This is the first of two commentaries relating to the 2020 presidential election process by Charles Landis.
Dissent, demagoguery, and populism have written important chapters in our history and is as American as apple pie. Indeed, the history of America could as well be written as the history of dissent in America. It is , therefore, useful to examine this history in the 2020 election process..
In “Dissent, the History of an American Idea”, (2015), Ralph Young, historian at Temple University, explains the rich history of dissent in America from the 18th century to the unrest of today and the influence of evangelism and the Age of Enlightenment.
While there has been dissent throughout the ages, the arrival of George Whitefield in America in 1739,from England, marks the beginning of the dissent in America that led to the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, and the formation of the first abolition society in America at a church in Newport, RI by evangelists Samuel Hopkins and Sarah Osborn. This evangelical movement is known as the first Great Awakening.
Whitefield, a young itinerant evangelical, who had developed a very large following in England, believed established traditional churches had become too dogmatic and salvation was only through the teaching of the gospel by ordained ministers of established churches and good works. Whitefield preached hell-fire and darnation if one did not seek redemption by confession of sins and acceptance of Christ as personal savior. When he preached, there was much weeping, wailing, and confession of ins. This resulted in bitter anger and resentment by the established churches and as assaults on their authority. Especially the Anglican/Church of England, and caused schisms within. It is reported Whitefield preached over 18,000 sermons through-out the colonies and gave rise to what is known as the Bible Belt.
In the decades following Whitefield’s arrival, many other evangelicals joined in the dissent against the established church authority and hierarchy. Together with John Locke’s writings on the laws of nature and the social contract and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, this led to the dissent against the authority of king and parliament governance of the colonies, inevitability of the Revolution, and the forming of these United States.
The greatest dissent in our history was the decision of the Southern states to secede from the Union. Following the Civil War and Reconstruction, dissent from this new order of things came when Jim Crow laws and the KKK were established. This in turn was followed a long period of dissent by Blacks over denial of equal rights as promised in the Reconstruction Amendments following the Civil War. The demands for greater equality and social justice continues to this day.
For over 300 years there has been dissent and protests about income inequality, working conditions, racism, sexism, and related issues .There have been many marches on Washington, often with violence, and angry riots. And yes, calls for socialism and communism if only short lived. Most of these dissents were populist movements.
Populist movements arising out of dissension, not established political parties, is the future, as evidenced by Trump’s’ ascendency over established Republican candidates, and over establishment Democrat candidate Clinton in, 2016. In this 2020 contest, while Biden is presumed to be the establishment Democrat candidate, he has promised to be the most progressive president in American history. It is the populist progressive movement of Sanders, Warren, and AOC that dominates the Democrat party.
In American Demagogue, 2019, JD dickey. Historian, examines how demagoguery is inspired by populism and began with the Great Awakening of the early half of the 18th century and the evangelism. Indeed, Ben Franklin was so impressed with Itinerant Evangelist George Whitefield, he published his sermons, bound in volumes, and sold throughout the colonies. Patrick Henry emulated Whitefield’s oratory. John Adams was inspired by evangelist Jonathan Mayhew’s preaching at Harvard. (They did not ever fall to the ground weeping and wailing.)
I, and many others, believed the 2016 election of Trump would be the most consequential election since the Civil War. Today, I believe the 2020 election will be more so because the Civil War conflict was about slavery and disunion. The populist movement of the Progressive Democrats is about a “movement” to “fundamentally change America”;the end of the great experiment of a republican form of governance.
The Progressive Socialist Democrats refused to accept the election of Trump and the constitutionally mandated decision by the electoral college. From the moment the election in 2016 to the preset, they have tried to remove him from office and obstruct everything he promised he would do. Nor, will they accept his election in 2020.
This will be further addressed in a following commentary.