A (somewhat) unified theory to explain modern politics

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, Marian Robinson

It’s hard to wrest meaning out of the madness that we’re seeing these days in American politics, and perhaps it’s foolhardy to even try. After all, if madness had a meaning, it wouldn’t be madness in the first place.

But in the interest of exploration, let me toss a thesis out there and see how it holds up when tested against the evidence:

Take a look at the photo above. A U.S. president is now walking the streets of Havana, Cuba with his family, a sight that would have been all but unthinkable in the lifespan of most Americans and Cubans. It is a change that is long, long overdue, but a change that did not and could not occur earlier because of the immense political inertia that surrounded U.S.-Cuban relations.

Whatever happens next in American-Cuban relations, that spell of inertia has been broken.  Even the trade embargo — first imposed back in 1962 — will end in the next two years as American business presses for the chance to participate in Cuba’s re-emergence.

That transformation offers a reminder that change that is barred from occurring organically and gradually will instead occur suddenly, with a jolt. And we’re seeing a lot of that lately.  We’re witnessing the death throes of Reagan-era, supply-side economic policy and the end of post-Berlin Wall foreign policy; the ongoing battles over gay marriage in Georgia and elsewhere likewise represent the last, bitter skirmishes in a war over social issues whose outcome is already settled. Overall, we are witnessing the end of what you might wrap up under the general title of Boomer politics.

And we’re going to see more.  By now, we should have resolved the fate of 11 million illegal immigrants whom we in effect welcomed here through lax enforcement more than a decade ago, but now can neither deport nor embrace.  A deal to take that issue off the national agenda has been blocked for years by Republicans, many of whom know what the final resolution must be, and Donald Trump is the price that they now have to pay for that mistake.

Likewise, one way or the other, we’re also going to deal with climate change, because a rapidly changing planet will give us no choice. February of 2016 was the most abnormally warm month on record, breaking the record set by January of 2016, which broke the record set in December 2015. Those who preached about a “pause” or even a reversal of the rapid warming trend are now exposed as the charlatans they have always been. We will either address this issue directly, through the reduction of greenhouse gases, or we will resign ourselves to dealing with its profound consequences, and at this late date we will probably be forced to do both.

We also haven’t dealt adequately with the overhang of the 2008 economic collapse or the destabilizing consequences of global trade. The economists are right; free trade produces more wealth. But that statement doesn’t address how the wealth is distributed, ignoring the fact that it showers some with great benefits and inflicts great strain on others, often with no regard to how hard a person works. The post-WWII social and economic compact was based on premises that no longer exist and is in bad need of renegotiation, and that process is going to be painful and require visionary leadership.

In this analysis, Hillary Clinton is the quintessential 20th century politician tentatively dipping her toes into a strange new political environment. That’s why Barack Obama beat her eight years ago; he spoke back then of the “audacity of hope,” and audacity of any kind is simply not in Clinton’s DNA. She would have been vulnerable in this cycle as well had somebody in either party emerged as a more modern alternative, but that didn’t happen. The excitement generated among younger Democrats by a 74-year-old senator from Vermont demonstrates how real that opportunity was, even if Bernie Sanders proved ill-equipped in the end to fully seize it.

Among Republicans, Jeb Bush was the living embodiment of the dying era, a man who should have been in his political prime biologically but was badly out of cycle in historic terms.  Marco Rubio tried to market himself as the voice of “The New American Century,” but when you listened to what that voice was saying, it became apparent that he was merely reiterating the rhetoric and world view of the previous 40 years. There was zero evidence of fresh thought or perspective, no sign that Rubio was doing more than repeating what he believed would earn him the praise of his elders. To use comparisons that are themselves outdated, he wasn’t Elvis or Eminem, he was Pat Boone or Vanilla Ice.

What we have instead on the GOP side is Donald Trump. As you might have noticed, there’s a desperation to his support, an air of “if we don’t stop it now, we never will,” which explains why his support does not waver even when he acts like a total jackass. His theme of “Make America Great Again” reflects a pining to turn back, to return to some half-remembered, half-imagined version of America.

Turning back isn’t an option.  This country can never be great in the way that it used to be; it can and will, however, be great in a new way, and that’s the challenge.

