Will MAGA panic subside with an old white man back in the presidency? How American political parties have disintegrated in the past, and the Republican party may now be doing. How Britain has become the dumbest society in the world, because of changes that parallel those in the US.
Washington Post, 10 March, Paul Waldman: Joe Biden is kryptonite to the Republican culture war
Here’s something that hadn’t occurred to me. T****’s MAGA cult has been partly (largely?) a response to the shock and horror of the conservative white establishment to the fact of a Black president and the potential of a female president.
But now we have a boring old white man for president again. So will MAGA panic and alarm subside?
In 2016, Donald Trump seized on those fears to win the presidency. It was not “economic anxiety” that pulled so many White voters toward him, it was cultural anxiety: the feeling that your way of life is receding, that popular culture rejects your values…
When Trump was running against Obama and Hillary Clinton — walking embodiments of cultural change — that was one thing. But when the leader of the Democratic Party is Joe Biden, the whole enterprise of linking that cultural anxiety to policy arguments breaks down.
Biden isn’t just an older White man, though that’s critically important. He’s also someone who was long seen as the very opposite of a liberal cultural crusader, not just moderate on policy but someone who would push against social change.
The New Yorker, 8 March, Jelani Cobb: What Is Happening to the Republicans?, subtitled, In becoming the party of Trump, the G.O.P. confronts the kind of existential crisis that has destroyed American parties in the past.
The article recounts the changes in the Republican party in the mid-20th century (as also told in Ezra Klein’s Why We’re Polarized, summarized here) from the “party of Lincoln” nearly a century before, to the defenders in the South of Jim Crow [now making a come-back through Republican-led voter suppression laws] against civil rights laws of the 1960s.
The G.O.P.’s travails echo a historical pattern. Despite the United States’ reputation as the most stable democracy in the world, most of the political parties born in this country, including major ones, have ceased to exist. The list of those that have collapsed includes, in addition to the Whigs, the Federalists, the Democratic-Republicans, the American Party (also called the Know-Nothings), the Free-Soil Party, the Populist Party, the National Republicans, the Anti-Masonic Party, and three iterations of the Progressive Party. (The Socialist and the Communist Parties also briefly commanded public attention.) What we refer to as the two-party system has collapsed twice before.
Most Americans alive today have lived the Republican and Democratic parties their entire lives. That doesn’t mean it will always be so.
Here’s the most striking piece today. Via a Facebook friend, at a subsite of Medium.
Eudaimonia, 9 March, Umair Haque: How Britain Became the Dumbest Society in the World, subtitled, Britain is Becoming the World’s Newest Failed State.
The essay describes how Britain’s once-vaunted health-care system, public broadcasting network, relationships with Europe and America, were once the envy of the world. No more. What happened?
So what happened to Britain? Nationalism did — it’s selfishness, arrogance, triumphalism. It’s bigotry, prejudice, and racism, too. Britain stopped wanting to be part of the modern world, an equal, a partner, a friend. It wanted to rule the world again. And so now… it isn’t part of the modern world, and it has no one left to rule, either.
Sound familiar? The essay goes on to describe Britain’s response to the 2007 financial crisis.
So which minority did Brits scapegoat for their woes? In America, it was Mexicans and Latinos that Trump scapegoated for the problems of the “real” American. In Britain, incredibly, it was Europeans. What had gentle Europeans ever done to hurt Britain? Nothing at all. In net terms, the EU was one of the biggest investors in Britain, it’s biggest trading partner, a reliable friend. Millions of Brits lived in Europe, and vice versa. What was the problem?
There was no problem. But Brits, by this time, were foolish believers in Big Lies. Austerity is the solution to growing poverty, not the cause of it. Those people are responsible our problems. Hey — all we have to do is “take back control” of our country from them!
The British left was so traumatically stupid that it believed the Big Lies of the right. How amazing is that?
The biggest one of all: nationalism. Nationalism says: “we’re better off on our own. We’re better than them. We should be competitors with everyone, not friends, but adversaries. We’re only in it for ourselves. Our only motivations are greed and self-interest. We are aggressive and cruel and hostile. We put advantage and gain before friendship and community.” But none of that is true. What proves it? The EU does. It’s vastly more successful as a society than Britain or America. The European Miracle — people enjoying the highest living standards in history, in one lifetime — is powerfully real. It proves that nationalism is the biggest lie of all.