Before I get into the main purpose of this post, a quick update on the story that was promised and is still coming. That was the update, actually. I’m working on it. Expect part one on this upcoming Sunday 7/8/18, with one part each week for like four weeks and then a week break, which serves a dual purpose. From your perspective, it lets you catch up with the past few weeks, reread, etc and also lets any new readers catch up. From my perspective, it lets me write the next part. So, that’s the plan. As for the results of the poll, with 100% of the vote, the winner is an Agatha Christie style murder mystery. So look forward to that. And special thanks to the one person who voted in the poll, I do it all for you.
Hegel once wrote “World history is not the ground of happiness. The periods of happiness are empty pages in her”. I think it is a truth universally acknowledged that the times we currently live in are not altogether happy ones. This blog post will utilize an American perspective on American politics, but before I get to that, I want to take a brief world tour and show that, as ever, the world is bigger than America.
We will begin in the United Kingdom. As you may know, there was a vote on that fair isle in June of 2016 in which, by an incredibly narrow margin, England (and therefore the entire United Kingdom) voted to leave the European Union. I don’t want to spend this whole post re-litigating Brexit, but to put it briefly: although England (and Wales, which hardly warrants a mention) voted Leave, the other two countries which make up the United Kingdom, Scotland and Northern Ireland, voted to remain. But as is so often the case, England’s vote is the one that mattered. So as of the writing of this blog post, the UK is hurtling towards a hard exit date of 29 March 2019 with very little plan. Also, let’s face it: Theresa May is not great.
Moving on before I get too off track, let’s look at Germany. The German federal elections of last year were, to put it simply, disastrous from the perspective of the party of longtime Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. For one thing, her party won a measly 33% of the vote, with big wins going to the relatively new Alternative for Germany party which is essentially Germany’s response to the French National Front and far right extremist parties like it across Europe. Just to give you a taste of AfD’s platform, they are against gay marriage and gay adoption, they want to reintroduce conscription in Germany, and they are ‘climate change skeptics’. On top of that, Merkel’s CDU party is unlikely to be able to form another coalition government with the other dominant party, the SPD, and thus be unable to govern at all.
That’s all by way of proving that these are indeed not happy times. But now I’d like to turn to America, and spend some time discussing how our party system could be on the verge of a monumental change. My suggestion is based on two presuppositions: first, the Republican Party is dead, or will be very soon. And two, the Democratic Party is no longer a progressive party. Let’s take those one at a time.
First, the Republican Party is dead. I think if this current national embarrassment of a President has proven anything, it’s that the current Republican elite are more far right than center right. From barely-hidden white supremacy to nationalism that even Hitler would think was a bit extreme, this party is an exercise in extremism. Importantly however, I don’t think the problem is Trump. I mean, yeah, one problem is Trump. But another, bigger problem is that this party, which still laughably proclaims itself one of the two major American political parties, has been like this for, by my estimate, nearly 40 years now. Thirty seven years to be exact. And to save you the googling, that’s when Reagan was first elected President. That’s right, it’s time to talk about Reagan.
Political scientists often speak of the ‘Reagan Revolution’, but I think the term ‘Reagan Revelation’ might be more appropriate. This is because the true damage of the Reagan presidency was, in this wholly unqualified observer’s opinion, a certain celebration of populism. Reagan turned politics into a game of ‘who can appeal the strongest to the emotions?’. And sure, sometimes these are good emotions, like hope and joy and laughter, but all too often these emotions are hard for politicians to get enough political energy out of, so they move to the short-but-powerful emotions: anger, hate, fear. Think of these emotions as newspaper which has been lit. It burns easily, but for how long? This shift is what has allowed such extremism in the modern Republican party.
But the Democratic party is not blameless in this situation. This brings us to my second assertion: that the Democratic party is no longer a progressive party. I often find it helps to think of political parties in America as ‘The Progressive One’ and ‘The Old People One’. This is because, as I see it, a political party’s specific platform can only last about one generation. As a generation ages, it becomes as a whole more conservative. Therefore if young people join a political party when they are young, they will join and shape the more liberal, progressive of the parties available to them. As they age these people tend not to switch parties, instead electing to change the party platform to be more in line with their needs and desires. This is one of the many reasons that a two party system is a terrible idea.
In this specific case, it is the turn of the Republican party to attract all the young progressives and the Democratic party to become the more conservative one for a generation. But this time, something is different. As mentioned previously, the Republican party is tearing itself apart (thanks in part to Reagan and the populist politics he helped to popularize), and so the Republican party no longer is a viable political actor. It can’t be taken seriously. In effect what has happened is America has reduced its political party system yet again from two parties to one. This is bad. But don’t worry, I have a solution.
In my view, a new progressive party must form. Be it an existing one (the Socialist Party of America which has existed for 45 years) or a new one (some sort of Progressive Party, or even take a hint from England and form a Labor Party of America), this new party must be uncompromisingly radical and liberal.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. Here’s a video of a bunch of foreign people telling jokes in their native languages on a British talk show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0iaciZNojY.