20.9.19

DAVID BROOKS ATTEMPTS TO WRITE A KURT SCHLICHTER NOVEL.

Relax, there are no swashbuckling episodes or shoot-em-ups.  There is Elizabeth Warren rubbing Normals the wrong way.
A crisis of legitimacy swept across American politics in the second decade of the 21st century. Many people had the general conviction that the old order was corrupt and incompetent. There was an inchoate desire for some radical transformation. This mood swept the Republican Party in 2016 as Donald Trump eviscerated the G.O.P. establishment and it swept through the Democratic Party in 2020.
That's one way of looking at it.  As is anticipating that Fauxahontas is able to bring a favorable Congress in on her travois.
Warren won convincingly. The Democrats built a bigger majority in the House, and to general surprise, won a slim Senate majority of 52 to 48.

After that election, the Republicans suffered a long, steady decline. Trump was instantly reviled by everyone — he had no loyal defenders. Only 8 percent of young people called themselves conservatives. Republican voters, mostly older, were dying out, and they weren’t making new ones. For the ensuing two decades the party didn’t resonate beyond its white rural base.
Since it's not clear what "conservative" even means these days, and since the Democrat coalition is unstable, reality might not turn out to the advantage of the coastal chattering classes.
The American educated class celebrated the Warren victory with dance-in-the-street euphoria. In staffing her administration, she rejected the experienced Clinton-Obama holdovers and brought in a new cadre from the progressive left.

The euphoria ended when Warren tried to pass her legislative agenda. One by one, her proposals failed in the Senate: Medicare for all, free college, decriminalizing undocumented border crossing, even the wealth tax. Democratic senators from red states, she learned, were still from red states; embracing her agenda would have been suicidal. Warren and her aides didn’t help. Fired by their sense of moral superiority, they were good at condemnation, not coalition-building.
Here's where she doesn't use that moral superiority to issue executive orders and fracture the country.

(There's going to be a longish political science study, some day, on how electing Democrats from red states contributed to a party realignment that redounded to the benefit of Republicans and conservatives.  Expect to see "populist" a lot in that study.)
When the recession of 2021 hit, things got ugly. The failure of two consecutive presidencies had a devastating effect on American morale. It became evident that the nation had three political tendencies — conservative populism, progressive populism and moderate liberalism. None of them could put together a governing majority to get things done.
When is it going to occur to Mr Brooks and the rest of the regulars on the Sunday shows that "failed presidencies" might be desirable? That the states are not operating divisions of the federal government? That devolution, rather than a Split, might be desirable.

In Mr Brooks's scenario, we don't get the Wokesters setting up guillotines.
Before Warren, people thought of liberals and progressives as practically synonymous. After Warren, it was clear they were different, with different agendas and different national narratives.

Moderate liberals had a basic faith in American institutions and thought they just needed reform. They had basic faith in capitalism and the Constitution and revered the classical liberal philosophy embedded in America’s founding. They inherited Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s millennial nationalism, a sense that America has a special destiny as the last best hope of earth.

Progressives had much less faith in American institutions — in capitalism, the Constitution, the founding. They called for more structural change to things like the Supreme Court, the Electoral College and the basic structures of the market. Trump’s victory in 2016 had served for them as proof that racism is the dominant note in American history, that the founding was 1619, not 1776. They were willing to step on procedural liberalism in order to get radical change.
That second paragraph might apply, equally, to constitutional conservatives, whether or not they got on board with Mr Trump, whether they ask for a Republican or a Libertarian ballot in the primary.
With the Republicans powerless and irrelevant, the war within the Democratic Party grew vicious. Progressives detested moderate liberals even more than they did conservatives. The struggle came to a head with another set of Democratic primaries in 2024.

The moderate liberals triumphed easily. It turns out that the immigrant groups, by then a large and organized force in American politics, had not lost faith in the American dream, they had not lost faith in capitalism. They simply wanted more help so they could compete within it.

By 2030, progressive populism burned out as right-wing populism had. The Democrats became the nation’s majority party. This party ran on a one-word platform: unity. After decades of culture, class and demographic warfare, moderate liberals defined America as a universal nation, a pluralistic nation, embracing all and seeking opportunity for all.

In a wildly diverse nation, voters handed power to leaders who were coalition-builders not fighters. The whole tenor of American politics changed.
That's perhaps the optimistic resolution of a fourth turning.

Throw in a regional war either in the Persian Gulf or the subcontinent, or those weather extremes the prophets of doom keep invoking, or a major earthquake in California or a volcanic eruption, and things might not turn out so well.

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