If the center isn’t holding, a new center must be found

1411517215000-AP-US-History-Protest-1“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”

— William Butler Yeats, 1919

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. But as things grow stranger, as the impossible becomes ordinary, I can’t help but think that we are witnessing something historic and transformative, that we are leaving behind an era of political stagnation and have entered a period of outright metamorphosis, passing through something on the way to becoming something else.

Something better? Something worse? I haven’t a clue, but the suspense is so great that I almost want to avert my eyes and binge-watch the whole thing later, after it’s over.

Both major political parties are shaken, threatened, the establishment unable to assert itself. Yeats puts it well: ” … the falcon cannot hear the falconer.” The fact that this discontent has erupted simultaneously in both parties suggests that it has a common source, even if it manifests itself in different ways. In both parties, we get the sense that the old explanations, the old prescriptions, have run their course, but have yet to be replaced by something new. The political verities of the last 50 years have lost their ability to bind or soothe.

And as much as he preens about the stage, Donald Trump is not a cause of that disruption but is merely its symptom, an opportunist rushing to fill a temporary vacuum. He claims to have the answers at a point when everybody else is still uncertain what the real questions might be, and that makes him appealing to some. But he is an empty vessel that echoes loudly.

In some ways, this pervasive sense of pending change is deeply misleading. The truly important changes — technological, economic, demographic –have either already occurred or are so far along as to be irreversible. What we’re witnessing is the panicked attempt by our political system to try to catch up to those changes, to respond in a period of weeks or months to changes that have played out over decades, but that they have refused until now to address.

That reluctance is natural. We know that in times of great change, people have a tendency to grasp ever more firmly to the old, even as it crumbles to dust in their tightly clenched hands. A year ago the dominant political dynasties of our era, represented by Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, were expected to have their respective nominations sewn up by now. Nope. Instead Jeb has been reduced to a figure of ridicule and pathos, and Hillary is stumbling, unable to find firm footing.  Watching Bill Clinton founder on the stage, so oddly out of step, suggests that even the master politician, the famed crowd whisperer, knows not what to make of the world around him.

And it’s not just us Americans of course. After 45 years, the bipolar world of the Cold War, pitting capitalism vs. communism, gave way to a unipolar world of U.S. pre-eminence. After 30 years, that era is now itself giving way to a multipolar world in which power and responsibility are diffused. It’s not that the United States has declined, it’s that centralized power of all sorts, in all fields, has been disrupted. In such a world, even the illusion of control is impossible to sustain.

Islam, for example, is no longer capable of insulating itself against an all-intrusive modernity, and has evolved no mechanism by which it can adapt. China is a giant manchild on the scene, trying to run before it has gained the coordination needed to walk, making a headlong dash toward the future and hoping to get there before its past catches up to it. Europe may have already lost that race and shows signs of knowing it, while the Middle East … the Middle East is a complete and tragic mess.

The Obama administration has been harshly condemned for lacking a coherent policy toward the Middle East, and the criticism is correct. The problem is, nobody can describe what a coherent policy in an incoherent land might look like. That ancient region of cramped ambition and unforgiven resentment gave us the maxim that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but these days even that cynical formulation is too simplistic and naive. We are trying to negotiate between the enemies of our friends’ enemies’ enemy pitted against our friends’ friends’ enemies’ friends, and who gets cast in each role varies depending on the day and situation. Turk vs. Kurd vs. ISIS vs. Iran vs. Saudi vs. Iraqi Shiite vs. Iraqi Sunni vs. Wahhabi vs. Alawite …. the notion of some that the U.S. military is capable of imposing order on all that is nonsense.

Historically, when peace has come to that region, it has been a hard peace imposed by clear winners. It’s an ugly thing to say, but it’s difficult to see how it all gets sorted out absent a tragic, clarifying, purging war in which old accounts are settled in blood, the survivors are all rearranged into temporary new places and the many dead are put into more permanent places of their own.¹ I don’t say that at all lightly, and of course that means of conflict resolution must be avoided if at all possible. I’m just not optimistic that it is.

