Category Archive 'Transatlantic Revolution of 2016'

08 Mar 2017

Whispering in Our Ear a Warning, 2

, ,

Ross Douthat, speaking evidently from the irredentist #NeverTrump Right, points out that merely winning one election is no guarantee of the creation of a durable political movement. Policy success matters, and the American Health Care Act, intended to repeal and replace Obamacare, so far, does not seem to represent any such thing.

After the 1976 election, the Democratic Party seemed to enjoy a commanding position in American politics, with Jimmy Carter ensconced in the White House, a Senate supermajority and an advantage of nearly 150 seats in the House of Representatives. Yet over the next four years the Democrats achieved little of consequence, Carter passed into history as a failure, and Ronald Reagan ushered in a lasting rightward realignment.

I have compared Donald Trump to Carter before, but with the release of the House Republican “replacement” (I use that term loosely) for Obamacare, it’s worth returning to the analogy. It rests, in part, on the work of the political scientist Stephen Skowronek, who argues that certain presidencies are “disjunctive” — straddling a political order passing into history and another one struggling to be born. And “disjunctive” generally means ineffective, because the parties such presidents are leading are likewise trapped between past and future and unable to unify and act.

Carter is Skowronek’s prime disjunctive example, and a variety of writers, including Corey Robin and Dylan Matthews on the left and Reihan Salam on the right, have recently argued that Trump fits the role as well.

Just as Carter sensed that the New Deal-Great Society coalition was no longer viable and campaigned against certain liberal orthodoxies in ’76, so in 2016 Trump offered a vision of the G.O.P. as a nationalist “workers party” in which certain Reaganite pieties would no longer set the terms of conservative debate.

But just as Carter’s mix of proto-New Democrat centrism and old-school liberalism never translated into a workable congressional agenda, Trump’s bridge to a new conservatism will crumble if his party can’t agree on policies that fit his vision.

The health care debate makes this danger particularly clear.

Read the whole thing.

08 Mar 2017

Whispering in Our Ears a Warning


Investiture of Prince Philip, “The Crown,” Netflix TV Series.

Hugo Rifkind (a liberal) at the Spectator takes a different view of the meaning of recent events. What if he’s right?

People talk a lot of rot. Ideas spread, and sometimes they gain common currency despite being simply nonsense. One such idea, now almost universally believed, is that the ‘political class’ is today more estranged from the public at large than ever before. Historically speaking, however, that just can’t be true. Watch The Crown, for God’s sake. Look at that world of wing collars and waistcoats and country houses, and then look at Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing, and tell me this gulf has grown — and I’m sorry, but you’ll just be talking nonsense.

In truth, it is not estrangement which has grown but familiarity, and that familiarity, in good ways as well as bad, has bred contempt. No longer do people look at power and see a tribe wholly different to their own. Rather, they see people exactly like them who appear, through no obvious or evident virtue, to have won a lottery. And so, rather than forgoing control with a forelock–tugging shrug, they take it back, because they can.

For now, granted, I’m not wholly convinced they’re doing anything particularly wise with it. But that’s the process, isn’t it? Momentum, Scottish Nationalism, Brexit, Trump, all that crazy nonsense; these are the baby steps of a truly mass political engagement, brought about by technology that suddenly makes truly mass political engagement possible. Sure, they might not exactly be steps in a great direction, but the printing press also spread pogroms and mass broadcast technology also spread fascism, so thus far perhaps we’re getting off pretty damn lightly.

In the end, if either Trump or Brexit are even half as disastrous as I fear they could be, then perhaps the masses who voted for them will have learned a valuable lesson about the way that (as Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben put it) with great power comes great responsibility. And if they aren’t, as people keep telling me they won’t be, then I suppose we don’t really have anything to worry about anyway. So, chin up and happy Christmas. I’m taking a few days off. Might paint the ceiling.

Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted in the 'Transatlantic Revolution of 2016' Category.

Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark