Inflection Point

Fenster writes:

According to The American Prospect the era of red-blue hyper-partisanship has its origins in the mid-90s.  Around that time American elections became significantly “less variable”.

What happened between 1992 and 1996 to make presidential campaigns more stable? For one thing, Americans started voting more predictably on the basis of national party affiliations and doing so for both the presidency and Congress. Starting from the mid-1990s, the presidential popular vote and the national congressional vote have come into close alignment, differing by an average of only 2.9 percent. Earlier, there was some truth to the dictum that “all politics is local,” as Tip O’Neill, the Democratic speaker of the House from 1977 to 1987, famously put it. But today all politics is national, and it has been that way ever since 1994, when Newt Gingrich and the House Republicans swept into power with a national platform, the Contract with America.

But as the nation hunkered down into two sides an odd thing occurred.  While the shelling of respective positions proceeded elites also found things on which to agree.  This from a column by John Ibbotson in Canada’s Globe and Mail:

But we grew impatient. You have to fight Jim Crow, whatever Peoria thinks. Free trade will lift most boats, even if it swamps a few. The environment is too precious, and at too much risk, to go slow. Lower taxes and less red tape will help the economy grow, even if it profits some more than others.

The left wanted social justice, protection for minorities, a cleaner environment. The right wanted lower taxes and trade deals. Despite the rhetoric, each accommodated the other. Republicans left the Democrats’ progressive policies largely intact; Democrats learned to embrace, or at least reluctantly accept, globalization.

I think Ibbotson is right that we are at an inflection point.  Elites will need to find a new way.  After Trump it may well be the deluge.  They always say Roosevelt saved capitalism from itself.  We need a new figure along those lines, and it is probably not someone who is addicted to 3 AM tweets.  But who knows?  Life is lived forward, under conditions of blinding uncertainty.

The best Fenster can do is to recap a brief children’s book poem that he composed for his defunct blog back in the early aughts.  Apologies to Dr. Seuss’s The Foot Book.



Red state
Red state
Blue state

Some states we love
But we hate some too

Red state
Red state
Red state

Poor State
Rich State
Calm State
Bitch State

Dumb State
Smart State
Head State
Heart State

Red State
Blue State
State State State

How many many
States we hate

Hard States
Soft States

Gay States
Straight States

(The Bay State is
A very gay State!)

Daniel Dennett’s
Oh-so-Brights’ State
Here Comes Freakin’
Jesus Christ’s State!

But I surely don’t
How many many
States we hate.

(visitors welcome to continue, or to try their hand at “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.)

 Optional Postscript!

This is not a happy election for me.  As The Donald has tweeted repeatedly on any number of subjects: Sad!

Is there a silver lining?  Well, deferred gratification is a hall mark of maturity and maybe it is less about what happens in November but rather about the fallout, which will be considerable no matter who wins.  Everyone assumes the worst.  Since past activity is the best predictor of future activity, the election may well presage a simple escalation of existing trends.  Blue and red will clash even more while the quieter consensus of globalization and immigration proceeds apace.  The Dems will double down on PC.  The Republicans will purge the unwashed.  And we will be back on the same glide path we’ve been on since the 1990s.

But is this sustainable?  Or did Trump’s buy-low sell-high instincts uncover something that will not go away so easily?

After the election we could be facing a disastrous escalation, and the past behavior of our elites don’t suggest that they are capable of much wisdom or prudence.  But the new landscape does open up new opportunities for leadership–if only people would see them and take action on them.

Here’s a perfect example: Run Unz theorizing on a new grand bargain for immigration. Past grand bargains were stymied–but of course the reason for the blockage was that the bargains were bogus, and left no room for the marginalized voices that have returned this year with a vengeance.  Unz shows how a grand bargain that would accommodate all voices, not just elite voices, is almost comically easy to envision.  Easy to envision but maybe hard to do.  Let’s see what our elites are capable of.

About Fenster

Gainfully employed for thirty years, including as one of those high paid college administrators faculty complain about. Earned Ph.D. late in life and converted to the faculty side. Those damn administrators are ruining everything.
This entry was posted in Personal reflections, Politics and Economics. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Inflection Point

  1. