Extremists shape American politics to unabashedly pursue legislative policies that favor the rich and punish the poor.
Americans seem confident in the mythical notion that the United States is a free nation dedicated to reproducing the principles of equality, justice and democracy. What has been ignored in this delusional view is the growing rise of an expanded national security state since 2001 and an attack on individual rights that suggests that the United States has more in common with authoritarian regimes like China and Iran “than anyone may like to admit.” I want to address this seemingly untenable notion that the United States has become a breeding ground for authoritarianism by focusing on four fundamentalisms: market fundamentalism, religious fundamentalism, educational fundamentalism and military fundamentalism. This is far from a exhaustive list, but it does raise serious questions about how the claim to democracy in the United States has been severely damaged, if not made impossible.
The broader contours of the attack on democratic freedoms have become obvious in recent years. While the Bush administration engaged in torture, shamelessly violated civil liberties and put a host of Christian extremists in high-ranking governmental positions, the Obama administration has not only continued many of these policies, but has further institutionalized them. As Glenn Greenwald has reminded us, Obama has continued the Bush-Cheney terrorism and civil liberties policies, further undermining constitutional rights by promoting indefinite detention, weakening the rights of habeas corpus for prisoners in Afghanistan, extending government power through the state secrets privilege, asserting the right to target American citizens for assassination and waging war on whistle blowers. More specifically, there are the ongoing revelations about the Obama administration’s decision under the National Defense Authorization Act to allow American citizens to be held indefinitely without charge or trial; the government’s increased role in using special operations forces and drones in targeted assassinations; the emergence and use of sophisticated surveillance technologies to spy on protesters; the invocation of the state secrecy practices; the suspension of civil liberties that allow various government agencies to spy on Americans without first obtaining warrants; and the stories about widespread abuse and torture by the US military in Afghanistan, not to mention the popular support for torture among the American public. It gets worse. As the war on terror degenerated in a war on democracy, a host of legal illegalities have been established that put the rule of law if not the very principle of Western jurisprudence into a chokehold. How such assaults on the rule of law, justice and democracy could take place without massive resistance represents one of the most reprehensible moments in American history. Most Americans caught in the grip of simply trying to survive or paralyzed in a relentless culture of fear ignored the assaults on democracy unleashed by a burgeoning national security state. The assaults loom large and are evident in the passage of the Use of Military Force Act, the passage of the Patriot Act, the 2002 Homeland Security Act, the Military Commission Act of 2006 and the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Jim Garrison rightly raises the question about whether these acts inspired by 9/11 and the war on terror are worth sacrificing the Republic. He writes:
The question screaming at us through [these bills] is whether the war on terror is a better model around which to shape our destiny than our constitutional liberties. It compels the question of whether we remain an ongoing experiment in democracy, pioneering new frontiers in the name of liberty and justice for all, or have we become a national security state, having financially corrupted and militarized our democracy to such an extent that we define ourselves, as Sparta did, only through the exigencies of war? ……
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