Neal Gabler, noted author and commenter on public affairs and American culture, has an Op-Ed entitled “Politically Exhausted”.
It’s wrong, he says, to imagine that the American people are “angry” (he might have used “outraged” but that’s a dangerous word for a Correct thinker to use – but let me not get ahead of myself); it’s wrong to mistake “a group of extremists” – the Tea Party persons – for the American people.
What’s really wrong, he says, is that the American people “are not involved, energized, or even angry”.
In fact he says, they are “enervated, afflicted with an overwhelming sense of political exhaustion, dispirited over how wrong things are and uncertain that they ever can be made right. Simply put, they’ve given up.”
At this point I’m thinking that he’s on to something here.
But then – not.
These “futilists” (from ‘futility’, get it?) are, he thinks, “the real radicals”. At least the Tea Party persons are, he says, “optimists” – they still think that something can get done about “the American malaise”; whereas the futilists have pretty much given up.
You may recognize that word “malaise” – it harks back to Jimmy Carter, and a time when, especially for the Dems, everything was coming up roses. At least, compared to now. (When, I would say, all of the predictable baaad consequences – intended or unintended – have finally gotten their act together and created a Perfect Storm of frakkery … but let me not get ahead of myself here.)
He mentions Americans of the good old days: farmers angry at Eastern bankers who held the mortgages on their farms and “progressives” who attacked government corruption and the increasing power of the industrial trusts and “the various political movements of the Great Depression”, and even “the nascent conservative movement of the 1950s [that]was partly fueled by contempt for eastern intellectual elites – a Brahmin class [that] conservatives had felt transferred power from the despised bankers to the despised government”.
It’s always nice to see somebody bring in American history. Since so much of it has involved dead white males and their patriarchal oppressions, it’s refreshing to see somebody with some mainstream creds actually go rummaging around in that old attic (basement?) to see what’s useful.
But then, Gabler precisely does have those mainstream creds, and there’s a hefty conceptual fee for that membership, payable quarterly. So I’d look a little more carefully.
The late 19th century populists, the turn-of-the-century Progressives and Mugwumps, the folks in the Depression who had to live through the consequences of Wilson’s Federal Reserve a scant 15 years later … all of these folks – and even those 1950s “conservatives” who, troglodytes though they were (Gabler infers) for ‘despising government’, at least got involved.
When a writer is bunching together all of these groups – including “1950s conservatives”! – you know he’s after big game; he’s stuffing everything but the kitchen sink into his blunderbuss.
“What was common to those disparate groups”, Gabler says, was “a sense of outrage [there’s the word] that the system was working against them”. This is cheeky: he had led us to think he was going all progressive here, and yet he lets the “outrage” genie out of the bottle.
That’s a doubly dangerous thing. Yes, it might actually get folks to feeling some outrage, although perhaps – and hardly inconceivably – at his own dear ‘progressives’ (those artistes formerly known as ‘liberals’).
Second, it might get folks remembering just how much “outrage” the government (especially when the Dems really had da powah) stoked and then surfed, slathering and shoveling it liberally (as it were) over every white, male, tradition-minded, male-identified, male-enabling man or woman in the country.
Does he really want folks remembering any of that? Or is he so far gone that he can’t imagine anybody actually looking at the Dems (he carefully and shrewdly doesn’t actually use Party references in the piece) for any of Our current frakkulous and frakkulent predicament?
It was the Dems, after all, who showed the Republicans in the 1970s just how a democratic deliberative politics could be successfully undermined, ‘deconstructed’ and kicked to the curb in the name of ‘outrage’, ‘pain’, ‘emergencies’, ‘rights’, ‘liberation’, ‘empowerment’, ‘progress’ and Good Causes generally. And how anybody who had any doubts ‘just didn’t get it’ – you remember all that; you may well have been included on the target lists, as a member of one of the proscribed groups, ‘modern’ Kulaks.
Pay heed, former targets of opprobrium, members of a formerly proscribed Kulak class. You are now being addressed by one of the mainstream’s thinkers – and for the occasion you will be let out into the sunshine and actually addressed by this mainstream apparatchik from the Seat of Power as if you were ‘a person’, perhaps even a Citizen … but don’t let it go to your head.
