Friday, June 23, 2017

Crunch Time

For the past 40 years, Republicans have been winning most of our political battles over economic issues, while social issues polarize the country.  Ronald Reagan swept into office in 1980 and eliminated the progressive tax system that was the legacy of the New Deal.  Deregulation began and has continued through Republican and Democratic administrations alike.  Bill Clinton did put through one tax increase, but he also signed a very unfortunate crime bill, cut back welfare, and put Glass-Steagall to rest.  George W. Bush immediately undid Clinton's tax cuts, and then some. Barack Obama's one major triumph, the ACA, looks set to expire over the next few weeks.

The election of Donald Trump, as I have said several times, must be viewed from at least two different perspectives. On the one hand, the election of an often-bankrupt businessman and TV star with little or no real knowledge of public affairs shows up the bankruptcy of our political system and threatens us with unprecedented dangers.  On the other hand, because Trump is a Republican, it gives Congressional Republicans--who in turn are bound hand in foot to extreme conservative contributors led by the Koch brothers--the chance to undo what remains of the New Deal and the Great Society, if not the Progressive Era.  In the Fourth Turning that began sometime in the last decade (in my opinion, in November 2000), the Republicans have generally been able to keep the initiative precisely because they were committed to the death of the old order, while the Democrats felt the country could continue to go in a more liberal direction.  Both sides believe their stances are morally right and their opponents are evil, but the Democrats, it seems to me, have tended even more to believe that LGBT rights, affirmative action, and even safety for illegal immigrants must prevail simply because they are such just causes.  If young men and women still learned any real history in schools and colleges, they would know that justice has never guaranteed victory.

Thus, the mainstream liberal media has been unable to face the scale of the impending Republican triumph.  It remains fixated on the very serious scandals implicating Trump and people around him and the controversies over the investigation of them.  I think those investigations will eventually turn up evidence of long-term financial and political connections between Trump and the Russian government and/or Russian oligarchs, but I do not know that thta could force him out of office.  The media has also pushed the line, from the beginning, that the repeal of the ACA could not go through.  They eagerly seized upon the GOP's problems in the House, only to see Paul Ryan overcome them. Then they assumed that the Senate could not possibly pass the House bill--but the conservative Republicans who drafted the Senate alternative in secret made it, in some respects, even worse.  Equally significant, the four Republican Senators who immediately announced that they would oppose the draft in its current form were conservatives, not moderates.  Their stance will probably keep the final draft from veering leftward, and I predict most of the moderates will be bullied into going along.  If Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins refuse to vote aye, Mike Pence will break the tie and Republicans will break into a huge July 4 celebration.

Yes, the Republicans are making a mockery of the legislative process, holding no hearings, allowing almost no debate, and ignoring (presumably) the warnings of the Congressional Budget office. Yes, they are passing bills that the bulk of the American people oppose.  But they can do it--and they don't care.  They have won all the special House elections that have been held this year, and the Democrats do not appear to have much real traction in red states.  The Democrats are deeply divided among themselves, both between centrists and progressives and between the old and the young.

About 25 years ago Bill Strauss and Neil Howe predicted that their (and my) Boom generation would reshape America during the coming crisis.  What they did not see was that major Boomer politicians are almost all Republicans.  Although the Boom has now given us three Presidents--Clinton, Bush II, and Trump, all born in 1946--the most influential Boomer in American politics, I would argue, is Newt Gingrich, who has fought for more than 30 years for a new vision of America, one that is now coming to pass.  And the Boom did not produce a single Congressional leader of any note within the Democratic Party.  Chuck Schumer, a tool of Wall Street, is the first Boomer to lead the Democrats in either House of Congress.  Nancy Pelosi, a Silent, faced her leadership challenge from Tim Ryan of Ohio, who is from the second half of Generation X.  Another Silent, Bernie Sanders, is now the only real link to the New Deal, and he will be too old to run an effective campaign in 2020.  Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama left the Democratic Party much weaker in Congress than they found it, and both built their careers around contacts with wealthy donors, not strength in the grass roots.

The ACA is only one key Republican initiative.  As Steve Bannon just admitted, many of Trump's cabinet selections were put in place to destroy the agencies they lead--starting with the EPA.  The Trump budget aims to take government money away from key Democratic constituencies.   And I expect some major initiative on immigration designed to remove much larger numbers of illegal immigrants from the US.

A number of my younger friends are convinced that Millennials will not only stop, but reverse, the Republican tide within the next ten years.  For reasons I cannot develop today, I am doubtful.  The Millennials have been infected during their education by the Boomer idea that right must inevitably prevail.  Few of them have been taught the kind of systematic thinking necessary not to only to figure out what the country needs, but how to achieve it.  They also face difficult economic conditions which will keep them focused on their private lives.  Eventually things will swing the other way, but it may take a very long time.

4 comments:

NoOne said...

