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Tuesday, November 24, 2009


 Written by: Rick Staggenborg, MD on Jun 10, 2009 6:43 AM PDT

This chapter is dedicated to George Washington, the father of our country. He idealistically hoped that we would dignify the sacrifice of the revolutionary patriots by resisting the temptation to forget that we are Americans first, and falling into factionalism. His commitment to democracy and the rule of law was sorely tested in the early days of the Republic when an angry civilian Army challenged being taxed to pay the profits of war profiteers of the American Revolution. 

Perhaps at that time it was necessary to control this mob in the interests of asserting the authority of a federal government meant to serve the interests of all. Unfortunately, it set a precedent that our children are taught at our peril: To put the interests of the wealthy over those of the people is to invite fascism in America. Now we must fight for the freedoms we  have given up for forgetting that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

Those on the left angrily decried political partisanship when neoconservatism was in its ascendancy, but many of those same voices cry out for revenge now that Democrats are perceived to hold power. While justice must be served where the previous administration may have committed crimes in its zeal to protect us while furthering what they thought were America’s larger interests, it is not in the interest of progressives to demonize their opponents. The knife of partisan politics is aimed at the heart of democracy and cuts both ways.

How many know liberals (or conservatives, for that matter) know that conservatism had a long and respectable intellectual basis before neocons decided to adopt a deceitful form of populism to gain support for their Orwellian ideal of America? In the era of the American and French Revolutions, English philosopher Edmund Burke championed the view that man’s nature was such that the restraining hand of government was necessary to keep the radical mob from imposing its will on society. While he reluctantly came to support American independence, he believed in stability and gradual change.

This fear of mob rule was so widely held that John Adams, a tireless worker in the cause of American independence, expressed similar views. Numerous examples of rebel excesses justified his fears, if not his response. Adams is rightly reviled for his Alien and Sedition Act, passed by a compliant Congress under the threat of war with France. This is an early example of a President overtly undermining First Amendment guarantees with the support of a partisan Congress. I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to think of modern parallels.

Inconveniently for supporters of Burke’s world view, he also believed that an aristocracy was necessary to maintain stability in any society. This is an aspect of his philosophy that is soft-pedaled by modern conservatives, out of fear that complete understanding of the basis of Burke’s arguments might undermine their popular support. At the time of the framing of the Constitution, this tension was resolved through the creation of the Senate, which was conceived of as being populated by the “natural aristocracy” that was believed would arise in a society based on freedom and equality of opportunity. In this, both liberals and conservatives of the day were too optimistic.

The founders of our Republic were not gods, but men facing a common enemy. When common survival is threatened, it is easier to compromise. The problem started when the immediate threat of annihilation by the British was no longer an imminent threat. There then began a struggle between American liberals and right-wing aristocrats who desired to become the new American aristocracy. 

Believing that they had created a nearly perfect society, conservatives of the day sought to preserve it in its entirety. Quite naturally, they saw themselves as the rightful new American aristocracy. Liberals, realizing the Devil’s bargain they had made for the sake of survival, gradually became more vocal proponents of change. The inevitable result was the American Civil War, in which the question was raised of whether the rights of all men (the rights of women being only seriously considered much later) were implicitly guaranteed under the Constitution.

The war proved only a brief setback for the antidemocratic movement. The early Republican Party, conceived as a force for preserving democracy by defending the Union against right-wing proponents of slavery from encroaching on  the freedom of all quickly lost its moral compass. 

With the martyrdom of Lincoln, counter-Revolutionaries took advantage of the imbalance of power to gain ground in its fight to create an American aristocracy of wealth built on corporate power. The South, having been invaded by rapacious northerners, reacted by forming a monolithic power block fueled by anger.

The surviving progressive elements within the Republican Party joined forces with the South in an uneasy alliance paradoxically called the Democratic party. It was held together by a common desire to advance anti-corporate ideals, but at the expense of flagrant disregard for the rights of newly freed Blacks. Both sides had forgotten Lincoln’s final plea to show malice toward none and justice for all.

