'Alternate histories'
0 comment Thursday, May 1, 2014 |
Lately we've heard the term 'balkanization' tossed around a lot, and it seems our America is in the process of being Balkanized. Well, over at Matthew White's website (which has been up since the 90s) he has a series of interesting maps and historical speculations, under the heading 'Surreal Histories.'
Among the maps there are his map of a 'Balkanized North America.' He poses the question
'What would America have looked like if every separatist movement in U.S. and Canadian history had succeeded?'' See the map here to find out, according to his speculations.
It is interesting to contemplate how things would have turned out had these movements been successful.
Another interesting link on the page is 'Perotista Revolution!' -- asking 'What if the anti-government forces of the 1990s had risen...?''
First, I am not sure that the Perot supporters he seems to conflate with the ''extreme right'' are who he believes them to have been. I was actually a Perot supporter at that time, and I was still quite a leftist in many ways. I met with many Perot supporters and they were quite a cross-section of people, most of them quite ordinary Americans, not a bunch of survivalists or militia members as he seems to believe. There were a few of those, but there were more ticked-off 'average Americans' from both parties and some who had always been independents. I worked with several people who voted for Perot and the majority of them were Democrats who were disgusted with Clinton as the candidate.
So I am not convinced that the Perotistas, as he calls them, were necessarily radical revolutionaries.
However his speculations are interesting; by all means read them.
I found it interesting to see the percentage of Perot voters broken down by state. I had not been aware of the strength of Perot's support in places like Maine, but then despite my New England ancestry it's the part of the country I have the least experience of. But in Maine, Perot snagged 30 percent of the vote, and 28 percent in Alaska. I find it interesting that the South did not go for Perot in a big way; he got 22 percent of the vote in his own state of Texas but apparently didn't make much of a showing in the rest of the South.
All this is interesting to me mainly for the parallels I see between the mood of the electorate (as I read it) in this election cycle and the mood of the country in 1992 and 1996. I was active in political matters then (I'm embarrassed to admit, in the Democrat Party) and I know how people were feeling. There was a great deal of disaffection, and constant talk of the need for 'change.' Many people were not happy with the choice of George H.W. Bush on the GOP side and Bill Clinton on the Democrat side. The big theme of the debates in 1992 was 'change', and all the candidates, including Bill Clinton, promised change, and change away from 'business as usual' in D.C.
People were restless and fed up.
Somehow the major parties succeeded in persuading the gullible or the easily-led that they, the major parties, were going to set a new tone in D.C., and that the old D.C. insiders would no longer reign. It didn't happen; they lied.
Now, after years of failed policies, the two parties are more unresponsive to ordinary Americans, majority Americans, than ever. So we have the potential for another third-party candidacy, if the two major parties continue to be as oblivious as they are. And I don't see any reason to expect any change.
My perceptions, based on what I see and hear, may be incorrect but I sense even more disillusionment and disgust now than I did in the 90s. People are looking for leadership, and some people, for whatever reason, think they see the leader we need in Rudy or Mitt or Fred, but I think that few people are very enthusiastic about voting for any of them. I think people are grasping at straws, or are in denial, or they are scared stiff of not voting for the party they've always voted for. And the media tell them that only Rudy, Mitt, or Hillary or Obama are 'electable.' So they obediently pick one of the approved candidates, fearing that if the other 'evil' party is elected, the sky will surely fall.
I think one of the problems we have in trying to effect needed change is the attitude that what is, must be. The two parties have 'always' existed, and no third party candidate has ever been elected, so no such candidate can ever be elected. Obviously this is fallacious. There is, as the old saying tells us, the first time for everything. And the Republican Party was at one time a third party. Things change; change is the one certainty in this world, and it's wise to try to steer the change in the right direction when we see that we are as lost as we are in this country right now.
So Matthew White's alternate histories serve as an exercise, to cause us to attend to the possibility that things could easily have taken a different turn along the way, and that the aggregate actions of a relatively small number of individuals made the difference between two outcomes.

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