I don’t think history repeats itself, but it does run in cycles. I’ve been reading about demography’s impact on economics, and have as a result given this some thought. It just seems so common sense to me to start in economics from the most quantifiable (demography, technology & productivity) to the least, but that’s not my main point.
I blogged earlier about how things were going to shift in our current political divide in the US, and after looking at history in the light of history, it gives me confidence to hazard a speculative guess via pattern recognition, or a stab at it thereof. Since the the Civil War, there have been two full political cycles with one party dominating, and are now in the first half of a third.
In each cycle, the ruling party can boast two main achivevements, namely progress in social advancement, and economic reform. In the first cycle, the Rebublicans gained national control at the start of the Civil War, and did not relinquish their grip on it until the Great Depression, basically–a good seventy years at the helm.
When a cycle starts, it always starts with reform, and enfranchisement of the ruling group’s followers, who, in the case of the early Republicans, was the rising tide of Western settlers. The Party of Lincoln brought us the 13th Amendment, which, though it is thought of as in moral terms, was also economic. In one fell swoop, it did a lot to even the playing field, making the country both socially–and economically–modern, knocking down the Southern aristocracy in the process.
Well, now we come to the cycle’s midpoint, And what happens around this time? The lifting of the Gold Standard, and the Progressive Movement. By now, the Western settlers had pretty much settled down to farming, and their agrarian needs were served via this increase currency flexibility. Around this time you also had the Suffragettes, increased voting rights, and cultural shifts that put the first half of the cycle to shame.
By then, though the forces of Western Expansion that brought the GOP to power had petered out, and ended as it started–in a crisis, started by a crash. Urbanizing forces had been on the rise for a while, now, but the New Deal brought them, and the Democrats, to the fore, passing a whole raft of legislation with them, as is typical of a fresh cycle’s beginnings. Their focus was enfranchising the unionized, working underclass, largely immigrant, and bring them into the system.
The New Deal’s aspirations may have been dandy, but they saddled us with the welfare state, directly leading to resentment that has helped fuel our succeeding cycle. Despite losing their grip briefly following World War II, they sailed on to the cycle’s midpoint, with more reforms, more enfranchisement (I use this term loosely), and of of course, the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Also, like the previous cycle, this one’s second half brought far more socio-cultural shifts than its first half, dominated as it was by depression, a world war, and McCarthy. Second half was also dominated by the blight of hangover in the form of crime, inflation (a lot of folks say it’s nigh-inevitable when a whole lotta folks enter the workforce, as happened with the Baby Boom), and let’s not even sart about Vietnam’s aftermath.
More-conservative uburbaners, tired of their cosmopolitan urban elites who kept on catering their decaying union base, revolted, and in 1994, thirty years after the liberals’ greatest achievement, they revolted, engendering a new cycle in the process. This third cycle came with the typical wave of reforms, but was not as extreme as its predecessors, which rose to vogue in the face of real crisis, and most of the reforms didn’t get enacted.
Also, white suburbanites are already ostensibly quite elected, but that’s not how conservatives, if their behavior’s any indicator, is there? Beyond that, despite the conservative swing the enfranchisement momentum that predominated the first two cycles has continued in the pursuit to marry the same gender, but I think it’s running out of steam, and liberals have yet to accept this fact.
Misreading statistics like Obama did to justify feminism in his State of the Union is just what conservatives are all about, and the sooner liberals start appreciating this, the sooner they’ll start to de-energize their foes, but this they don’t get. Enfranchisement has limits, and if that point were ever accepted by liberals, I can’t see how their wouldn’t be cultural ramifications.
No, it wouldn’t be a return to the fifties, but it wouldn’t be quite as secular, either, a place where being PC and the push for “Xmas” has ebbed. Liberals don’t want this, and as a result push back, obligiging conservatives to return the favor. And thus the pressure grows, fueling a culture war that will eiter climax this decade, or in the 2060’s.
Given we’re approaching this cycle’s halfway point in 2024 presuming this be a sixty-year run, I think I know what the midcycle achievement will be, and that’s the reform of the welfare state. It’s been long said that it can’t be sustained, but until now it has, yet we’ve barely waded into the pool of bad demographics. We’ll soon be in over our heads, though, and that should trigger some action.
Well, there be my conjectures, folks. May be wrong, or right, but I dunno. If you want t tell me I’m up a creek, and explain why, though, I’d love to hear from you–ego deflation’s good for the soul, as is debate.