I've been thinking about the political divide we're more and more entrenched in and whether it's really the manifestation of a peaceful revolution in process.
This divide didn't just start recently... under Bush II or Obama, although it is during these administrations that it's become more visibly evident in most political respects.
The revolution I'm speaking of, if that's what it is, has it's genisis with the post LBJ administrations. From FDR through LBJ the US made major shifts to a liberal / progressive society... social security & unemployment insurance with it's expansions since FDR, labor rights, civil rights expansions, and medicare / medicaid. The vast majority of the population has benefited tremendously with these changes and are loath to give up even a tiny bit of it when it comes down to brass tacks.
However, commencing with Reagan's administration for sure, and perhaps even a bit earlier, gov't became the so called "problem" and this resonated with the voting population for some reason... and it doesn't matter what the reason was. Labor rights began to be dismantled, financial regulations were relaxed and unenforced, promotion of more state's rights (less federal gov't control) occurred, etc. Rhetoric attacking federal income tax rates were promoted, even though Reagan was forced to increase taxes (he talked the talk but didn't walk the walk).
Over the next three administrations --- Bush I, Clinton, & Bush II, the anti-Federal Gov't ralley continued with increasing financial deregulation, even though Clinton was elected by the democratic party he administered his 2nd term by advancing the wishes of the right wing controlled congress, which were the duely elected representatives of the majority of the people. That the people were increasingly opposed to central gov't power became clearly evident with Bush II's election to his first term. That administration undertook to further deregulate the financial institutions, reduce enforcement of existing law, promote warfare, and slash taxes for the rich while only modestly for the rest of the population. His effort to privatize social security fell apart and with the advent of the dot-com bust, the population realizing that privitization would be a huge gamble to their future security and hence began seriously to question the right wing's objectives regards their own financial security . He took his 2nd term only by a supreme court decision, but his opponent, Gore, didn't garner all that much more in the way of popular vote anyway.... so if anything the U.S. population hadn't been seriously enough dissatisfied with Bush II's policy's to overwhelmingly replace him with Gore. This was far more evident in the congressional elections... with the right wing retaining power in both houses.
By near the mid-term elections though it was clear that the voting public was dissolutioned with Bush II's false premises for taking us to war, his management of internal affairs (Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath among other things), and so, in retaliation they brought the democrats back to control both houses of congress. As the Bush II debaucles unfolded and the democratic candidates to replace him made head-way by debunking the myths created by his past policies, and with"old" McCain the alternative to the Democrats, Obama took the election by storm.
Obama was able to create a credible anticipation of change of gov't policy which resonated with the youth vote most especially, turning them out in huge numbers to vote democratically. His candicacy also caused far greater numbers of the black and hispanic vote to turn out ... which consituancy's normally vote democratic anyway, but the larger turn-outs increased the probability of democratic wins. The hold-outs though were the over 60 white males... nation-wide, indicating that while the youth and minority vote were inspired by Obama, the standard U.S. main-stream non-youth adult males were not at all enthralled by him.
Despite the democrats having "technical" full control of both houses and the administration, among the democrats in congress were a large enough contingent of the so called "blue dog" democrats to oppose any major progressive / liberal initiatives along with the minority right wing. In effect the blue dog democrats were right leaning both socially and fiscally, hence opposing the left and progressive dominated democrats and it's leadership. They were elected under the democratic party banner but this only says that their constituants only opposed the much further right wing candidates in their districts... either because they had backed Bush II's policies unapologetically or because of a general back-lash against the further right.
If you count the blue dogs as part of the right instead as part of the progressive democrats, then congress wasn't so overwhelmingly shifted to the left compared to it's make-up before the mid-term elections under Bush II's 2nd term. As Obama's administration unfolded it became more apparent that much of his progressive rhetoric during the election campaign wasn't being delivered upon... at least not in the forms anticipated by the large youth and progressive constitutants that elected him. Much of that was due to the fact that the ability of congress to pass the kinds of legislation the progressive wing would have preferred was significantly stymied by the center-right blue dog's which sided for the most part with the minority party in both house and senate.
With the clear impact of the housing crises having hit the entire population, erasing 401k's, clearing out jobs in huge numbers, and paying wall street to recover when that segment of the economic community had created the crises in the first place, the mid-term elections brought the right wing with a significant number of members from the tea-party or it's ilk back into a majority in the house... though only reducing the senate's democratic majority. The significant swing back to the right, and far right, in the house stopped cold any further motions of congress toward progressive changes. Obama's progressive rhetoric was now actually no more than just rhetoric as there was no way to pass such legislation through the right wing controlled house.
In real effect the national vote had shut down Obama's progressive / liberal presidency whether or not he was really as progressive as his candidacy's campaign rhetoric had promised or implied. The sole significant survivor of his agenda was the new health care law, and much of this was already taken off the table by Obama's compromises before he even bagan to request his democratic house and senate approve. It was in fact the speaker of the house, Pelosi that negotiated the politics of the house with it's blue-dog opposition to get any remaining semblance of the health care bill passed.
So we see that since and including Reagan's administration, there has been but a brief 2 year span under Obama where any real progressive or liberal agenda could have made further progressive ideals part of the law of the land. ... and this was even hit & miss because there were sufficient "blue dog's" to prevent any overwhelming change... in short the democratic controllled house and senate for those brief 2 years under a democratic administration was actually barely in control... despite the "official" count of "democrats".
Very few of the GOP's or right wing candidates being arrayed against Obama for his 2nd term election are centrists or even center-right in their campaign rehetoric to date. Many are outright on the far right.
Thus, if I take the years since Reagan as a measure of the nation's drift, one would have to say that overall it's been a slow but steady revolution (peaceful) in gov't direction and policy... toward dismanteling much of the progressive social, gov't, and economic fabric created from FDR to LBJ.
The more recent congressional incalcitrance due to digging the ideological heals of both sides in deeper and with the ability of the far right in the house to hold sway over even the center-right GOP moderate wing ... hence obviating any chance at a fair compromise with the democrats at all, makes for ore than just political theater... which is otherwise what it might appear to be.
Does this incalcritrance with a far right ideology as it's foundation portend a further hardening of the revolution against the progressive / liberal form of gov't created until Reagan to a more agressive attack on progressive gov't? Is this another of the revolution's "battle tactics" ... showing its strength and determination to be unbending?
OR is this actually just part of a series of last gasp efforts by the far right to wrest control from and reverse or at least stop the very slow, but ever more progressive liberal form of gov't.
I'm inclined to think its more of a series of last gasp efforts ... putting up a major battlefront to oppose further shifts. The reason I'm inclined to think this is because even though the U.S. makes stilting and slow shifts to the left over time, none of these have been able to be eroded signficantly if at all (the major exception being financial regulations), and most have been advanced in progressive content over time. ... this despite the right wing's vehemence against these progressive policies and continued presence and balance back and forth with control of congress and administrations.
The right wing has made significant progress in dismantling financial regulation and made major changes in tax rate structures to benefit corporations and the economic elite which have both taken a significant toll on the middle class's economic position & the federal gov't's ability to continue to pay for the progressve content created thus far. These successes are in direct opposition to that which is required to continue progressive movements of gov't, but they have thus far been unable to reverse or undo the progressive changes that have occurred.
Public polls over time have continued to show strong majorities and increasingly stronger public opinion majorities to retain and improve the progressive content created thus far... social security, medicare/medicaid being at the fore. The right wing has observed that once a progressive agenda item is enacted and given a chance and thereby proven to be beneficial to the population at large they have scant chance of ever undoing or dismantling it.... directly. Indirectly though they can pursuade the public that taxes are too high, increasing the debt is unsustainable, and hence use the back-door to attempt to limit any further progressive enactments, if not also to begin to reduce the benefits of those already enacted. They know full well that to retain these benefits or improve upon them, and to add to them, will sooner or later eventually require increasing income and other taxes... and they also know that means the public at large will insist that the largest increases in taxes are borne by those with the greatest wealth and incomes before being signifantly increased on the vast majority of residents. This is especially relevant since historically the U.S. income tax was far more progressive than it is today... hence reversion to a more progressive tax has a known history, not to mention the justification of the unwritten, but widely known "fairness" doctrine of taxation.... those having the greatest economic benefits are morally obliged to pay a greater share of their economic wealth to the national interests.
It will be interesting to watch the national interests movements unfold further to determine whether we as a nation, will slowly but surely continue to move to a more progressive form of gov't & society or will we reverse direction in a right wing revolution? Will our sons and daughters recognize what is truely in their own best intersts in the society, or will they be pursuaded that what is in the best interests of the upper 5% of income earners is also their own?
I'm certainly not sure of the answer to that question. But if history is any guide at all, when a real push comes to real shove they will decide to retain that progressive form of gov't they have already obtained and strike for more.
| Politics |