In the years leading up to the Civil War, the driving political issue was real and organic, consisting in the balance of power between the North and the South. It was an early polarization due to the fact that there were two different economies and two different cultures. With the victory of the North, that issue died and no ‘organic’ political issue has ever taken its place.
Today there is only party politics, and parties represent money, and so instead of the struggle between organic unities we have the struggle of money against money. Parties surround this battle with rhetoric and propaganda, which formulate ‘the issues’ over which the two parties will fight, because without these ‘issues’ there could be nothing to vote about, but all of this is spectacle. In other words, 1861 was the last time anything significant, in terms of culture, was at stake in a political battle, because the battle was between two different cultural viewpoints. Today nothing cultural is at stake and that is why no matter who wins the general state of things remains the same. There are no currents that really oppose one another; everyone is ‘mainstream’.
It is not uncommon to hear about ‘culture wars’ today but in fact there are no culture wars. The battle is over a small plot of ‘moral ground’, staked out by a particular group. We can grant that one group is wrong and another is right, but the whole war takes place in the same vicinity, on the same ‘cultural plane’ and at a very low elevation. Today’s culture wars are not so much ‘one culture against another’ as they are a battle for control over a single, fundamentally homogenous anti-culture.
We can summarize by saying that the theory of the ‘separation of powers’ has meant, in the American practice of government, the control of all branches by the same interests, or else the division of the branches into two warring factions. When the former occurs, the theory is null but has the appearance of functionality; when the latter, nothing functions and so it appears that things are only temporarily ‘broken’; in both cases, however, the theory is proven utterly impracticable. It is another counterproof of the Enlightenment’s assumption that a society can be created which does not depend on some authority, and creating a regime on this false assumption, the wielders of authority are merely allowed to operate behind the scenes.
America no longer deals in ‘true politics’, but rather wastes its energies in a kind of ‘inner politics’ wherein it consumes itself. Nothing real is ever decided, no action taken, no policy enacted, except accidentally as a means to the end of re-election or as a chip in the party-power bargaining process.
Or, to summarize in a different way, American politics is simply ‘business’, and by the time Donald Trump became president, he was merely the avatar of what American political activity has been for quite some time: a battle of the wealthiest, most opportunistic men in the country trying to amass more and more power to themselves.