Before Election Day we were urged to “defuse our explosive politics.” Okay, maybe — but they were explosive for a reason. Now that the Democrats have won the House of Representatives, politics is likely to get even more explosive. So now what do we do?
For many decades American politics was essentially a one-party affair.
From 1933 to 1981 the Democrats controlled both houses of congress except for two periods, 1947–1949 and 1953–1955. Republicans were junior partners in the firm and showed respect to their betters.
With the election in 1980 of Ronald Reagan, a serious conservative who wanted to bring serious change to Washington (unlike two previous Republican presidents, Eisenhower and Nixon), politics began to get nasty. They got nastier still after Republicans won the House in 1994. It’s never been the same since. And it isn’t going back.
During all that time, the culture was changing. The Sixties’ civil rights movement was a great moral crusade, but it didn’t by itself change what might be described as the moral tenor of the country, though it may have sown the seeds for some of our present discontent. Bussing and affirmative action took the bloom off the movement, even as the counterculture warriors were changing … the culture.
Exactly why, how, and to what extent is up for debate. The rich got richer, family life declined, divorce became common, illegitimacy became so common it became un-PC to call it illegitimacy, and the culture became coarser (foul popular music and pornography went mainstream). And then what might be called the second sexual revolution hit: the tsunami of identity politics, involving — among other positions — a veritable alphabet of bizarre sexual practices.
Blacks, for reasons yet to be determined, allowed liberal-progressives to hijack their civil rights movement and fly it to Sodom and Gomorrah.
All the while, Hollywood, academia, and the media were pushing left-wing nostrums. Prominent lefties called half of the country “deplorables” and “the dregs of society.”
If you think the penance you are doing now for your sins is not adequate, try reading The New York Times. Article after article, editorial after editorial, op-ed after op-ed, show unrelieved hostility to President Trump, or bizarre pieces on sex, or pieces on bizarre sex (e.g., “Why Sex is not Binary”) that you wouldn’t want your children to read.
In the face of all that, we are to “defuse our explosive politics”?
Well, perhaps we should. But we are not likely to. Ideas matter. They have consequences. And the consequences, when they are negative, are visited on the most vulnerable of our citizens, who are not the people who live in the super zip code gated communities described by Charles Murray and who write for The New York Times.
Charles M. Blow, a columnist for the Times, wrote a column just before the election titled “Liberals, This is War.” In it he claimed that “the founders, a bunch of rich, powerful white men, didn’t want true democracy in this country, and in fact were dreadfully afraid of it. Now, a bunch of rich, powerful white men want to return us to this sensibility, wrapped in a populist ‘follow the Constitution’ rallying cry and disguised as the ultimate form of patriotism.”
Even though the Democrats now have a majority in the House of Representatives, much of what happens politically in the next two years is likely to be managed by the same “bunch of rich, powerful white men” so feared by Blow, suggesting that politics is not likely to get less explosive.
Perhaps the most optimistic scenario for the coming two to four years is the awakening, finally, of individually powerless men and women in the black community to the realization that they’ve been had for decades, by Democrats, the party of segregation for so many years.
It’s easy to hurry past the salient statistic: that black unemployment is the lowest ever. But the meaning is as significant as the results of the civil rights movement. It would be celebrated from New York to San Francisco — if it had occurred under Democratic leadership. But it didn’t.
Yes, the Democrats have won back the House of Representatives, but the music of increasing prosperity in minority communities will be the dirge of the Democratic Party. Our politics is likely to become even more explosive, not less, the fuse having been lighted by Democrats in reaction to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. The conflagration will be great, and the smoke of the Democrats will go up as the smoke of a furnace.
Explosive politics? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Daniel Oliver is Chairman of the Board of the Education and Research Institute and a Director Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was Executive Editor and subsequently Chairman of the Board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review.
Email Daniel Oliver at [email protected].