This node is about the quote, attributed to Lincoln
"You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the
people all of the time."
First, I say attributed, since although it is supposed to have been said in a speech given in my mother's home town
, no record of that speech exists and the only historical evidence is apparently from witnessess to a 1856
speech who gave statements in 1910
The working out of this meme
in actual praxis can be illustrated by its principal four historical instances to date:
- The original.
Since there really was only one political issue of any note in the period in question, it must be presumed that that is what the quote originally refers to. Thus, the original referent can be taken to be the attempt by the then existing two-party system to suppress the issue of slavery and dismiss it with tactics such as the Missouri compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
- Resolution: The Democratic party split, losing control of the government. The Republican party emerged as its moeity and the Civil War began.
- Outcome: Rebellion suppressed, race based slavery outlawed, two-party system reaches maturity.
- Cost: around a half million lives, the costliest conflict in U.S. history.
- Benefit: created U.S. nation-state as such. Prior to this they were referred to in plural, after as a unity.
All of the remaining cases involve crises of a current administration which demonstrated the correct functioning of mechanisms which failed in the first and defining instance. In Watergate the issue was whether or not the governing elites and population in general would accept illegal means the Nixon administration had used and whether or not the President was telling the truth about the Watergate burgulary and it's subsequent cover-up.
- Resolution: facing probable impeachment, Nixon resigns.
- Outcome: Conservative counter-revolution derailed for another 6 years.
- Cost: Relatively minor, paralysis of U.S. government during constitutional crisis, general loss of
confidence in institutions.
- Benefit: General U.S. consolidation of the gains of the world-wide cultural revolution of the sixties. After this, for example, while race would remain a key element of U.S. politics, forming a core subtext, the official consensus would not permit a regression to the prior consensus like that for which Trent Lott was nostalgic.
In this case, a right wing coup was attempted on the basis of a sex scandal to overthrow a successful and popular administration. The issue was whether or not the political establishment and the population generally would permit this.
Current Situation (i.e. Iraq War and the pretexts for same).
- Resolution: none.
- Outcome: Although the impeachment failed, by this time the forces of reaction were so powerful that
the 2000 election would see them succeed.
- Cost: record surpluses converted to record deficits, unprovoked and illegal war of aggression against unworthy adversary
with its attendant cost, declining position of state in real economic terms versus international
competitors, general decay of freedoms, rule of law, and international prestige of the U.S. which up
until this time could claim a moral high ground with some credibility.
- Benefit: further heightening of inherent contradictions favouring subsequent resolution.
At this point, the meme has reached it's limit with only those who can be fooled all the time still supporting
the policies of premptive war, torture, and immiseration of the general working population in favor of monied
interests. It should be remembered that even during the American Revolution there was a sizable part of the
population that remained loyal to the Crown, to the end.
Probable Outcome: since conditions are probably not right for insurrection or upheaval of the U.S. social order, which is effectively a one-party system for the corporate state, the outcome will be determined by the degree of incompetence of the present players. If the political system were more vital the threat of impeachment would be working it's normal course, however the current degree of corruption of function doesn't permit this. The expected result is that the Administration will in effect declare victory having established a client bourgeois state, and begin withdrawals in preparation for other adventures, shoring up it's position in the ruling elite.
Cost: at this writing ~2100 U.S. dead, 15,000 wounded and an unknown number of Iraqi dead but certainly in the many tens of thousands.
Benefit: further heightening of inherent contradictions favouring a subsequent resolution, probably on an international scale addressing disfunctionalities in general social order.
As a meme, this would have to include the quote attributed to Churchill² and the saw "Nobody ever lost a dime underestimating the intelligence of the American People".
² "The American people can generally be counted on to do the right thing--after they have exhausted all of the alternatives."