Polarization and the Powder Keg
constitutional order of the US, such as it exists,
faces a profound crisis of legitimacy, rooted in the
multi polarity of US society. The US is divided
among (1) a deeply entrenched police – judicial –
presidential state against civil society organized
in community based Afro-American, Hispanic and
disinherited workers; (2) a corrupt Federal police,
Justice , State Department and Presidential Office
against a constitutional legal system upheld by the
vast majority of citizens; and (3) a rigged
Presidential electoral system against the consent
and approval of the majority of the electorate.
in US society go far beyond the ‘opinions’ expressed
in polls and surveys.
polarization has found expression in mass street
protests, ‘rejectionist’ votes and violent assaults.
Are they heading toward a national uprising? Public
officials describe the situation as ‘a powder keg on
the verge of exploding’.
Bazaar of Crooked Faces
elites feign control of the polarization. President
Obama engages in impotent rhetorical appeals that
deception and betrayal in high places are so rampant
that mutual impunity has become the badge of
collegiality. The most active citizens deny the
legitimacy of all politicians, dismissing them as
electoral system is a gigantic bazaar of crooked
smiles, raucous inanities and vacuous promises . . .
broken before they’re spoken.
courts, electoral process and police state act as a
triumvirate beyond the reach of the vast majority of
American citizens, then the people will turn to
other methods and voices to challenge and change
this tyranny of the elite.
Power Keg is within the US
public has suffered two decades of declining living
standard and instability, while the elite
accumulated an immense concentration of wealth,
privilege and power. The passive wait and patience
are ending – promises of a better future fall on
stone deaf ears and smiling inanities are met with
sign of ‘the powder keg’ started with a loud fire-
cracker. The young and hopeful had turned to support
an in-house ‘democratic socialist’ and out-house
‘nationalist patriot’. The ‘crackers’ snapped,
crackled and died! Promising to bring his supporters
into the Democratic corral, Sanders melted in the
carnal embrace of the ‘queen of chaos’, the
candidate of decades of deceit and deception.
Meanwhile, Trump’s working class patriots were
turning into doormen for the bankers, Bible thumpers
and Republican hucksters.
electoral charade has failed to dampen the powder
keg. There are too many fires burning across the
land and too many resolute arsonists lighting the
False Prophets of Justice: Unmasked
electoral ‘explosion’ sputtering amid the voters’
rancor, black and brown communities do not take
marching orders from the political con artists,
judges and police chiefs. They do not follow the
false prophets of electoral politics. Growing
numbers are taking to the streets to fight back.
past eight years, President Obama has devastated
black neighborhoods and schools, unleashing highly
militarized police state forces while praising the
black political officials (the ‘mis-leaders’) and
black police who participate in terrorizing black
communities. It is no surprise that the heightened
social polarization has spread and deepened in the
black neighborhoods. We are taken back to the 1960’s
and 70’s when racial violence emanating down from
the Office of the President to the courts to the
police provoked reciprocal violence from the bottom
upward to the elite.
begins with the Afro-Americans and will spread to
the Latino-Americans and beyond among the downwardly
mobile white workers. The growing white working
class revolt against the kleptocrat Clinton Dynasty
has spread to encompass the popular rebellion
against ‘the burn’ of renegade fake socialist
‘Bernie’ and the rest of the billionaire owned
political system. The political rebellion is taking
part throughout the American heartland.
of Americans are polarized because they are denied
basic stability in their everyday lives. They look
back at their lost living standards and look forward
to a grim and unacceptable future – especially for
their youth and children.
rebellion has diverse detonators: the plutocratic
economy, the kleptocratic electoral system and the
dehumanizing militarized police state.
kleptocratic electoral system has brought together
the greatest number of hostile voices reaching
across racial lines and penetrating deeply within
police-race polarization is most immediate and
explosive. It is most likely to result in direct
downwardly mobile white working class is the largest
rebellious group, but has been the slowest to
develop a class-consciousness and organize.
Nevertheless, they have the greatest potential to
overturn the system.
disenchanted electoral rebels (the
Bernie-supporters) are numerous and quick to act,
but they are also the most easily deceived by
political charlatans and con-artists.
confluence of militant blacks, activist voters and
downwardly mobile whites is only at the beginning of
the great uprising. As yet, they do not ‘see each
other’ in life, work, neighborhood or language, even
as they share a profound common hostility to the
police state tasked with protecting the
circumstances can they come together? At present
there is no organization capable of unifying these
dynamic and critical forces.
groups have emerged but they are transient and
Community-based organizations have their limited
strategic vision and remain rooted in localities.
political parties and personalities have promise but
are engage in electoral politics divorced from
direct action, whether it involves the police, the
courts or the economic system.
‘charismatic leader’ could emerge and bridge the
different constituencies – downwardly mobile
workers, militant blacks and politically
disenfranchised activists may merge at some point
around such a leader. But unless ‘the leader’ is
harnessed to a powerful organized movement and
directed by activist communities the threat of
betrayal remains a real possibility.
We live in
a time when the existing system is rotten and
collapsing and when mass disaffection is growing.
However, this is also a period when the
‘alternatives’ appear remote and intangible.
abundantly clear is that mere collapse and decay
will not by itself bring about a mass popular
rebellion to build a just society.
Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology
at Binghamton University, New York.