Unemployment is at or near record lows. The stock market keeps surging to all-time highs.
By these outward appearances, the economy is purring like a kitten, there is an abundance of jobs to be had and plenty of money to be made. So why are so many Americans at each other’s throats? Why is our country so divided and our politics so polarized?
Underneath those outward appearances lies the more unsettling reality that our society is going through three revolutions at once. That’s bound to create social upheaval and political turmoil.
We are going through an economic revolution driven by the twin forces of globalization and automation and producing staggering income and wealth inequality. We’re simultaneously going through a social revolution where the country’s historically dominant group is fast becoming a political minority, creating intensified racial, ethnic and religious tensions as well as pronounced rural-urban and blue collar-white collar divides. On top of all that, we are also going through an ecological revolution that threatens life on this planet.
The kind of politics needed to solve our biggest problems does not exist. It needs to be created. If we are going to get a handle on any of these mammoth challenges, we had better revolutionize our politics.
We are in the midst of an economic revolution and Republicans say the answer is more tax cuts for the rich, fewer protections for workers and consumers not to mention the environment, and trade wars fought with every protectionist’s weapon of choice—tariffs. Democrats try to stop them.
Republicans respond to the social revolution by insisting we build a wall spanning the nation’s southern border and make Mexico pay for it. Democrats try to stop them.
With an ecological revolution upon us, Republicans gamely claim that the climate crisis is a hoax, that the warming that is undeniably happening is entirely natural. Then they pave the way for more reliance on fossil fuel and more pollution. Democrats try to stop them.
Republicans are playing offense. They say they are conservative, but their actions argue otherwise. Their actions are reactionary. It’s the Democrats who are on defense, trying to keep things the way they’ve been, trying to preserve the status quo and protect longstanding policies and programs from the wrecking ball. Pretty much the dictionary definition of conservative.
So here we are, with one party claiming to be conservative but acting in a retrogressive manner, and another professing to be progressive but behaving conservatively. One wants to go back, the other wants us to stay put. What’s missing in today’s politics with rare exceptions is an imaginative, forward-looking force with both a vision for what the country’s future could look like and genuine faith in America’s potential.
The kind of politics needed to guide us through three simultaneous revolutions does not currently exist. It has to be created.
— Mike McCabe