Posted Jul 19, 2020 at 22:44. Revised Jan 10, 2021 at 19:30.
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The tranquility at ChaosFarm is rarely disturbed unless it is by the farming equipment on a nearby farm. This neighbor micromanages and over-maintains his fields and crops to a surprising degree. He does it using a substantial arsenal of farming equipment that has its mufflers removed, so he announces his daily activities for everyone within miles to hear. Give this man a Harley with its muffler removed, and he would be in seventh heaven.
Tragically, President Trump’s glaring shortcomings have been exacerbated by His Majesty’s Disloyal Opposition, while the increasing complexities affecting the farming world apply to Oberlin’s city and College as well. Oberlin’s disloyal disagreements have created much needless turmoil in the town and College.
His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition
For centuries the British Parliament has had customs for how the opposition (the minority party) can express disagreement with the majority party’s policies. Acts of disloyalty to the nation or sabotage are not allowed – a responsibility encapsulated in the phrase “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.” The Queen (or King) symbolizes the country, and this phrase poetically bans disloyalty to the country. In short, there are limits to the ways of opposing the policies of another political party.
JD Nobody will have empowered you to say Nobody told me after you read this post. You will have a perfect and truthful excuse for pleading ignorance of the disruptive forces in our country today.
In an era of ever-growing complexity and narrowing focus, the United States has been moving away from the opposition being His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to being His Majesty’s Disloyal Opposition. Many factors contribute to this evolution, among which are the growing inability to deal with growing complexity. The resulting increase in the narrowness of focus and awareness is the most basic.
Evolution of American governance
Understanding how the American governmental system has evolved in the years following the American revolution sheds some light on why it is where it is. The evolutionary similarities and differences between the British and American approaches have created respective strengths and weaknesses in both countries and have built complexity traps over time.
After the American Revolution, there was a great fear of a new king arising who would dictatorially run a tyrannical central government. This fear led to crafting the American constitution to have substantial power limitations and checks on the central government. The American system’s organization makes it difficult for the central government to exercise excessive power.
When the nation was founded, any farmer, tradesman, or merchant would have had no difficulty being a legislator in Congress. The relatively simple problems in governing at that time would be easy for the average Joe to understand. Legislating would require at most a few weeks out of a legislator’s life during his two-year term. An urban, industrial, and technologically advanced society that would confound full-time legislators was not on the founding fathers’ radar.
The fonding fathers believed there would be no political parties, thinking that representatives would be loyal only to their constituents. The need for some discipline soon led to the rise of political parties, but the representatives generally voted for their home districts’ interests rather than the party’s wishes. The opposite tends to be true in a parliamentary system. The political idea of parties keeping discipline with a robust prime minister has crept into the American system via having a strong majority leader. However, the majority leader does not have as much power as a prime minister.
Historically, American parties have rarely voted as a bloc. Indeed, the two-party American Congress increasingly looks like a parliament of splinter parties within mother parties. In such a situation governing cannot happen without party loyalty. Congress has become a parliament without a Prime Minister.
A parliamentary system typically has a head of government (the prime minister) and the head of state (a King, President, or Governor-General). Most power is held by the Prime Minister, with the head of state being in the background most of the time.
Strict party discipline and a parliamentary majority (or coalition) guarantee that getting things done is prioritized over constraining legislative power. In a presidential/congressional system, the president is legislatively and constitutionally limited in getting things done. The president does not have the same authority as a prime minister because the powers of the president and the legislature are constitutionally separated.
On the other hand, a president is both the head of government and the head of state. As the complexity of governance grows, increasing administrative powers are necessarily delegated to the president, slowly making him the king that the founding fathers feared. And this kingship is not the kingship of a constitutional monarchy, either.
The moral outrage at the slowly ensnaring complexity trap and its oversimplification causes His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to morph into His Majesty’s Angry and Disloyal Opposition. The main governing objective now becomes retribution and sabotage against the other party.
In this new world, facts and opinions are conveniently identical, which aids in backstabbing either the “king” or the other party. This discord hobbles the government’s credibility when dealing with bad international actors. Nothing but more rampage on the international stage can come from bad actors when they see the president domestically wounded or made impotent by the fractious discord.
The rise of governance by sabotage
The election of Barack Obama resulted in an announcement by Sen. McConnell that the opposition’s primary objective was to cause the Obama presidency to fail. This de facto sabotage was a great leap forward in transforming the opposition party into His Majesty’s Disloyal Opposition.
The election of Donald Trump as President made the opposition go all out for payback for Trump’s bombastic campaign rhetoric against President Obama. Both electorate’s extremes saw a moral duty to engage in total and unyielding sabotage to anything those on the other side might say or do. This extremism precludes all reasonableness by otherwise reasonable people.
The reasonable people in both parties are more in fear of being voted out by the extreme fringes within their own party than being ousted by the opposition party. These fears may not always be justified, but extremists are turning on the moderates in the same party. Today, sitting down with an opposition member can occur only when both are confident that they will not get caught. This situation becomes an albatross on the nation when reasonable people dare not agree on sensible things.
The possible future
The extreme opposition could spawn persons who see killing the president as their highest moral duty. Should such an assassination happen, the assassin’s most extreme sympathizers would likely turn out en masse to dance in the streets, as happened on a much smaller scale at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. The backlash to an assassination in a fractured government could well open the gates of Hell.
Observers of the scene have noted the current national discontent’s similarity to the anger extant before the American Civil War. Things could become quite ugly because today’s extremists have hundreds of thousands of far better guns than did the soldiers in the Civil War.
It is worth noting that the first significant battle in that war was the First Battle of Bull Run, also called the Battle of Manassas. Each side believed that the other side would quickly cave, and the conflict would be over. Large numbers of people brought picnics to the Bull Run battlefield to watch the rebels get trounced, but the picnickers fled from the victorious insurgents when the day was over. This minor squirmish went on to kill more people than any other war in American history.
No one going into the war thought it possible that His Majesty’s Disloyal Opposition could create so much havoc, but that’s how things turned out. Who knows where the developing backlash to today’s Disloyal Opposition will lead? One can reasonably ask, “Is the United States today the way it is because of Donald Trump or is Donald Trump the way he is because of the United States?” In any event, the problems are much bigger than The Donald’s competence.
/s/ JD Nobody, OC ’61.