The Senate has changed the way democracy operates in the United States. Consensus, established by the Founding Fathers as a requirement for a free and united people, has been replaced by majority rule. The traditions which made this one of many have been gradually decaying, so the vote is essentially a formality in many ways.
It is also a fitting way to mark the end of the American Century.
As we celebrate a decade of Barataria, two trends stand out. The first is the three years down followed by seven years up for the economy, a slow transformational recovery which still leaves far too many behind. The second trend is the one which truly made the other one painful, a decade long descent into disunity, indecency, and idiocy.
Job numbers keep coming in strong as 2017 does indeed turn out to be “The Year Everything Changes,” as predicted just over three years ago. The problem with making predictions, however, is that this economic prediction picked up the harsh stench of irony politically. Where the economy gets better the politics only get worse. How can this be?
Barataria theorized some time ago that in the waves of history one is the sine and the other is the cosine. The reasoning is that in hard times people disengage from social progress and focus narrowly on their own families. Things thus fall apart.
It is well understood that the economy performs better during Democratic administrations. However, it is always critical to remember that correlation does not imply causality, as most vividly shown in the story of the Star Spangled Banner. It logically follows that people vote for Democrats when they feel they can be more generous and lift their gaze up from their immediate situation to the world around them.
There is little doubt that this is what is happening now. Any wave function has its time of greatest change at the moment when it crosses the zero-point. Equilibria are always dynamic, situations are always fluid. As surely as 2017 is proving to be the turning point economically, it is the time of the greatest turmoil politically.
One comment Barataria is always loathe to make is that there is anything unique about this particular time and place. Indeed, even this period of great transformation appears to be nothing more than the fifth such Depression in US history – an event which is unusual, but not unique.
The Senate changed that today by undoing 228 years of precedent. We are now in a unique time, in one way less united than we have ever been before.
Where will all of this go from here? We appear to have hit a low point – which is to say no one ever thought it would get this bad politically. That could have been said a few years ago before we fell further, so naturally it follows that it could be worse. You don’t know the bottom until you start to rise again.
But if political and social upheaval is indeed the derivative of economic upheaval, we have reason to believe that it can only get better from here. What is critical is that we insist that this be so, however, since unity, peace, and decency do not flow naturally from a can of Pepsi.
In short, we still live in a democracy and we still get the government we deserve.
Something better than this nonsense will take work. Before that work starts we need goals, which is to say we need a vision of a better world. Leadership is going to be critical to how we work together no matter what happens. A free-market economy has a number of self-correcting mechanisms built into it. The most important is a financial incentive to be a leader and create the new economy to replace the one which failed at the start of this Winter period, circa 2000.
But politics does not self-correct. It needs leaders.
It’s impossible to be sure of anything, of course, but we do know that our nation has been through worse. There has yet to be an Antietam, Gettysburg, or Shiloh to define this period of division. But we can be sure that the way forward will involve the clarity of purpose defined by consensus. That is the real core of the American way and it will be the core of the way forward.
Our entire sense of hope needs to be focused on this being the low point. It is already historic enough.