They’ve gone too far to simply apologize and admit mistakes now. Even if Stalin were to die, my friends … they’ve gone too far now. They’ve done too many things, they’re in too deep. So listen politely. And for God's sake keep the ever-essential straight face.
Nicely, Gabler immediately addresses the very thoughts prompted above: “What was common to these disparate groups was a sense of outrage that the system was working against them, but also a sense that the system could be reformed, even if it took a shock to do so”.
Now read that over a couple of times. Pretend that you’re – oh, say – a Soviet citizen (such as the term applied in that system) reading Pravda or Izvestia. What I think you’ll find is this: a verrrrrry shrewd effort to explain away a lot of very real history. Sleazy attempt – really.
Because neither the 19th century Populists nor the Mugwumps and Progressives of the pre-World War 1 era nor the various Depression era “groups” (the Bonus Army?) ever really set out to “shock” or use “shock”. And none of them ever sought to carry on a sustained attack on the most fundamental thoughts and thought-processes and the most profound beliefs of the entire Citizenry.
No, the “shock” was part of the gleeful and premeditated game-plan of the late-Sixties and early-Seventies Identities, spear-headed by the deconstructing, man-hating, you-just-don’t-get-it, the-Constitution-is-quaint-and-oppressive radical revolutionary elements whom the Dems had decided to embrace (see my immediately previous Post) in order to improve their demographics.
And in the service of which the stifling, deliberation-strangling Political Correctness was imposed with the full force and authority of the political power of the government that the Dems – and later the Republicans – settled for: a government that would collect its votes by pandering to the Identities’ every demand while collecting cash from PACs (invented by the Dems) whereby corporations could make regular payments to pols in return for whatever ‘liberation’ they wanted: favoritism, deregulation, offshoring their jobs … you name it. Not for nothing did one Senator recently say about Capitol Hill that “the banks own this place”.
Shock upon shock upon deconstructive shock, from Left and Right. For almost 40 Biblical years.
THIS is what Gabler is trying to smuggle into your good graces as just another optimistic, can-do, good old-fashioned American political effort to make things better.
It was no such thing.
Indeed, Our present catastrophic situation is precisely the consequence of all that synergy.
And worse, the Dems must be thinking and We should too: what if all those ‘revolutions’ and the agendas and the ideas behind those agendas were just plain wrong?
What if folks start thinking about that?
This is hardly impossible. After all, ‘backlash’ was a handy phrase to cover wayyyy too much: a) there may have been those who simply didn’t like ‘change’ and wanted everything to stay the same and b) there may have been some who really wanted to deliberately keep ‘oppressing’ some folks (or, you have to imagine, most folks). But the (a) group were pretty much within their human rights to be leery of a change and a democratic government and politics can’t simply steamroll them. And the (b) group was probably kind of small, and again the whole purpose of a deliberative democracy’s politics is to persuade such folks.
But then too there were lots of other folks: i) there were those who just thought that the amount of change being demanded really needed to be handled slowly and carefully; ii) there were those who might have objected to the method of simply steamrolling over everybody else in the service of the revolutionary agendas; iii) there were those who may well have objected to the content and consequences of this or that among the many revolutionary agendas and wanted, prudently as well as ‘traditionally’, to hash everything out deliberatively among the whole People. They got steamrolled by the Dems too.
I’m thinking that the Dems in the early 1970s remembered what happened to Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964 when he suddenly waved the ‘E’ word (extremism; as in ‘extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice’) around brazenly. Americans get nervous with Extremism, and Goldwater was wrecked as a candidate forthwith.
And the Dems realized all that a decade or so later and figured (slyly) that the very real extremism of their new embrace of the revolutionary agendas – in the content and in the method – had to be hidden somehow. So Political Correctness arose almost immediately.
And as I’ve mentioned before, in this regard the Dems borrowed from the Goebbels playbook; and actually, when you think of it, Goebby and the Dems were actually trying to do the same thing: run a verrrry bad bunch of ideas by the citizens without truthfully presenting them but rather hiding them in euphemism and misdirection, or by ‘optimistic’ visions of how wonderful everything was going to be, or by stampeding folks with screams of unbridled emotion.
And of course they – like Goebby – weren’t primarily thinking of what was good for their country, but what was good for their Party (although they, like Goebby, had convinced themselves that what was good for their Party was naturally good for their country).
And you can’t really say that those revolutionary ideas have ‘worked’, all these years later. The bad news has been hidden all along, officially anyway, and it’s only now that bad consequences – intended or unintended – are now becoming too obvious to ignore.
And, really, most of these ‘ideas’ would have remained as simply curious and variously interesting ideas, if a little or a lot outré, except that the Dems grabbed them all up in a bunch and deputized them all as national policy and ‘progress’ and ‘rights’ and all the rest. And you can see where that has all led to.
In a way the Beltway elites (taking the entire country with them) now resemble somebody unhinged who jumped off the Empire State Building – sure that s/he could fly. It’s been a great blast, for a hundred stories or so, and any thought that one couldn’t really fly was pooh-poohed since, clearly, one was still airborne.
But now it’s getting to the point where the cracks in the sidewalk down on the street are close enough to see, and … how hide from the baaaad consequences now??? The vigorous flapping of many official arms doesn't seem to be gaining Us any altitude. You see the problem.
It’s also clear to me from looking at Gabler’s sly ploy that the formerly-known-as-liberals know exactly why they’re in trouble now: it’s not just the economy – that disaster is bad enough.
But worse is that it has begun to bring to the surface all the feelings of all the folks whom they have shocked for all these frakkulous decades. People, more than you’d think, have known that the Emperor has had no clothes on for quite a while. But now they’re starting to say it. And lots of others are now being to see it.
And almost 40 years of telling wayyyy too many Americans that they just don’t get it and are troglodytes … that’s a lot of pent-up frustration. There’s an awful lot of water backed up behind that dam.
Nor can they use their favorite ploy: that it’s all just 'backlash'. That’s worked for decades, but it’s too old and too much a part of the old game. And simply using the term reminds too many of too much - those baaaad old days when gleefully tarring most of the citizenry with terms of disdainful opprobrium became the height of elite wisdom.
They could hope to get the ‘conservatives’ to go along with this newest effort – both Parties have now morphed into ‘the Beltway’. But the ‘conservatives’ have been smart enough to jump ship and start going after the ‘liberals-progressives’. And it doesn’t help Gabler & Company’s cause that things pretty much started with the Dems.
And as I have said, Bush and Company merely used 9-11 as an opportunity to extend ‘deconstruction’ into American foreign policy – what was Iraq if not ‘deconstructed’? – and to extend the evisceration of the “quaint” US Constitution into even more fundamental depths.
Rumsfeld mentioned on 9-11 that this was an opportunity to “go massive”; “sweep it all up – things related and things not”.* You may also recall Robert Kagan, in a 1996 article in either ‘Harpers’ or ‘The Atlantic’ gushing manfully about how he interviewed young Majors at the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, bravely and enthusiastically telling him how they were training to “go domestic”.
And 'shock' then blended into the game-plan of the Rightists and Big Money: 'creative destruction' was a 'shock' but it was 'creative' - wheeeeeeee!
Americans today have little confidence in Congress, Gabler notes (only 34% think most Members deserve re-election) and there’s always Obama’s ever-shifting polls.
But Gabler – courageously enough – puts all that aside in favor of the stunning CNN poll results that reveal 60% of Americans “don’t believe that democracy is working”.
He considers this to be a failure of nerve, courage, and pluck on the part of the American people.
This, despite the fact that one of the immovable presumptions of the entire panoply of ‘revolutions’ several long decades ago was that democracy and democratic deliberation toward wide consensus was “too slow” in the face of the ‘outrage’, the ‘oppression’, and the ‘emergency’ (however defined). And that anyway most of the American people ‘just didn’t get it’ so who cared what they thought anyway.
The American People “just didn’t get it” – and the only way they could earn input into their own political system was to cave in to the assorted demands and ‘get it’ – and that until then they would just be a lumpen-herd of oppressive, patriarchal, racist troglodytes who were in desperate need (whether they knew it or not) of the ministrations of the determined and cocksure cadres of ‘progress’ and ‘change’.
Thus the political Parties and the political system turned into ‘the Beltway’ as it is today, an un-diselectable nomenklatura that (Gabler dassn’t observe) bears all too much resemblance to the Soviet Party apparatchiki of the late-1970s: too far into it to back out, queasily aware that nothing was working, and unable to embrace any game-plan except More of the Same. And thus the whole huge rickety wreck shambled along portentously until the sudden end on December 1991, by way of an utterly frakkulous military misadventure in Afghanistan.** Oh, and despite the efforts of a decent guy who bought into the system but figured he could ‘reform’ it and make it work (Gorby, we hardly knew ye! Don’t vorry – be hapski!).
But Gabler is going to blame the American people for getting the idea (loudly trumpeted about and against them for decades by the Beltway and its Identities and their Advocacies) that they – the American people – weren’t worth the paper they were printed on. Which in the event turns out to be true only about the money.
But the American people are indeed disenchanted; and they no longer function as The People, as The American People. And THAT, Gabler goes on to say, is a) their own lazy and uncourageous fault and b) the result of “40 years of the steady, unrelenting drumbeat that government is always the problem and that if you could just sap its strength everything would be OK”.
Well, I hold no brief for any Rightist ranting. But it can hardly be illogical that as the country in the 1970s started to ‘deconstruct’ or be deconstructed, with the full authority of the Beltway behind the process, then anybody with even a modest sense of prudence and political responsibility would want to try to put the brakes on it.
Reagan capitalized on that sense, but of course Beltway politics had already figured out its deal with the Devil (Reagan being a sister-under-the-skin to Tip O’Neill, inventor of the PACS ): the government that would be slowed down (or not) in the matters of culture (a far more politically profound matter than anyone had realized) would also be slowed down in matters of corporate and fiscal regulation.
How else to pander to both Big Pain and Big Money?
And as the industrial base was frittered away (with the acquiescence of the Identities who were looking to de-masculinize and de-white-ify everything in sight) Reagan kept everyone happy with ‘money’ – and America would no longer be a producing nation but a ‘consuming’ one. He borrowed; and by the Gulf War (you may recall) the great US government reported to the world that it would be happy to put up the troops and stuff, but that contributions to offset costs would be gratefully accepted. Toyota, you may also recall, answered the call for cash by sending shiploads of big white SUV’s from Japan to ferry the officers around the sandy highways and byways of Kuwait.
American military personnel being ferried to the front in Japanese trucks – a brave new world it was in 1990!
By the time of the Lesser Bush (to the extent that term of comparison applies among the Bush clan) borrowing was used up so ‘credit’ and ‘bubbles’ were necessary. Not just to keep Big Money happy but because by that point Big Money and Big Military were about the only two ‘industries’ the country had left.
AND folks who didn’t have enough ‘credit’ to keep ‘consuming’ might just start having enough time on their hands to take a deeper look and see what had happened to the country. No wonder Cheney wanted to start building big concentration camps in the middle of the country – and not for ‘aliens’.
And they might start realizing that the America of steady, well-paying jobs upon which you could build a life, a career, and a family has been 'creatively deconstructed' and is never coming back. The borrowed-money and the credit are scams that have now been played out. There's nothing left but reality. Real reality.
The party's over. And what Gabler and the gang now fear is that folks are going to start thinking that the Party's over too.
That's why the wars seem weirdly to never-end and indeed to expand. If the Beltway doesn't go out and start taking stuff from other peoples then there's really nothing left. Al Capone - from wherever he is - can watch the entire government adopt his play-book.
But Gabler snarkily blames “the conservatives”. They kept trying to hobble the government and they have succeeded. That’s it. That’s his explanation as to how government failed and how the American people have become so listless and politically “enervated”. Oh, and he blames the American People - not only troglodyte lumps that 'just don't get it' but cowards as well (though, most slyly, he says nothing about the pandered-unto Identities).
Phooey. Phooey and baloney. Phooey, baloney, and frak.