And that's what makes this an absolutely fascinating period in which to be alive. There are two undeniable facts confronting Republicans: (i) economic inequality is a fact and has been getting worse over the past thirty years, and (ii) anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a fact that if not confronted soon will have major consequences for the planet as a whole. The Republicans deny both these facts in the long run to their peril since reality has a way of raising its head (once in a while). Cast your mind back and recall what happened to Bush II after Katrina. His presidency went into a free fall never to recover. The next decade is going to produce similar shocks but if I'm a betting man (and I made good money predicting Trump), I'd lay good odds on the Republicans having a "come to Jesus" moment (of the non-fundie kind) in the next ten years.

ed boyle said...

One approaches a point where one side is dominant and successful absolutely in their policies and the other side seems fully vanquished. Perhaps Trump's term will see the ideals of progressivism, New Deal, even civil and voting rights destroyed, dismantled. Parallel to this the Democratic party dismantles itself. It is useless to have a 2nd republican party light, pro war, pro wall street but lightly tinged with gay and women's rights(Hillary's 1/2 hour Goldman Sachs speech she justified as men did same and now it was a woman's turn). Why should it be better for the Dems to promote endless wars for military industrial complex to overthrow regimes which violate human rights. The right wing are almost open about it being purely financial interest of oil companies in Middle East or earlier banana growers in Central America who we need to establish friendly dictatorships for instead of social democracies which could have strong unions, anti USA tarrifs, etc. Obviously if both parties compete for campaign funds at troughs of corporations global democracy and middle class America will be systematically destroyed as democracy is against moneyed interests as socialism for the wealthy. Democratic party has become superfluous and must reinvent itself or be replaced. If not then actual democracy is at an end and the constitutional system itself. They buy elections, security state has eliminated rights for all but wealthy with army of lawyers. The Russia witch hunt nonsense is truly a parody of McCarthy that merely shows how far to the right the Dems and so-called liberal media have strayed. ACA is a catastrophe, enshrining extreme corporate controlled health costing for everyone instead of streamlining, controlling, reducing costs as will be necessary sooner than later. Illinois will bankrupt and in same timeline perhaps Italy, etc. due to pensions, bad banks. Domino effect will reveal swamp the system really is globally. I recall old talk of 10, 000 dollar toilet seat in military procurement. Big centralized systems get unwieldy over generations, collapse and start anew. Global bankruptcy is entirely likely, soviet collapse writ large. Reboot with new parties like in france, new young leaders who can perhaps save western nations from encrusted ideologies without being demagogues is needed. Permanent growth unlikely with shrinking demographics and high debt. New ideas of sustainability are needed. High cost clientel politics(private prisons feeding off poverty like Dickens times, pentagon perma wars, etc.) will neccessarily collapse.

samuel glover said...

NoOne --

So in other words, libs/progressives/whatever-we're-calling-them-now can simply keep on exactly as they have been, because Providence will force the whole rest of the world to wake up and see their essential rightness. Sounds like a new variation on that brilliant Dem strategy, "relax, demographics will assure our victory Real Soon Now". That's worked out so well, hasn't it?

"His presidency went into a free fall never to recover." Uh-huh. Bush's legacy endures, horrific as it is. Meanwhile, a mere six months after Hope'n'Change's departure, it's almost as if Obama was never even there. His most prominent policies may be undone before the year is out, and the party that he "led" is now confined to a few coastal enclaves. Otherwise Obama mostly cemented the worst of the Bush policies. Who's in "free fall", again?

Unfortunately, I suspect that your thinking is a lot more representative of Dem expectations than mine. Which means we can expect right-wingers to keep on outplaying them -- with ease! -- for another decade or so.

Bozon said...

Professor
Very interesting post.

I just picked one passage out to comment on below. I hope you will forgive me for posting this longish note here, but it may be of some interest to some readers here, I don't know.
All the best


"The polarization of Whig interpretations of American politics"

"Both sides believe their stances are morally right and their opponents are evil, but the Democrats, it seems to me, have tended even more to believe that LGBT rights, affirmative action, and even safety for illegal immigrants must prevail simply because they are such just causes. If young men and women still learned any real history in schools and colleges, they would know that justice has never guaranteed victory." DK

Good point. Similarly, moral arguments have never guaranteed victory, even combined with judicial arguments: Judgments about being on either 'the right or the wrong side of history' beg the question.

Here is a quote from Butterfield:

"By a curious transference of ideas he, like many other people, has come to confuse the importance which courts of legal justice must hold, and the finality they must have for practical reasons in society, with the most useless and unproductive of all forms of reflection -- the dispensing of moral judgments upon people or upon actions in retrospect." The Whig Interpretation, pb p 108

One must distinguish justice from victory.

Each side believes their political stance morally right and based on the judgment of history.

Let's call them both species of bootstrappings of moral and judicial judgments about the past to once again stand opposed today.