Thursday, October 13, 2016

October 13, 2016--Shaken, Not Stirred

A savvy friend and I have been engaged in an email back-and-forth about the possible need to "shake up the system" as a precursor to improving the government and Americans' quality of life.

I have been arguing that the desire to shake things up is what is motivating many to support Trump. She agrees that this may be true but the list of things that they want to shake up is regressive, misogynist, xenophobic, and often racist. She claims that the things that appeal to them include--
Law and order
Overturning Roe v Wade
Stoping Immigration
Stoping the War On Coal
Overturning Obamacare
Stoping terrorism
Bringing back manufacturing
I don't disagree with her list but I have also been attempting to make the case that though we abhor Trump's and his followers' agenda, it exists; like-it-or-not, it appeals to tens of millions; and for people who are fed up with the way things are working, the "system," their frustration and anger need to be understood and, here's where we do disagree, they may be ahead of us in reacting to the underlying causes of the deep discontent seen to be pervasive, including, among progressives. They also may be quicker than we to call for fundamental change, not just a spate of new government initiatives.

Liberals have their own list and thus among us there are frustrations but of a different sort, with different policies and outcomes. My friend made a list of these as well--
Fixing our crumbling infrastructure
Support equal pay
Fixing the broken education system
Fixing Obamacare
Make college affordable
Stoping terrorism
Creating programs to train/retain workers
We call for a lot of "fixing," Trump's people for a lot of "stoping" and "overturning."

One of her emails concludes--
The people I know want to wait until there are more responsible people (on both sides) who have the vision to make real change and are willing to compromise and respond to the realities of the 21st century. [My italics]
This is as good a summary of the liberal perspective as I've seen. Reasonable, mature, realpolitik, optimistic about human perfectibility, visionary, with a significant role for government to ameliorate differences, inequality, and selfishness.

The subject line on this email was the witty--Shaken, Not Stirred.

I responded--
From many, many  conversations over years with folks across the full spectrum of political views (from very progressive to far right) there appears to be at least one thing they share in common--to accomplish any of the goals you list is the need to shake things up. 
That has to happen before any of the good things you list have any realistic chance of happening. That list has been around for many years during Democratic as well as Republican administrations and still the roads collapse and the schools fail. 
What shaking things up specifically and realistically means is not clearly or persuasively articulated by anyone (very much including Bernie). 
For me, that's the heart of the problem--how to bring about the conditions essential to any large scale systemic alteration of the opportunity structure, economic policy, military as well as education reform, to cite just a couple of daunting but essential examples. 
And to me here's the irony--many on the right are most vociferous in regard to calling for shaking up but in truth have have only a retro-agenda--to stop doing some things and repeal others. Doing nothing, as the Tea Party folks understand, gets that nihilistic agenda accomplished.  
Since those on the left do have a proactive agenda one would think we would have the greater stake in wanting to bring about the conditions that precede real change. But what we have been calling for is largely program and project driven (thus Hillary has "plans"). There is no credible "radical" left left. And we desperately need that to shake things up in a positive way and help rescue us from incrementalism. 
We ended our exchange before I could mention one more thing about the preconditions needed to bring about more than emulative change--crisis.

There are many global examples but I would have mentioned just a few from our own history--

The First World War lured us from our national isolation and forced us to become players in the larger world.

The Great Depression led to the transformative social legislation that still protects our most vulnerable citizens.

The GI Bill that derived from World War II led to the beginning of what some at the time referred to as the American Century.

John Kennedy's assassination fueled the War on Poverty and Civil Rights legislation that help bring about social justice and economic security for the most forgotten and maltreated Americans.

Is there anything equivalent looming? Is a crisis essential to any hope for far-reaching fundamental change?

There's more to be said. I hope my friend will help me find more to say which I will pass along.

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