An end-run was done around the American people 40 years ago by the Dems, the Republicans got in on the act (the PAC money scheme was too much to resist) and the Beltway solidified into the solid-waste hell that it is now.
Gabler does no service by intoning FDR’s 1933 exhortation that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Far too many Americans no longer embrace the (macho?) robustness that characterized those generations that got themselves through the Depression and then went on to win World War 2 a few years later. The American treasure of national resources and industrial infrastructure – and that equally vital treasure of a productive ‘culture’ … all gone, deconstructed and allowed to be broken up and shipped overseas. And the rest of the world is no longer comprised of ‘natives’ or ‘old, decadent former empires’.
And the best the Dems can hope for is that if we just elect a ‘black’ or a ‘woman’ to this or that high-office, or let the lesbians run the military – then America will be ‘better’ and ‘successful’ again. Nobody who remembers that photo of Condi Rice, in pearls and high heels under a flight helmet and inflatable vest, waiting on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln (cruising unhappily just off her liberty port of San Diego in order to provide the backdrop) for ‘her man’ George Bush the Great Pretender to ‘fly’ his aircraft onto the deck, step out in a flight suit, and proclaim Mission Accomplished … nobody not on antidepressants could contemplate that image and not realize that ‘women’ aren’t gonna save anything. (Not that I’m making a plug for the manhood of G.W. Bush).
Far more than militaries famously do, American political elites are pinning their hopes on winning the ‘wars’ they proclaimed decades ago. Ask the French and the Poles how that worked for them in 1939 and 1940.
Gabler is running the latest ‘spin’ play. It’s all the “conservatives’” fault. And the fault of the American People for forming the clear and distinct impression that the Beltway isn't really working for them anymore. Perhaps even that the Beltway - Dems and Republicans bipartisanly together - has given up on democracy. (Which, if you ask me, happened decades ago.)
All I can see is Mussolini trying to evade dismissal and arrest that hot night in August of 1943 in front of the Fascist Grand Council, with the unexpected and unintended consequences of years’ worth of his policies now landing on the beaches of Southern Italy and heading north: I tedeschi sono responsabili da tutto! The Germans are responsible for the whole thing. Yah.
So the Dems want Us to ‘hope’. And they snidely opine that those who are not ‘optimistic’ are somehow existential failures and that We need to ‘man up’ (well, of course, the Dems wouldn’t say that).
We need to be ‘hopeful’ without there being any ground for Hope (there not being any God except a private one, and the government not being on real great terms with Him for reasons of political expediency). We need to be ‘hopeful’ without getting all ‘macho’ or Stoic or trying to master Our emotions so that We can concentrate on meeting the challenge(s). We need to be ‘hopeful’ without really doing any serious calculation as to what very real problems bethump Us and just how difficult Our situation is.
And no ‘let this be Our finest hour’ stuff! Too Churchill (dead white European male) for the Dems and toooo icky a context for the neocons to deploy their favorite totem of toughness.
Hope without toughness. Or character. Or serious thought.
Hope as a spin. Hope as a script device. Hope as a pose. Hope as a good line delivered in just the right light and setting.
For the ongoing soap-opera that America has reely reely become now.
Well, thanks but no thanks, Gabby.
As I’ve been saying for a while: the first challenge facing The People is not to pick the correct (and Correct) ‘elite’ to turn to for rescue. I don’t trust cadres, and haven’t since the days of Stalin and Mao.***
No, this is a crisis first and foremost of Character. Of Maturity. Of a solid and energetic respect for and treasuring of the heritage passed on by the Framers.
It is a struggle that has to waged personally by every individual Citizen, to reclaim that ground of self that enables The People to Ground the government. It is, after all, a government of Them, by Them, and for Them. And in its genuine ethos it is indeed now in danger of perishing from the earth.
Only when every Americans realize – far more profoundly than any cutesy radical feminist mantra – that the personal is indeed the political – the Political – will We ever stand a chance of genuinely “achieving a just and a lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations”.
Is that enough of a rendezvous with destiny for ya?
*Quoted by David Bromwich in his article “Euphemism and American Violence”, ‘The New York Review of Books’, April 3, 2008, p.28.