Of course, the primary agent of the social and economic stasis that has inflicted this country, the Republican Party, has become the primary victim now that change pent-up for decades has begun to accelerate. I don’t know what the new Republican Party is going to look like, or even what name it might campaign under. I know only that it cannot be what it was.

As a mark of that change, think back just four years ago, when the Republican candidate for president was cavalierly dividing America into the “47 percent” of moochers pitted against the 53 percent of so-called producers. That talk is now completely absent from the presidential campaign trail. It turns out that you can indeed stand athwart history for a long time yelling “stop”, as William F. Buckley described the role of conservatism.

But eventually, at some point, history stops listening and does what it intended to do all along.

Reader Comments 0

1378 comments
FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Aaawww. Michelle's holding her mother's hand in the photo up top.

Thassoooo sweet! 

lvg
lvg

Response received from esteemed Senator Perdue to my negative job evaluation:


"" Thank you for contacting me about filling the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. I always appreciate the opportunity to hear from my fellow Georgians.

        With the death of Justice Scalia, the balance of our nation's highest court is in serious jeopardy. The selection of the next lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court will impact all Americans for decades to come, and I believe that Justice Scalia must be replaced by someone who will continue his unwavering commitment to upholding our Constitution.           

         President Obama has a record of ruling through executive action and has shown that he is willing to circumvent the Constitution and Congress. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will do everything in my power to ensure that the process to confirm Justice Scalia's replacement does not move forward until we have heard from the American people and a new President is in office.     """



So this  clown thinks submitting a moderate justice for hearings and a vote by the Senate is violating the Constitution and that the people did not speak when they elected Obama twice?

rimsky
rimsky

Bill Clinton slammed the “awful legacy of the last eight years“ on Monday, which Republicans quickly claimed was an attack on President Barack Obama. However, the former president was really talking about Republican obstructionism.///////

The Pubs are grasping for straws.  They know Trump has cooked their goose.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@rimsky

now now, they have their "57 states" talking point, which we'll get to hear about for, oh, probably six, seven years...

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@rimsky He kinda left that open for debate, as to who he was talking about.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@DownInAlbany @rimsky

eh, worst case scenario--which Donnie Pinko and I discussed, yesterday--is that Bill is slipping a bit, mentally, and might not be quite as effective on the stump as he used to be.

More likely, just a dumb, uncharacteristic slip. 

I have no idea what his schedule looks like these days. Might've been the third speech he gave that day, might've been the only one in a week...


Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@ByteMe @rimsky

well duh, and Obama was probably thinking "47", or perhaps he was counting the territories and realized what he said so he threw in the joke about not getting to go to Alaska and Hawaii.

And honest to God, I have heard actual conservatives claiming that Obama was "stupid" and really believed we had 57 states.

I've heard that for years. And years.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@Visual_Cortex And pretty sure there are indeed 57 primaries/caucuses, once you include DC, PR, Guam, etc.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@rimsky Clinton actually did not use Obama's name, he was implying the awful legacy of the GOP and his spokesperson clarified that right after.

But facts get in the way of a good RWNJ meme.

ByteMe
ByteMe

They can believe 6 impossible things before breakfast!

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

See, in Classilib world, the of the big reasons we have acts of Terra is because we don't say the magic words "Islamic Terra" often enough in this country.

Apparently. I might be exaggerating by as much as 3 percent here.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@Visual_Cortex 

If we don't get all terrorized and stuff, then why should the terrorists even bother? 

(... ... ... hmm...)

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

The day that Classilib blames the Olympic bombings, and the abortion clinic bombings, and various right wing acts of terror on Christianity, is the day I stop riding his rear end on his insistence on crying "Islamic terra" at the drop of a hat.

InTheMiddle2
InTheMiddle2

So. How long have you suffered from the Stovkholm syndrome

rimsky
rimsky

Intel's Andy Grove RIP.

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

Gotta hit the road. Be back this afternoon. Be interesting to see what the apologists have in store for us regarding the latest wave of "man caused disasters" by those friendly Muslim folks. 


Could be skeerier though. At least they don't have repent Amarillo and Westboro Baptist over there. Word is that they real skeery. 

rimsky
rimsky

@Doom Classical liberal @rimsky My fee fees are fine.  It just bothers you that you are wrong and I am correct.  

Well moving the goal post is noted.

