but now President Obama has chosen to storm his own Bastille before the populist revolt spreads any further.
About William Church
William Church’s articles have appeared in publications that range from Wired, International Journal of the Red Cross, to the Sudan Tribune, and has been quoted extensively in publications like Voice of America, and the BBC.
During the 1990s he contributed foreign threat assessments to President Clinton’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Commission, and became a well-known expert on information warfare and advised the United Nations Security Council in Africa.