**Nicely, just a week prior to Gabler, an article was published in the same paper about how ‘Diversity’ has become an industry, but that that it isn’t working and seems to have achieved no measurable results. And that those who make a living off of it claim that it’s unfair to judge their stock-in-trade as a failure since they’ve been working to get it right for 40 years. And that – anyway – it’s a business that works in a realm that is tooooo deeeeeeep for objective and scientific measurement of results. But, of course, was rightly made public law and policy at huge public and private expense and – because it’s so important – cannot really be ‘judged’ or evaluated as to its efficacy or even doubted.
In that regard, recall the darkly marvelous crapulence of the Chief of Staff of the Army, commenting on the recent Fort Hood shootings where a Major – and a psychiatrist! – of Middle Eastern origin went into jihad mode and killed service-members in the base medical facility. It would be a shame, opined His Generalship, if this regrettable but isolated incident were allowed to interrupt the military’s thorough commitment to ‘diversity’.
Although anyone with awareness enough to cross the street to avoid a pit-bull that’s snarling and has foam on its mouth can be forgiven for wondering if the very reason that this long-troubled individual was allowed to remain in the military and even get promoted was that to remove him would be ‘intolerant’, ‘judgmental’, and ‘insensitive’.
And perhaps – after decades of pulling all the wires of their capacity for accurate and effective and decisive ‘judgment’ out of their brains - the most senior military brass are no longer really good at making accurate and effective and decisive judgments about military operations and ‘war’ in general. Which would explain a bunch of things nowadays.
***Mao’s Cultural Revolution in 1966, with the Little Red Book being waved around like paper flags on the Fourth of July, was really his way of getting rid of all the folks who held him responsible for killing untold millions of his countrymen in the great famine of 1957. By the time he got through – by dying and getting out of town 10 years later – he had inspired the young and the idealistic to massacre and deconstruct everyone and everything around them. Everyone who harbored doubts about the Great Helmsman’s irrefutable wisdom; everything like ‘tradition’ and ‘reason’ that could ground an opposition to his destructive policies; any Memory that could stand in witness against what he had truly caused.
I don’t really know what to make of the Dems at this point (and this is most certainly not a plug for the Republicans or to equate that Party and its ‘bases’ with genuine ‘conservatives’).
It seems that the vision and goal – and hardly a Liberal one, in any historical sense of the word – for the past four decades is a) to give everybody (defined as their Identities) enough ‘space’ to be totally autonomous in their private lives, while there would be no mediating public or political common life (where ‘deliberation’ might lead to an awful lot of objections to their radical and extreme impositions).
The ‘government’ would simply attend to its assorted separated Identities, providing for them and expanding downward to fill all the empty space left by the now-gone mediating institutions and by the abandonment of any public expectations of genuine common political participation and a common public political life.
This was a recipe for the Regulatory-Preventive Nanny State – and so it is coming to pass.
The government – under the Dems but later on the Republicans as well – even expanded to somehow include in its list of things to do the provision of “happiness”. Although in Jefferson’s vision, the “pursuit of happiness” would be the task of the people themselves, and the government’s job was to provide minimal services and stay out of the way.
Yes, it became necessary for government to become more involved as the 19th and early 20th centuries saw an increasingly complicated economy, and since – though even classical Liberals didn’t like to mention it – the human capacity for Sin (which almost always involves making one’s own life ‘better’ at the expense of others or with non-bettering consequences for others) could easily take up residence in any human undertaking.
But individual adults – and citizens were expected to be adults, in the sense of conducting and sustaining a responsible self and life rather than in the more youthy point of view that adulthood merely meant you could do lots of stuff you couldn’t do before and nobody could tell you not to – were still seen as the vessels for pursuing happiness.
And for that matter, ‘happiness’ – when looked at with those pre-assumptions, when ‘framed’ like that – is still a pretty serious adult undertaking, that requires a lot of work. Which again, is not the youthy take on the thing.
But once – in the late Sixties and with the 1970s erection of the Identities and their revolutions – the government, claiming it was ‘liberal’, stepped in to be the great provider. And as I said before, it also had to ‘deconstruct’ the deliberative public political life of the nation, and literally assault the most profound ‘framing presumptions’ of American society – a ‘cultural’ campaign which had, though it was not Correct to notice it, hugely Political (and destructive) consequences for the American polity.
