By Mohammad Mazhari

U.S. divided along ideological lines between Red States and Blues States: American scholar

June 22, 2021 - 21:42

TEHRAN - American anthropologist William O. Beeman says that the United States is divided along ideological lines between Republicans and Democrats.

“Now the country is deeply divided along ideological lines between Red States (Republican-dominated) and Blue States (Democrat-dominated),” Beeman, a professor emeritus of the State University of Minnesota, tells the Tehran Times.

 “The Red States are defying any laws that might threaten Republican dominance, as happened in the last presidential election in the states of Arizona and Georgia who voted for Joe Biden after having not voted for a Democrat for decades,” Beeman says.

The unprecedented chaos in the nation's capital after storming Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, showed that democracy in the U.S encounters many challenges that were not explicit before. 

These developments revealed the reality of America which is divided between people who support Trump and Democrats who hate him.
Nevertheless, some people inside the U.S. no more trust the election mechanism.  Some others are also against Republicans’ attempts to restrict voting in Red States.   

“States controlled by Republicans, including Arizona and Georgia, are trying to make sure that minority populations, who vote heavily Democratic will not be able to vote easily in future elections,” Beeman notes.

Deep division in the American society and exacerbation of racism against people of color have cast serious questions about the future of democracy in the United States.

Following is the text of the interview with William O. Beeman:
Q: How do you assess the U.S. record in supporting democracy in West Asia? From America's role in the 1953 coup in Iran to coalition with Arab monarchies?

A: United States leaders have always acted in what they felt to be the best interests of the United States and their own political fortunes with no regard for the interests of the people of the Middle East (West Asia). Before World War II the United States had very little involvement in the Middle East (West Asia). After World War II there were three driving interests that governed United States foreign policy in the Middle East (West Asia).
 First, was the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The second was the need for petroleum to fuel the United States industry and commerce. The third was the protection of Israel because of the sentiment of United States voters toward Israel.  One other factor was the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the region in the early 1970s. 

All three of these interests directly explain the measures U.S. politicians have undertaken in the region. The 1953 coup is explained by the fear the United States had that the Soviet Union would invade Iran under Mossadeq, whom they thought to be weak; coupled with the need for U.S. access to Iranian oil, which had been nationalized by Mossadeq. The coalition with Arab monarchies and with the Shah's Iran after the British withdrawal from the region was to serve as a bulwark against Soviet incursion into the Persian Gulf and to cement oil supplies. The hostility toward Iran after the Revolution of 1978-1979 was a reaction to losing a reliable ally in the region and possible reduction in economic influence through control of the Iranian oil supply. Continued hostility to Iran was due to Iranian hostility toward Israel, who was viewed by Iranian leaders as the "little Satan" having supported the Shah. One can continue forward examining every event since then, but they all come down to these three motivating factors. 

 Q: As an objective example, how do you read the results of the U.S. decision in invading Iraq to change its regime? Did it help democracy?

A: The occupation of Iraq was undertaken under false pretenses. Neoconservative politicians had been urging the occupation of Iraq and the elimination of Saddam Hussein as protection for Israel since 1996. These neoconservatives were appointed to major U.S. government positions under George W. Bush, and after the tragedy of 9/11 persuaded Bush to invade Iraq, although Saddam had nothing to do with the attack on America. Saddam was a terrible person, and the world is better off without him, but the United States did nothing to assure that Iraq would be stable after he was eliminated. Iraq is an artificial country created by the British out of former Ottoman territories that had never been together under one single state structure. The social and religious tensions in Iraq have not yet been contained, and certainly did not lead to democracy in any realistic form. Millions died during the American occupation, and the effects are still being felt. It is an open question whether Iraq will ever achieve stability within its current borders. It is already breaking into three distinct regions replicating the old Ottoman territories that comprise it.

Q: Many political observers were used to argue that though U.S. foreign policy approaches are unfair and based on interests, it has a stable democracy. But now the world is witnessing moves that are threatening stability and democracy in the United States. What is your analysis?

