The blanketing canopy pressing down across the globe of TINA (there is no alternative) is rupturing. The fabric is tearing at the seams. Now, with the U.S. courts having abdicated their role in adjudicating suits in connection with the 3rd November election, it seems that President Trump will make a last effort to change the course of events between 6–20 January (inauguration day). At point of writing, some 140 Republican Representatives say they will challenge the outcome of certain elections on 6 January. Whether this challenge will succeed (in all its dimensions) is moot.
What then? Well, Red America – whether rightly or wrongly – sees that 20 January may prove to be ‘the end of the line’ for them. Eight out of ten Republicans believe the election stolen; that the crucial Georgia Senatorial race likely will be ‘stolen’ too; that the destruction of small and mid-sized businesses through lockdown was a premeditated strategy to further consolidate Big Business Oligarchs; and that ultimately Red Americans will face ‘cancellation’ by an incoming woke ‘soft-totalitarianism’, orchestrated by Big Tech. This is their perspective – their Epiphany revelation. It is, to say the least, bleak.
With such a dark prospect facing Red America, talk has turned toward secession or separation (though not yet to divorce) – the more optimistic see an orderly agreement, allowing Red and Blue America to find political living-space, whilst acknowledging the practical bonds of geography, commerce, currency, debt, diplomacy and military force. But many expect a vengeful repression, and no civility.
Secession, per se, however, is unlikely – and if attempted, likely would end badly. Separation however is already happening in a small de facto way: House moves (estate agents say) are being driven firstly by the overarching ‘colour’ of the neighbourhood being vacated, as well as by the desired destination’s ‘colour’ (i.e. Red or Blue), as America separates into two ‘tribes’.
Yes, many American (and western) myths about American identity and politics lie shattered on the ground. Many still are in a state of shock. They had imagined their elections as somehow sacrosanct. They had imagined the courts as arbitrators. And they never imagined to see a U.S. President ridiculed and humiliated so, by the MSM. Reality has arrived as a slap in the face.
And yes – TINA is over; a market for alternatives is now open for business. The ripples from this unexpected shock of an American epiphany will cascade into the European Union (though European leaders presently, are presenting a Nelsonian (blind) eye to the telescope), and the European media is compliant in simply ignoring anything, save the Tech narrative of reality.
But much more than this, the tear to that oppressive TINA canopy allows other civilisational-states assertively to reject criticisms, or policies, which have been weaponised against their value-systems. If Red America can utterly reject woke values, and vice versa, then why should other civilisations not reject western Enlightenment values?
This is already afoot: as Hungary successfully has faced down the EU over its particular values (which progressive Brussels disdains as illiberal), and as China has made it clear that a trade relationship with Beijing will come only when Europeans put an end to their virtue signalling at others.
Whether the U.S. was a democracy in any meaningful sense prior to Trump had been the subject of substantial debate. A 2014 study concluded that economic power now was so concentrated in the hands of a tiny clique of billionaire-oligarchs that they had amassed virtually unchallengeable political power, leaving next-to-no power in anyone else’s hands. The report concluded that the U.S. resembled an oligarchy, rather than a functioning democracy. Big Tech’s narrative repression during the last months has rubbed painfully home the point of unchallengeable institutional power – to half America.
That debate about when U.S. democracy was lost, however, has been rendered utterly obsolete by the new realities of the Covid era: A combination of sustained lockdowns; the demise of small businesses; and of massive state-mandated pandemic support flowing primarily to corporate élites, has left these oligarchs, together with their Silicon Valley and Wall Street allies, further entrenched, with literally unassailable economic and political power.
Which brings us to the European Union. Perry Anderson, in a lengthy forensic examination entitled Ever Closer Union, details how Europe has steered its course towards an identical oligarchic destination – including all the same pathologies as are now present in the U.S.:
“… It [the EU] is not, obviously enough, a parliamentary democracy, lacking division between a government and an opposition, competition between parties for office, or accountability to voters. There is neither a separation between executive and legislative powers, along American lines; nor a connection between them, along British or Continental lines, in which an executive is invested by an elected legislature to which it remains responsible.