It doesn’t help matters to know that we were the flame that lit the fuse, just as Osama bin Laden hoped we would be.

Back here at home, Republicans are in a bitter fight over the identity or perhaps even the existence of their party as they know it. They have defined themselves until now by their struggle against change, but there must always come a point when the change that they protest becomes a reality that must be accepted. Understandably, that’s a hard thing to do.

Likewise, Democrats who in recent years have been able to skate by defining themselves in opposition to the rage on the right are finding that suddenly insufficient. New questions require new answers that at the moment they are ill-prepared to provide. Yet somehow, in the next two or three months, both parties are supposed to sort all of that out among themselves before turning, united, to compete in a general election campaign.

So as crazy as it all seems, what we’ve witnessed to date is only the beginning, the prelude. Come November, the American people are likely to face the starkest political choice they have been given in over half a century if not longer, and despite their confusions about who they are, both sides are eager for the defining battle.  Somebody is going to have to win, and somebody is going to have to lose, and this time, I get the sense that the outcome won’t be close. The icejam is going to break.

But like I said, maybe that’s just me.

 

 

——————

¹One major country is absent in that discussion, but its absence is on purpose and deserves explanation.  Given the internal conflicts that have broken out within the Islamic world, Israel — once the central point of contention in Middle East politics — has basically become a side issue in the region. That alone tells you a lot about how quickly the situation has evolved.  

Reader Comments 0

1714 comments
Sara Foster
Sara Foster

Kick the Democrats and Republicans to the curb. Vote 3rd party!!! That's the only way to teach the entrenched politicians a lesson.

James O'Neal
James O'Neal

Doesn't look like your gonna be Voting then....Everyone Should....

Joyce Mitar Morgan
Joyce Mitar Morgan

I don't have a problem, I will not vote for any Demon-crat, or Donald Loud Mouth Trump.

James O'Neal
James O'Neal

Well.....I was thinking nobody but a Fool would Vote Republican.....

Bob Hunt
Bob Hunt

not really.....nobody but a fool would vote Democrat in this election...sorry to offend but thats the truth

James Hamby
James Hamby

Migrate on back to the socialist hell whole you came from

Reginaldo Lima
Reginaldo Lima

migrant citizen of Georgia, this with Hillary Clinton

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

I don' t know how many Downton Abby-ists we have in here, but last night's ep drove home once again just how much more civilized and decent the British brand of Conservative is, compared to our weird version here in the States.


EyeWonder
EyeWonder

@Visual_Cortex

American conservatives have been marginalized to the point that they no longer really exist.  What passes for 'conservatism' today is actually craziness.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@Visual_Cortex Our brand of conservative paranoia and derp has a long and illustrious history.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@EyeWonder There does appear to be a cross between mental illness and just plain old tribalism at work.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@Visual_Cortex   David Cameron's Conservative Party is not the same as Andrew Bonar Law's - not even close to the US version though.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

...what got me thinking about this is how Julian Fellowes handled the story of poor put-upon Molesley. Granted, like so much of DT this outcome was telegraphed way in advance.

Still the scene with the school kids, where he's telling them “You must never think that education is only for special people. Education is for everyone." it was genuinely moving, and I could see it coming from the show's creator's loving heart.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@Visual_Cortex 

Barely related - watched 'The Lady in the Van,' starring Maggie Smith, this weekend, and enjoyed it very much.

Here's_to_Blue
Here's_to_Blue

@Visual_Cortex First of all, I could see many of the cons posting here refusing to watch Downton, thinking it is liberal fluff.  Second, even if they do watch it and did see that episode, I wouldn't be surprised if they took issue with the sentiment that "education is for everyone."  Too touchy-feely, not enough pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, and all that, you know.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

I love the crazy conspiracy theory about how Scalia was murdered because a pillow was found on his head. 

Mastermind assassin breaks in to Scalia's room without leaving a trace - suffocates him with a pillow without there being a sound - leaves murder weapon on top of his head. 

