Friday, October 14, 2016

Which Americans Prefer Dictatorship?

One thing I’ve been addressing, or trying to address, is this sudden popularity of fascism, of the idea of dictatorship. Why are Americans attracted to something they’ve never experienced? Why do Americans assume that a dictator would take dictation from them personally? Because that is the assumption Trump’s millions of admirers make.

It isn’t a misunderstanding of dictatorship. Dictators have total power but they are products of a machinery which is the source of that power. If Americans think this is a foreign idea or an obsolete idea they are wrong. It’s existed in America for centuries and it’s still here. As most of America has modernized and urbanized there are parts of America that have remained feudal and antebellum.

The regions where Trump is especially popular are actually very familiar with dictatorship.

The only seat of dictatorial power in America (since the decline of the big city machines anyway) is in rural areas where sheriffs run things. Every powerful office in America has a check on its power, a rival power center in the same district–––except small town sheriffs, whose only check is the electorate, an electorate which is more easily cowed and controlled in rural areas.

Rural sheriffs were the enforcers of Jim Crow. But these same sheriffs have also been the enforcers of male rule. Where the sheriff and his posse of good old boys is the only police force you will probably also find that crimes against women are seldom taken seriously. Unless the “violation of sacred womanhood” serves as a useful bludgeon against persons outside the powerful circles surrounding the sheriff.

Former (perhaps not so former) Jim Crow country is also Trump Country and Good Old Boy Country and Women-Do-As-They’re-Told Country. It's familiar from the rural South, but it persists in all corners of the country.

It would be worthwhile to examine and report on what I suspect is a significant difference in how women are protected by the law in these areas compared with the rest of the country, and how women in these areas are coerced into thinking like their menfolk and acting, thinking and voting as they are instructed.

There is an important difference between democratic power––the power of a democratic government––and police power. Certainly, these rural sheriffs are elected, but the actual power exists in the office, which is not subject to vote––these regions do not vote to invalidate the sheriff’s power, they simply rotate the occupants of the office, and the occupants exercise the traditional white male rule, enforcing laws that protect that rule and dismissing complaints that challenge it.

These are the areas where you hear serious discussions of "Obama seizing power", as reported in this MotherJones article. Any exercise of lawful Constitutional powers they dislike or disagree with is considered dictatorial, but their own dictatorial rule is entirely proper because it is local. These areas resent federal laws and judicial rulings and regulations because these are the alternate powers that protect and empower women and minorities.

(This bias against federal law was called Nullification when slave states refused to respect any federal law restricting slaveowners' rights. The strategy of Nullification re-emerged in 2009 as all Republicans vowed to disrespect everything the new black president proposed. This excerpt from a Frontline documentary describes this modern Nullification.)

This article from RightWingWatch describes another example of how rural dictators resent the dictatorial powers of the first black president. They cry out against imaginary dictators while they enjoy their own absolute power. They accuse Washington of dictatorship yet they admire a very real tyrant in Russia, whose spies are working hard to put their man Trump into the White House. (This idea of a local tyrant calling on a foreign tyrant to overthrow the national government is not new. It has roots in the Jacobite rebellions against the British parliament, the discontent that sent floods of emigrants to America, whose descendants still populate America's backwoods South.)

The idea of a local police force answerable to no one outside the community is sacred in the parts of America that gravitate toward Trump. Because how things have always been done in these areas is the only right way to do things. It was that way when Eisenhower tried to “interfere" with their Jim Crow law enforcement. It’s that way now when they scream about Obama’s planned dictatorship. Regulation by a fairer national law is anathema to them. What they call "liberty" we could just as well call defiance. They are defying the Constitution they claim to worship. In areas where women and people of color and newcomers who are simply “not from here" are not protected by the law, the system isn’t a democratic one, it’s a kind of dictatorship. These are the areas which want dictatorship on a national scale.

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