“Rather it is the inverse that holds: an unelected executive holds a monopoly of legislative initiative, while a judiciary, self-invested with an independence subject to no constitutional audit or control, issues decisions that are effectively unalterable, whether or not they conform to the treaties on which they are nominally based. The rule of the Union’s proceedings, whether they are presided over by judges, bankers, bureaucrats, deputies or prime ministers, are secret wherever possible, and their outcome, [proclaimed to represent] unanimity.”
In a striking parallel to the recent course of judicial events in the U.S., Anderson notes that the European Court of Justice, the ECJ, is a “court [its’ judges unelected, its deliberations secret], with an agenda that does not correspond to the intentions of its founders, seeing itself ‘neither as the guardian of the rights of the signatory states, nor as a neutral arbiter between the states and the Community, but rather the driving force of integration”. (This tallies closely with the complaints made against U.S. Supreme Court judicial activism, in respect to the Constitution. It too, has facilitated integration and concentration).
“The ECJs’ assertion of the supremacy of Community over domestic, let alone constitutional laws, has no basis in the Treaty of Rome, which granted it rights of judicial review only ‘with respect to acts of the Union institutions’, not those of member states.
“Yet, in effect, this is exactly what the court now undertakes on a routine basis X proceeding as if ‘the treaty framework, as touchstone on the internal constitutionality of all EU institutional activity X has never actually meant what [the Rome Treaty] so clearly states’.”
Again – as in the U.S. – this ECJ judicial ‘activism’ is setting new rules, well beyond ‘Treaty’ frameworks, without mandate, without legislative validation, or the electorates of Europe being even informed.
The ECJ’s current court president, the Belgian, Koen Lenaerts, has spelled out explicitly the Court’s integrationist ambitions. In his words: ‘There is simply no nucleus of sovereignty that the member states can invoke, as such, against the Community’. The court aims at ‘the same practical outcome as the one that would be obtained through a direct invalidation of member state law’. (The parallel here is with the U.S. Court dismissing any standing for disputes between the fifty co-sovereign U.S. states, over unconstitutional practices).
Again, following in the U.S. path, when confronted with ‘’’68 Woodstock activism’ that seemed to threaten their economic interests – U.S. Big Business simply set-up the K-Street lobbying ‘industry’ that now effectively writes almost all Congressional legislation. The EU duly has followed suit here, too: “Brussels quickly became a magnet for corporate lawyers and investors from America, on the lookout for market opportunities and bringing with them the expectations and practices of a powerful federation”.
These latter soon formed close relations with the substantial number of high-flying Belgian commercial jurists, who, taking full advantage of an ECJ having “‘a settled and consistent policy of promoting European federalism’ … and which has interpreted ‘prohibitions of discrimination against foreign companies so widely’ that ‘almost any national [i.e. member state] regulation could be understood as a market access obstacle …’”. Thus, Anderson concludes, “the ECJ effectively deprived member states of ‘the power to determine the borderline between the private and public sector, market and state’”.
There are now around 30,000 registered lobbyists in Brussels – that is more than double the number infesting Washington, reckoned at a mere 12,000. In Brussels, 63% are corporate and consultant lobbyists, 26% are from NGOs, 7% from think tanks and 5% municipal. “That Europe’s executive could resist infection from the vapours of this swamp is implausible”, writes Anderson
But here is the rub: the deliberate de-linking of political process from society. Christopher Bickerton’s European Integration has as its subtitle, the seemingly anodyne: From Nation-States to Member States. Everyone has an idea what a nation-state is, and many know that 27 countries (with the UK’s departure) are ‘member states’. What is the conceptual difference between the two?
Here, Bickerton’s definition is succinct: ‘The concept of the member state expresses a fundamental change in the political structure of the state: With horizontal ties between national executives taking precedence over vertical ties between [national] governments – and their own societies’. The connection between 27 electorates and the political process thus is severed.