The Dems robustly and rabidly presided over the whole thing.
Now, as evidenced in Massachusetts’ recent Senate election, the Dems have seen a blowback (can you say Iraq and Af-Pak wars?).
The Party consensus seems to be that should fall back on its bases – on black and Hispanic minority turn-out – and keep on keeping on.
I hold no brief for keeping minorities in subordinate status.
But I am rather greatly attached to a deliberative public political process as utterly essential to a democratic politics and the health of the American polity.
And if at this stage the objection were raised that an awful lot of ‘stuff’ that has gone on for the past 40 Biblical years would therefore be brought into question, well – that’s what happens when you try to impose a huge and wide and deep series of “shocks” on the nation in the interests of improving your demographics quickly and on the assumption that you can do it without adverse consequences (precisely the mistake then made in the military mis-adventures in the Middle East and the Greater Southwest Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere).
To ‘fall back on their bases’ – now characterizable as almost purely ‘minority’ and still revolutionary (in the not-so-good sense of that term) will reduce the Dems to a Party of Minorities.
And, as I have said, not merely in the sense that the Farmers of the 1890s had less ‘power’ than the corporate industrialists. And I still take it as far more significant than has been widely discussed that ‘women’ (with all respect to the members of that numerous gender) got the vote in 1919 (or 1920 when the States finished ratifying it).
Since then – almost immediately thereafter – We got Prohibition (an unhappy mistake based on the pre-Gilligan assumptions that Mommy knows best and that what would be a good approach in a therapeutic setting can and must therefore be easily translated into a public policy setting). Which appears to be not necessarily so.
And it still seems to me that Gustav LeBon’s 1896 insight that ‘crowds’ are ‘feminine’ – in the sense of emotional, irrational, and prone to exaggerated and thus ‘violent’ swings - seems to have been borne out since the 1960s and 1970s as the burgeoning Nanny State (more formally the Regulatory-Preventive State) began to embrace what Judith Shklar called in the late 1950s and early 1960s “the liberalism of fear”: that ‘fear’ is a useful motivator to get ‘good things’ passed into law (and imposed upon the polity quickly and efficiently).
We are now a Nanny State where Mommy rules by a mixture of promises-of-happiness-provided and fear (requiring Mommy-Nanny’s deeeeeep and ever-increasing involvement in the most intimate personal and even intrapersonal lives of the Citizenry (let’s face it: to forcibly change how a Citizenry ‘frames’ life and life’s meaning is a pretty violent thing for a government to do – as anybody watching Mao’s Cultural Revolution with its cadres of Red Guards, essentially Brown Shirts with Little Red Books, could see).
So to run their same old game-plan, More of the Same, seems to me a non-starter for Dems (and certainly not good for the country).
But this raises an even more serious problem: if the Dems are going to shrink (in vision as well as demographics) into a ‘minority happiness’ Party, then what’s left of a broadly-based two-Party system?
Especially when the Republicans too have become infected with the ‘radical base’ approach to politics.
What happens then? What Party will speak for and represent ‘Americans’ (as opposed to Identities and ‘bases’)?
This country is beginning to remind me of France in the 1930s, in the stunningly impotent last years of the Third Republic.
That can’t be good.
We are not faced with 'invasion' by the 'Germans' - that trope so beloved of neocons and the Bush-Cheney banditti.
We are faced with the consequences of a decades-long, government-sponsored 'deconstruction' of The People, and of individuals as mature. deliberative and deliberate political agents - upon which the entire American Framing vision and its Constitution depends.
And what has usually 'protected' the country from the consequences of its less-wise decisions - that seemingly infinite strength of natural resources and industrial and productive pre-eminence - is gone now.
Which, when added to the 'deconstruction' of The People and of Americans as mature, productive, serious and responsible agents of their own lives and selves as well as of their own politics, simply undermines huge swaths of the nation's ability to face reality around it - and within itself.
Destiny is not knocking; it has the place surrounded and is waiting for an answer.