The Manichean heresy in early Christianity (Augustine had been a youthful adherent) divided the world into an earthly battleground of spiritual warfare between Satan and God, who shared power equally over the fate of humanity.
An example of late-Manichean thinking was typified by President Bush’s paranoically inane rallying call to choose between the terrorists and his governing clique in the aftermath of the massacre of civilians on 9/11, perpetrated by an ideological group spawned by the West’s secret services in the 1980s.
Because the United States has only two parties, both championing business interests, Manichaean thinking is second nature to the American electorate. You’re either with educated, enlightened humanitarian Democrats or you’re with the fascistic, racist Republicans, from the liberal point of view. Conversely, from the conservative point of view, you’re either with tradition, custom, and the tested way as a Republican or you’re with the bleeding-hearted, budget-wasting, morally lax, socialist Democrats.
This either/or proposition obviates the need for thought and makes voting a matter of choosing between good and evil. More sophisticated Americans resign themselves to voting for the lesser of two evils—which, in the end, is voting for evil. Thus, American elections have become an exercise in political neurosis. For example, in historically racially scarred America, the blackness of a presidential candidate was an irresistible lure to liberals, suffering from an irritable—and in their view—undeserved sense of guilt and shame. Conversely, the candidate’s blackness served to release the vilest resentments of misled know-nothings who gravitate to the more vermin-infested folds of the increasingly moldy conservative party, rabid with the success of a one-sided, bi-partisan, 30-year-long class war
It doesn’t take genius to figure out who benefits from Manichaeism in America—the business interests. They very cleverly support and fund now the Republican candidate, now the Democrat. Makes no difference to them whether a candidate is a Democrat or a Republican so long as he (or the much-awaited she) transfers the public wealth into private hands, depresses taxes on the wealthy, slashes social services, gives grotesque subsidies and handouts to banks and corporations, and carries out the seizure of markets, cheap labor, and resources abroad through domino-effect imperialist wars that transform America into the economic equivalent of whichever third-world country the elite are militarily devastating.
The promotion of Obama to the presidency of the United States by the financial aristocracy, let’s be honest, was a stroke of genius. Just as Clinton, a poor boy from Arkansas, was launched to wage war on the poor, so Obama, an eager and willing black American with the conveniently or inconveniently Muslim-sounding name, depending on one’s allegiance to identity politics, was installed to continue the imperial wars against the blackish populations of the world, while, of course, sustaining the pauperization of working Americans, black and white, at home, which Clinton, in the manner of Reagan, had done so much to secure.
Now you see why, in my liberal circles, thinking like mine sounds like the ravings of a tea-partier. If you have nothing to fall back on but a Manichean thinking equipment, where do you place a view that dissents from either the Republican or the Democrat cookie-cutter model of neatly dividing the lumpy, malformed dough of American politics into “us” and “them”? Where but against the wall? Garden-variety liberal Democrats I know have taken to calling themselves “progressives,” which leaves me no room from which to argue for ending the wars; demanding respect for international and national law in the matter of torture, rendition, and the closing down of Guantanamo; protesting against the extension of Bush’s tax law, giving breaks to the rich that devastate our communities; pointing out that there is a connection between the war on American workers and the wars abroad that consume masses of public wealth for the greed of the military-industrial-financial complex?
Divided they stand, Democrats and Republicans, united by forces they refuse to identify in the pursuit of self-destruction within the unfolding disaster that is America’s future. What can one do but resign oneself to being called names? It’s the only power either constituency has at present.