The other day I got to thinking about political revolutions, especially about the “successful” ones, and a few of those that seemed successful for a while. From those that I know of and those I’ve studied, it occurred to me that the vast majority fall into two categories – those countries where the leader of the revolution became a despot, or something similar, and those where the revolution swallowed the early leaders, and more cases than not, where a dictatorship of sorts ensued. Now, of course, neither of these happened in the United States, which is why we tend, I suspect, not to look at revolutions in the terms I’ve laid out. And I’m not counting events in countries where the form of government changed gradually and relatively peacefully as revolutions.
Armed and violent revolutions tend to occur when large percentages of a county’s population are unhappy, angry, and feel that they have little or nothing to lose… and almost usually are fomented and led by those who belong to what might be called the educated-alienated or the marginalized middle class who have personal and/or economic grievances against the existing power structure.
Revolutions tend to fail when not enough people feel that disenfranchised and/or when the government has an overwhelming monopoly on force – and when the soldiers who constitute that force are loyal to the regime.
Some historians make a distinction between movements that seek to change who rules and those that seek to change the entire way in which a country is ruled, which might suggest that merely replacing a ruler is a coup and changing the governmental structure by force is a revolution.
Is a revolution possible here in the United States, with all the cries for secession, and the increasing acrimony between the two political parties? History has shown that almost all lands with any lasting history suffer either government evolution, revolution, or coups, if not all three. The United States has revolted against British Rule, suffered through a bloody civil war, and seen a gradual but massive change in the structure and power of government… and faith and support of Congress is at an all-time low, combined with a close to all-time low in public confidence in the financial sector. Interestingly enough, faith in the President, while lower than his average ratings, is nowhere near all-time lows for a President.
Is that enough dissatisfaction to spark a rebellion? It’s certainly enough for some people, but I have my doubts if it’s enough, at least so far, to support any massive change in U.S. government, meaning that the deadlocks will have to get worse before anything – constructive or destructive – happens.