We’re Still in the Ditch and Can’t Find the Way Out

It just feels like our political reality is that we’re incapable of getting the traction necessary to pull ourselves out of the metaphorical ditch that keeps us from addressing the real issues we need to attack: climate change, inequality, insecurity, student debt, aging infrastructure, institutionalized racism/sexism, etc. The reasons for the ditch are well documented: the Reagan revolution and general policies of deregulation, anti-union activism and voodoo economics started the digging, while the Bush bulldozer of war and tax cuts with a Supreme Court living in the 1800s have kept us from making the changes the majority of the country said we needed in 2006 and 2008.

Bob Kuttner of the American Prospect in Why the 99% Keeps Losing lays out the 7 issues that keep the right and the rich profiting from our politics. I won’t lay out all 7 here, it’s a quick read, but the 7th is a lack of a movement. Which is a duh, of course. The brief Occupy movement was squashed by a media atmosphere that didn’t take it seriously because drum circles disqualify while tri-corner hats with tea bags hanging off them are very, very serious.

The remedies that would restore economic opportunity and security to ordinary Americans are far outside mainstream political conversation, and will not become mainstream until forced onto the agenda by a genuine mass movement. Sometimes that movement gets lucky and finds a rendezvous with a sympathetic national leader.

This has occurred before — in the Roosevelt Revolution of the 1930s and the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s. But without a potent movement on the ground, mainstream electoral politics is likely to remain stuck with remedies too weak either to rouse public imagination and participation, or to provide more than token relief for today’s extreme inequality.

The movement is essential because as RJ Eskow lays out More Evidence That “Centrist” Solutions Can’t Save Us Which should be pretty self-evident because that’s all we’re allowed to have in today’s gridlocked politics and both sides do it media.

We have become a profoundly unequal society. That reality is explored in new detail in a recent study from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). Even more importantly, the INET study shows that it will take a dramatic shift in policy to restore the equilibrium. Unless we can build momentum for a new political agenda, we’ll be divided into a small minority with fabulous wealth and a permanent underclass with few hopes or prospects.

Unfortunately, our mainstream political dialogue shows no sign of adapting to these realities. As the INET study confirms, mainstream Democratic ideas won’t protect us from this dismal future.

It’s hard to see a way out of the maze anytime soon. I have no doubt that 2016 will be a good year for Democrats and (fingers crossed) Hilary will not only win and have a Democratic senate, but adopt some of Elizabeth Warren’s policies. But unless she truly adopts a Rooseveltian desire to change the politics in order to make fundamental change, we’ll be stuck in the cycle of optimism in 2016 to pessimistic 2018 with Republicans continuing to be the obstruction to our getting out of the ditch.

I’ve long been hoping that the GOP will finally have the apocalyptic schism that they deserve breaking them into irreconcilable pieces (the fundamentalist tea party wing and the establishment Wall Street wing) that would allow Democrats to take control while the GOP figures out just how crazy and unresponsive they want to be.

However, given the universal cravenness of the GOP with absolutely everybody willing to go further and further right and never fight for the soul of the party (some might say because it’s soulless) it’s hard to see that schism happening no matter how hard Ted Cruz and Rand Paul drive them cliffward.

And don’t get me started on how little faith we can possibly have in the Democrats other than a few brave souls like Sanders and Warren you can count on one deformed hand.

Maybe the American people will figure out that government is for fixing things and goddamit some shit certainly needs fixing. But I’ve been waiting for that since Saturday Night Live was a groundbreaking new show.

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