By the time the Cold War had ended in 1990, European executives already had consolidated this transition to member-statehood when crisis intervened: the Euro – far from bringing renewed growth and prosperity – had plunged Italy into prolonged stagnation and regression, and had taken the Eurozone as a whole into turmoil. The EU response then was not to loosen the corsets of ‘member-hood’, but rather to tighten them still further. Today, the response to the pandemic – which precisely highlighted Europe’s lack of solidarity and competence – again brought forth the ‘ever closer union’ and ‘solidarity’ mantra.
The southern belt of European states, however, still pay the price of a misconceived currency union that cannot now be reversed. For, even if currency union, absent fiscal or political union, was a huge mistake, the dissolution of the Eurozone remains something no mainstream Euro-politician sees feasible. Yet, if a second big shock (comparable to the impact of the Great Financial Crisis (of 2008)) were to hit the system – such as, for instance, through continuing lockdowns triggering depression – the European project would have to be radically rebuilt from the bottom up – or discarded.
Hence the ‘trap’ Europe is in – it can neither move forwards, nor backwards. The EU decision to rescue the single currency rather than dismantle it, created an economically repressive and politically authoritarian Euro regime that was hugely counter-productive. “By forcing member states in trouble to adopt fiscal austerity and internal devaluation, reducing labour costs, together with permanent downward pressure on wage incomes, social transfers and public transfers, official policy was ‘utterly devoid of democratic legitimacy”, Fritz Scharpf has suggested.
“In sum”, Anderson finally concludes, “the order of the Union is that of an oligarchy … Regrettably, an EU-wide democracy does not exist, and the reforms adopted since the crisis of 2008 – banking union, stricter fiscal oversight – have made the Union more technocratic, less accountable, and more distant from European electorates”.
But did not ‘the Project’ – for all its flaws – bring peace to Europe? The truth, of course, is that after 1945 there was never any risk of another outbreak of hostilities between Germany and France, or any other of the countries of Western Europe, because the Cold War made the whole region an American security protectorate.
And, just as is the case with the U.S. (now plainly in view, in wake of 3 November), the Union’s path to ‘ever closer union’ and to oligarchy, has created similar carbuncles of division across the European body politic. The strife is economic, cultural and political. Europe has two economies and they are diverging fast; they do different jobs, in different industries, in different places, for different pay. The elites and the have-nots.
On the one hand, Brussels adheres tightly to its trenchantly secular, and ‘progressive’ view, whilst on the other hand, a substantial portion of Europeans (and some member states), hue to a more traditional, spiritual and cultural ethos. And, as Brussels becomes more committed to a tech-led ‘Great Re-set’, these élites occupy a world wholly divorced from that of most working Europeans – two separate disconnected realities, in fact. And with European anger rising at the lockdowns – and at the destruction of small and medium sized businesses (just as in the U.S. people are moving from being financially squeezed, to going hungry).
America may possibly be on the brink of its ‘de-coupling moment’ – in shock at the raw revelation of just how undemocratic America has become; how unchallengeable its’ oligarchy and institutions have become (its’ epiphany in other words). Inwardly, they knew; but suddenly, sharply – like the crack of a crystal breaking – it has become luminously conscious to all.
The European élites pretend not to notice, repeating that all is about to revert ‘to normal’ with a Biden Administration; that the old relationship with the Democratic Party will be resumed. Europe never had a relationship with America, per se – Brussels has always been the European arm of America’s ‘Blue State’, to which it is joined at the hip – as Anderson’s account of the EU ‘acquis’ of all the attributes of unchallengeable power affirms. Yet, there is no ‘normal’; no civility; no ‘working across the aisle’ in Washington, to which Europe can share its ‘return’ with a Harris-Biden Admin.
The big ‘domino’ has fallen: Red America; and Brexit is a second. Does anyone believe that this American epiphany; this exploding of American delusions, will leave Europe untouched? Or, that other states will not observe it too, and understand from it that the past need to submit their own cultures to European moral scrutiny is over?
On 10 December, Rush Limbaugh, a well-known American conservative political show host, said: “I actually think that we’re trending toward secession. I see more and more people asking, ‘What in the world do we have in common with the people who live in, say, New York?’”
How long before Europeans more generally say, ‘What in the world do we have in common with those technocrats who operate in Brussels?’