These days events and issues and the nation seem to be sweeping toward some irresistible something that’s bigger than all of us. It feels like river currents rushing toward a waterfall. Have you felt that, too?
History shows us that no status quo lasts forever, no matter how solid and immutable it seems. Sometimes changes are slow and imperceptible, but occasionally some confluence of events breaks the old order apart and sets up a new one almost overnight, or at least within the space of a few years instead of a few decades. Most of the time invasion or insurrection are involved in these changes, but not always. The breakup of the Soviet Union is a prime example of events taking over and forcing change almost overnight without gunfire.
I’m not saying I expect armed revolution or a change in our form of government. I am saying that the political status quo that has prevailed in America for the last few decades is disintegrating rapidly. I suspect the next two or three years will be disorienting for most of us.
Assuming Barack Obama wins the election — it’s looking good, folks, but it ain’t inevitable — I don’t expect a replay of the Clinton years, in which a huge right-wing juggernaut worked relentlessly to destroy the Democratic administration.
Oh, they will try. I fully expect that within two weeks of an Obama inauguration, Tony Blankley will be all over cable television explaining ever so unctuously that the Obama administration has already failed. Hell, he might not even wait until Obama is inaugurated before declaring the Obama administration has already failed.
But Blankley is complaining that other “conservatives” are abandoning the cause, leaving him to fight on alone. His old comrades in arms, like George Will, Peggy Noonan and David Brooks have left the field of battle, he thinks.
In an Obama administration, George Will will still be an insufferable prick, Peggy Noonan will still mistake her psychological projections for insight, and David Brooks will still be an idiot. Some things will not change. What will change, I believe, is that the Right’s ability to dominate the national conversation and overwrite real issues with its phantasmagorical agenda will be much diminished. This will happen not because they’ve changed, but because the political climate of America will have changed.
The powerful Rabid Right is becoming old and shabby and, like, so last decade.
Please let me be clear that I do not expect to wake up on January 21 living in political utopia. I’m a Buddhist, remember; all phenomena are dukkha. And as I said, there will be massive disorientation while the Powers That Be figure out the new rules — indeed, until they begin to notice there are new rules. And there will be disorientation across the political spectrum, not just on the Right. It will take some time yet before Democrats in Congress stop cringing in fear of the vast right-wing conspiracy.
We see disorientation already in the way the McCain campaign evokes a “real” America that looks like the America they thought was out there somewhere, but which they are finding strangely elusive. Rosa Brooks writes,
The GOP code isn’t hard to crack: There’s the America that might vote for Obama (a suspect America populated by people with liberal notions, big-city ways and, no doubt, dark skin), and then there’s the “real” America, where people live in small towns, believe in God and country, and are … well … white. … But with each passing year, the “real” America of GOP mythmaking bears less and less resemblance to the America most Americans live in.
At the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove writes that “the tax argument still works.” He lays out the arguments that he thinks McCain might still employ to pull off a win. Remarkably, these are the same arguments McCain has been employing and which are not working.
Meanwhile, Karl’s masterpiece, his personal Frankenstein monster, is a pariah even in his own party. People still listen to Karl … why, exactly?
The GOP is losing because they are marketing to a demographic that doesn’t exist — America circa 1980-2004. The political shift began with Katrina. It is being accelerated by the financial crisis. We are rushing toward something that is very different from where we have been. My hope is that Barack Obama is the leader he seems to be, and will steer us into a soft landing.
See also: Joe Klein, “Why Barack Obama Is Winning.”