A: Thoughtful American observers are very worried about American democracy. There has always been tension between the Federal government and the governments of individual States. This is what caused the American Civil War in the 19th Century. Now the country is deeply divided along ideological lines between Red States (Republican dominated) and Blue States (Democrat dominated). The Red States are defying any laws that might threaten Republican dominance, as happened in the last presidential election in the states of Arizona and Georgia who voted for Joe Biden after having not voted for a Democrat for decades. Therefore, States controlled by Republicans, including Arizona and Georgia, are trying to make sure that minority populations, who vote heavily Democratic will not be able to vote easily in future elections. In fact, Republicans are a minority throughout the United States, but by restricting the vote where they are in power, they hope to maintain their control over government. This is very troubling for American democracy.

Q: Trump keeps claiming election fraud in the presidential election. Republicans also repeat the claim. To justify their moves to restrict voting, Republican claim they want to make sure that every legitimate vote will be counted. What is your comment?

A: There was no election fraud in the 2020 election. Republicans can make all the false claims they wish, but they rely on being able to deceive their own voters into doubting the results of the election. Despite immense effort to prove that there were irregularities in the election, including some absolutely insane conspiracy theories, no proof has ever been verified. However, people will believe what they want to believe, and Trump supporters, with no evidence, are willing to accept the lie that the election was illegitimate. It is the willing belief of many people in this lie that is the threat to democracy, not any action on the part of Democrats. 
Q: Let’s turn to class division in the United States. Some criticize the U.S. for being a haven for wealthy people and neglecting ordinary folks. Is it the ultimate goal of liberal democracy and founding fathers?

A: The great attraction of the United States for the people of the world is that the United States is the "Land of Opportunity." There are myriad stories of people who come to the United States with nothing and become millionaires within a generation. This is also true about current leaders in politics, business, and public service who were born in the United States. They start with nothing coming from poor families, and end up wealthy and powerful. This social mobility is a driving force in American life. For this reason, even poor people support policies that hurt themselves and their families because they still hold out the dream that one day they or their children will become rich and powerful. This is close to being a religious belief, and indeed, it is a doctrine of Protestant Christianity, particularly Calvinism, which promulgates the belief that successful people are "beloved of God." As a result, success is more important than ethics or morality for many people. 

Sadly, the dominant population does not think that minority populations "deserve" success, so the economic benefits in the United States are restricted for African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities. This attitude has been prevalent for centuries in the U.S. Slavery were one reason African-Americans are still thought to be inferior by many white Americans today. Immigrants have always been disadvantaged as they arrived. There was prejudice against Germans, Irish, Italians and Jews in the last century, more recently Hispanics, Africans, and Muslims face discrimination as they have arrived in greater numbers. Every immigrant group has faced prejudice from "nativists" who were already established when the immigrants came, and who want to keep those new arrivals out of the country. 

Access to upwardly mobile housing, to investment capital, to health care, and to decent education has been systematically denied to these minority groups. The fact that some members of these groups succeed with enormous effort despite the institutional restrictions on their progress only reinforces the myth that "deserving people who work hard" succeed, and "undeserving people" are poor because they are deficient in some way-lazy, criminal, on drugs, making poor life choices. All of these accusations are lies, but they keep the dominant white population highly advantaged over the minority populations. 

The situation is slowly changing as minorities assimilate and become more successful. The African-American middle class is growing. Germans, Irish, and Italians are now part of the "white" majority. There is still lingering prejudice against Jews and Asians, and unfortunately, very hostile prejudice against Hispanics and Muslims. But over time these prejudices and disadvantageous economic and legal structures have softened as these disadvantaged populations have become more successful, because economic success in the United States continues to be proof that a person is worthy.  This is one of the chief attractions of Donald Trump. The single fact that he is "rich" has been enough for many people to support him. 

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