As one part of my history major, I studied Central and Latin American history in college. And there was one thing I could never figure out. Until this weekend.
I didn’t understand why, whenever a populist, land-reform promising political party gained control of political power, they never managed to follow through on their promises to upset the status quo, distribute power more fairly, and improve ordinary people’s lives.
Forty years later*, I realize it’s because the idealists’ hatred for their predecessors became so all encompassing it distracted them from the day-to-day work of building a brighter future.
The common good took a backseat to getting even with the bastards in the other party for the sometimes decades-long laundry list of political grievances including massive corruption, and in some cases, government sponsored death squads.
The political class in the (dis)United States thinks the (dis)United States is superior to any country to the south, so my reference is irrelevant. But it’s dead wrong, human nature doesn’t respect political boundaries. We are prone to the exact same desire to get revenge. I know that because I feel it in a more visceral way this weekend than ever before. Others do too, no doubt.
Consequently, we are on the precipice of a very similar downward spiral that’s seemingly inevitable when every political party assumes the worst of the other.
Listening to the Senate Majority Leader, the President, and other Republicans unprecedented, unapologetic politicizing of the Supreme Court convinces me that they care way more about their party’s interests than the country’s.
The Democrat’s refrain this week will be, “Never forget.” Democrats risk being overwhelmed by anger at the Republican’s historic hypocrisy. When they gain power, which they inevitably will sooner or later, they are likely to seek revenge. And when the Republicans regain it, which they inevitably will sooner or later, they will do the exact same.
Just like that, if it hasn’t already, the organizing principle of our politics will become revenge. Instead of looking to the future, we’ll be mired in the past. And our national debt will grow large; our natural environment will grow more inhospitable; our infrastructure will erode further; racial justice will remain more illusive; and more people will struggle to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, and clothing.
And I will take zero joy in being right.
*better late than never