You really can't make this $h1t up.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@PaulinNH Gotta fill your media channel with something, even if it's total BS, just because your readers/listeners/watchers need that hit to keep coming back for more.

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@PaulinNH @Donnie_Pinko 

Gives new meaning to cloak and dagger. 

The real story is surely far less sensational, but unsavory all the same. 

You have a Supreme Court justice, one feted by the media and politicians conservative and liberal, who appears to have died in the embrace of the big money schmoozing that, literally, greased the skids of his jurisprudential practice. 

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

@PaulinNH no you can't. The same bunch that can't believe a 79 year old with a 40 BMI died of a heart attack - believes that 2 billion cars and smokestacks aren't contributing to the CO & CO2 levels.  

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

Well, that didn't take long......

before the ink is dry on the "Religious Freedum" bill, a Telecom company in Atlanta announces it is moving, leaving the state BECAUSE OF THIS LAW.

Said CEO of 373K Communications - "I'm gay, our CFO is gay, we have people from every walk of life here - Musim, Buddhist, atheists, and great Christians working for us. They've never considered not serving anyone, as they've said, that's not the message of Christ. We are not going to tolerate this.."

Well congratulations, Ga Republicans.

On the other hand, I hear Georgia is now "#1 for Running Off Business by Being So F&*(* Stupid" in DERP Magazine!

And let me say this as a retired (Friday) Berkshire Hathaway Financial Analyst - 

If ANYONE tells you the Republican party, particularly these Georgia goobers, is "Duh Party of Business" just slap them, they're FULL OF IT.


ByteMe
ByteMe

@St Simons he-ne-ha All four of them leaving town.  Not exactly a mass movement.  It's when the convention bureau starts reporting cancellations that you'll know who rules the roost.


Congrats on your retirement.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@St Simons he-ne-ha Let's have the NFL and NCAA tell them that they aren't getting all those dollars... that'll focus their minds that maybe the talibaptists aren't entirely in charge here.

breckenridge
breckenridge

Hmm.  Conservapedia is none took taken with Scalia. I"m quite surprised by this.


Justice Scalia was more outspoken off the court than on it, where he was typically silent in the denial of conservative petitions for certiorari, and he often joins liberal colleagues in opinions. Scalia's off-the-court commentary has caused problems for himself, as when pro se litigant Dr. Michael Newdow successfully filed a motion that led to Justice Scalia recusing himself from Newdow's challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Scalia once quipped about himself to the media, "Ah yes, esteemed jurist by day, man about town by night."

 http://www.conservapedia.com/Antonin_Scalia

Paul42
Paul42

@breckenridge

I've made the same point regarding 2nd amendment issues the gun fetish lobby asserts  are undisputed rights, where Scalia indicated quite the opposite.  

ByteMe
ByteMe

Deal is signalling that the "religious liberty" bill is going to get changed in the House.  Which means it then goes back to the Senate.

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

Speaking of that recently departed gangster in a robe, isn't it interesting how quiet the media has kept the issue of just where he was and what he was doing when he died? 

It might indeed be of real relevance in assessing his true character as a justice and in puncturing the absurd shroud of adulation that the media has been conjuring since his death.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@EyeWonder There are less important things to worry about, for sure.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@EyeWonder @Visual_Cortex @Donnie_Pinko 

should be SOP, regardless.

I get your point, but if for no other reasons than, well, if you do these Every Single Time...

1) the terrorists win. Ok, Alex Jones wins. You get the point here; and

2) Kind of a serious waste of public resources, no?

ByteMe
ByteMe

@Donnie_Pinko He was at Poindexter's ranch in Texas with friends.  How hard was that to find out??

EyeWonder
EyeWonder

@ByteMe @EyeWonder

I'm offering an opinion, nothing more. You'd think I was advocating a national movement. Sheesh!

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@EyeWonder @Donnie_Pinko 

How many overweight 79 year olds with a known medical history of problems, dying from more-than-apparent natural causes, have autopsies performed upon them?

I'd imagine the family might have something to say about that.