That is what I se'z so.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Doom Classical liberal

by those friendly Muslim folks. 

Yes, in Classilib-World, it was Islam wot dunnit.

Go on thinking that, and I'll go on calling you out your willful stupidity.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@Doom Classical liberal @Visual_Cortex 

Terrorists did it, Doomy.  You are aware of that. 

Shall we allocate every act of violence to a particular religion?  Skin color? Eye color? 

Is it appropriate to characterize 90% of the criminals in the US as "Christian criminals"?  Myself, I think that would be silly - perhaps we should acknowledge that terrorism is performed by terrorists, and move on from there. 

Unless you want to call it "brown-eyed terrorism"?  I might go for that...

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Turning back isn’t an option.

Tell that to my daughter's boyfriend, a huge Sanders supporter, who, now employed, is complaining about the amount being taken from his paycheck. Though he has his PhD, he's working in a bar and refusing to give up his shifts so that others may benefit.

Human nature "Trumps" ALL!

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@FIGMO2 

Sounds like he made some bad life choices, or he'd be rich.  ;-D

rimsky
rimsky

@Nick_Danger @FIGMO2 She don't liky her daughter's choice of boy friend.  Would be interesting gathering in her house.

PS:  I bet she made a few of the insults up.

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

worth posting again, because it's so dam good - 


My favorite president in my lifetime will be Obama.  He came as himself and leaves as himself, no help from anybody, no debts and is so pure all the Republican assassins in the country can't lay a glove on him. 

lvg
lvg

How the GOP anarchists are making it impossible for our government to function due to hatred of Obama:


"""The refusal by Senate Republicans to consider Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court vacancy has rightly prompted indignation. But it is only the most glaring example of unreasonable intransigence by lawmakers who have turned the process of appointing senior federal officials into a political game.

The nominations of many of the 143 people awaiting confirmation for nonjudicial federal jobs are stalled in the Senate as committee heads and the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, dither and delay. The result is a federal bureaucracy with an ever-growing number of corners subject to paralysis and indecision. 

Take, for instance, the case of Adam Szubin, the Treasury Department lawyer nominated to serve as under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. The under secretary is tasked with enforcing American sanctions against North Korea and Iran and cutting off funding for terrorist groups.

Mr. Szubin, who has served under Republican and Democratic administrations, waited 325 days for a Senate banking committee vote.  Mr. Szubin’s experience is not an isolated case. The banking committee has moved forward only one of nineteenput before it since the beginning of 2015."""


http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/22/opinion/a-partisan-prescription-for-paralysis.


Send the two GOP buffoons who represent Georgia in the Senate a job evaluation today.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@lvg Are you telling me that politicians are playing politics?  In an presidential election year, to boot?  Wow, who ever heard of such?

rimsky
rimsky

You think that the GOP alone made the mess that is Trump.  That is not true. //////

Trump is his own man and pretty smart.  

GOP made the toxic mess which not so smart people bought it.

Trump just tapped into that resentment.

Yes it is the GOP's shortsightedness caused the problem.

modcon
modcon

Jay,


Gay marriage was not the end of social issues.  Now the government wants men to be allowed in the same showers as women and young girls.  Who thinks that is a good idea?  Any man who says he is identifying as a woman can use a woman's shower?


You think that the GOP alone made the mess that is Trump.  That is not true.  The left has had a lot to do with it by pushing an agenda that violates the conscious of many well-meaning people.  I hope you enjoy the new world you are making and the sickness that will grow from it.


It appears the left will get everything they want, but they will be no more happy than they were before.  You will reap what you have sown.

modcon
modcon

@Nick_Danger @modcon


I spend a lot of time looking at how social changes lead countries to decline.  It's not a zero-sum game.


Can you honestly say you would want your young daughter exposed to a man like that?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@modcon @Visual_Cortex @Nick_Danger

I wouldn't have any problem with a transgender person observing the usual public-shower niceties in such a situation, no.

Seriously, how messed up do you have to be to envision skeery scenarios involving "young daughters," anyway?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@modcon @Nick_Danger

I spend a lot of time looking at how social changes lead countries to decline

Is that what they're calling "masturbation" nowadays?

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

@modcon me, I will love the world the millennial kids are creating, and I will be very happy when the neocons are irrelevant. Good Good times.