The American Exception*
By Sol W. Sanders
Friday, June 3rd, 2016 @ 4:18PM
“American exceptionalism” is a term being bandied about a good deal these days by politicians and The Talking Heads. The Founding Fathers, of course, believed quite rightly that they had created a new and unique form of government even though they borrowed heavily on their English origins, and had, indeed, started their rebellion seeking to secure “the rights of Englishmen.”
But quite ironically the current phraseology if not the concept came out of Communist politics. In the early 1930s, Josef Stalin was consolidating his role as dictator of the Soviet Union and arbiter in the international Communist apparatus, the Comintern, Moscow had built to bring Communism to other countries. Stalin had not completely achieved his totalitarian state which was to be the most oppressive regime the world had ever known.
Jay Lovestone, head of the then still semi-independent American Communist Party, told Stalin & Co. that a violent workers’ revolution would never come to America. Lovestone, then a loyal apparatchik, was not arguing on moral principles, but pragmatically. He argued that the American worker had too high a living standard – even in the worldwide Great Depression — and too much attachment to the American Dream of permanent progress to buy into Moscow’s violent revolutionary line.
Instead, Lovestone argued, to overcome resistance to socialism and communism, the Comintern should acknowledge that “the revolution” had to come to the U.S. through the ballot box. Stalin was having none of that, and Lovestone barely escaped Moscow with his life, returning to the U.S., first to lead a new “reformed” Communist splinter party, but eventually to become one of the most active and effective anti-Communists, with the international wing of the American Federation of Labor and CIA.
In most ways, today America is still the great exception.
Although now the U.S. is in what the old-line Communists would have called “a revolutionary situation” with its institutions somewhat discredited, particularly its political class and the old political parties. The votes piling up for Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, most coming from the same kind of disaffected voters, are the result of this wave of opposition to the established politicians, on both sides of the aisle, and not that much unlike each other.
But Sanders even has gone so far, if softly peddled, to echo slogans of the 1920s and early 1930s calling for “democratic socialism.” As always has been the case, it is less than clear what Sanders’ democratic socialism means except for a further enlargement of the federal government and a further transfer of economic resources into government hands from the private sector and individual consumers. Perhaps some younger voters want that “free stuff” but for most of the protesters it ironically represents just the opposite of their goals of less government interference in the economy even where some contradictorily would want enlarged social welfare benefits.
We reckon that America is still the venue it has always been for continued revolutionary changes. Thomas Jefferson had written, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” But the continuing American revolution must continue within that marvelous framework which The Founders laid out for a balance of power among the three arms of government, legislative, executive and judicial – and reserving the sovereignty of the states as a counter to an overanxious authoritarian central government. It is the erosion of the latter which has led to much of the current dissatisfaction. The ability of the 50 states to experiment regionally with new ideas of government has always been an essential part of the system. But it has recently been inhibited by the growth of rapid communication and transportation which has helped enhance the role of the feds.
We don’t need Sanders’ socialism, which has proved as a failure in so many countries. And we could do with a little less histrionics from Donald Trump.
What we need are candidates unreservedly committed to returning government – for example education and health – to state and local levels where it is most responsive to public opinion, and where, therefore, it would be most effective.
* This commentary has been posted on YeOldeCrabb on June 3, 2016