Summary: This is a picture of modern America politics, a summary of my scores of posts describing how both Left and Right have turned against us. We can still regain control, but the clock is running.
“… the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
— George Washington’s First Inaugural Address (1789).
I get news feeds from major media sources: WaPo, WSJ, NYT, LAT, and Slate. They tend to have several dozen articles and op-eds about the same two or three stories (e.g., Trump’s use of the N-word, described in Omarosa Manigault Newman’s new book Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House). Hence my long series about life on the info superhighway: we’re ignorant because we read the news. The endless fluff conceals the massive changes being made to America.
The big news is that both Left and Right have become explicitly our foes. Too terrifying for headlines, journalists instead concentrate on small news. It is as if in 1939 the headlines were about FDR’s mistress, not the Nazi and Japanese aggressions.
The Right continues its decades-long roll-back of the New Deal regulatory and welfare state. They are crushing unions, slashing environmental and workplace regulations, and cutting the safety net. Wrecking the Federal government’s solvency is a key tactic, done by massive tax cuts for the rich — and boosts in the Federal deficit — by Reagan, Bush Jr., and Trump (concealed by GOP attacks on Democrat’s deficits). “It’s all about power and the unassailable might of money.”
The Left is all about hatred of the bourgeois life that has deepened for centuries. Now they want to burn our society down, with little thought (just vague dreams) about what will replace it. Antifa, the events at Washington’s Evergreen State College, the increasingly violent speech suppression programs at colleges, using the government’s power to disrupt gender relations, etc.
In the States, America’s “laboratories of democracy“, we see the programs of Left and Right more clearly.
The Left works to produce “rainbow” societies, with the high levels of violence and low trust commonly found in them. This combines devastatingly with their mismanagement on all levels, turning some of America’s most prosperous cities into basket cases (their efforts to do so to the States they govern will mature with massive bankruptcies in the next two decades). We see the long-term results in the best from Illinois to the Atlantic. California is the testbed of their cutting edge social experiments; its slow disintegration has already begun.
We see the Right experimenting with radical changes in some States. Arizona was an early test bed. See these by Ken Silverstein at Harper’s from 2010: “What’s The Matter With Arizona? A conversation with Senator Rebecca Rios“ and “Tea Party in the Sonora“. Kansas was a second wave experiment, with its massive tax cuts and defunding of key government operations (see the results here and here). This kind of experimentation will work well for the Right if they apply the lessons in the next trials.
Immigration: the event in the center ring
Five decades of public pressure slowly closed our borders, with FDR not only locking the door but expelling a million or so immigrants. Beginning in the 1970s, both Left and Right support open borders. As in Europe, the Right seeks to increase the supply of labor — and so decrease its cost (as tech companies have with their illegal wage cartel and H-1B1 visas). The Left uses a flood of immigrants to destabilize American culture (so they can rebuild it) and put them in power.
The resulting rapid demographic change — large numbers of low-skill, poorly educated people from radically different societies) has few precedents in a large modern state (e.g., in our complex society, with its extensive welfare systems). Doing so in a period of slow economic growth and accelerating automation (especially of low-skill jobs) poses immense risks.
We are lab rats for both sides. Neither us nor our culture matters to them.
My guess (guess!) is that neither Left nor Right will like the results. I doubt the Right will get either the docile hordes they seek (aka a client – patron system) or the bare bones small-government society with high inequality and low social mobility. I doubt they Left will get either the radical society Social Justice Warriors dream about or the loyal hordes of voters (i.e., following their elite liberal white leaders).
There have been few looking realistically at the likely long-term result of the Right’s program (the Left prefers cartoon versions of the future, such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. A few liberals have begun to ponder the results of their work. For a new example, I recommend reading “The Next Populist Revolution Will Be Latino” by Reihan Salam in September’s The Atlantic — “Democrats are betting on a diversifying electorate to secure their party’s future, but second-generation Latinos won’t willingly accept a deeply unequal society.”
A concluding note
Whatever happens, we are responsible. The Constitution gives us the power to steer America, and therefore responsibility for it future. The machinery bequeathed to us by the Founders remains idle, needing only our work to energize it. But the clock is running against us.