The Civil War continues to this day, seesawing back and forth between conservative and progressive forces. Economic disasters brought on by the counter-Revolutionary efforts to create an aristocracy in America bring opportunity for Americans seeking to restore democratic ideals, while anti-democratic forces cloaked as “conservatives” use war and the threat of war to gain advantage in advancing its anti-American agenda. 

The Depression revealed American economic progress after the Civil War to be built on a house of sand, leading to a reawakening of the Revolutionary ideals of equality of economic opportunity and eventually, civil rights for Black Americans. A similar opportunity presents itself in our current global economic crisis.

After progressive Democrats finally realized the dream of equality for all non-native Americans in the 60s, right-wing elements in the South broke ranks and joined the counter-Revolutionaries, ignoring their own history of playing a key role in achieving American independence from British aristocratic and corporate oppression. In the ensuing decades, there has been a backlash against the economic cost of progressive reforms achieved after WWII.

It is easy to see what went wrong. Remember that progressive gains of the last century were only achieved through endless compromise in a Senate increasingly tainted by corporate influence. Many Americans have wrongly come to the conclusion that this is an unavoidable consequence of our form of government. They have been encouraged in this belief by a media that has come to be dominated by the same corporate forces that now control the Senate. 

Our public schools are reluctant to teach civics, having been intimidated by groups on both the left and right. Americans no longer seem to understand that this country was founded by a group of men holding the radical idea that democracy is viable, but only if the public is educated and willing to work for the common good. Each fears that the other side will taint their children with wrong-thinking visions of America. Our proud democratic traditions now find themselves threatened by the ignorance of a bewildered and a demoralized citizenry which is either apathetic or striking out in blind anger.

A common thread running through our history has been that antidemocratic forces have succeeded only in an environment of fear and anger, while progressives have succeeded when they can convince Americans that there is a better way, one that will benefit us all. The Republican Party again finds itself in crisis, its true agenda having been laid bare for all to see and revile. As the Democratic Party drifts toward the fascist agenda, it risks suffering the same fate. Eventually, the People will realize that as during the time when the spread of slavery threatened the viability of the American experiment in democracy, lovers of freedom can come together and form a new Party dedicated to ending the threat of economic slavery of all Americans.

The people of the United States are waking up to the fact that greed is not good, but ultimately self-destructive. The corporate parties must look closely at where their thinking has gotten them. Conservatives and progressives alike must quell their anger, look to their hearts, and restore the soul of American democracy. In this environment, the prospects to Take Back America have never been better. Our path is clear, if we all become Americans with common ideals once again.

Rick Staggenborg, MD

Coos Bay, OR


  1. I wrote this piece somewhat reluctantly, having many friends who had been brought up Republican and who stayed true to their Party even after it deteriorated morally and resorted to lies to maintain its shaky coalition. These are those who were fooled by Republican use of the corporate media into beleiving that they were "conservative" and represented the Founders' ideals. These well-meaning people are largely ignorant of the true nature of the America the Founders clearly intended, one with a firm boundary between Church and State. Had this boundary held, it would have prevented Republicans from using the issue of abortion to fracture the remaining unity of the American people.

    On the other side, the Democratic Party represents itself as the Party of change and championing the cause of the average American. In reality, it has fallen into the same habit of relying on corporate dollars to keep its members in power. The result is that it has become just another extension of the corporate machine that dictates the course of American history, including American Imperialism. It's Senators are increasingly the willing Puppets of the self-styled "Masters of the Universe" who have broughtus to the brink of endless war.

  2. I just discovered this blog through the Facebook posting of a friend of a friend. So it goes. Will read more later. Just wanted to say THANK YOU. I have long believed that humanity is facing a
    bottleneck in its evolution. We can make it through only if we draw on the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of all humanity. That includes the best of all religions.


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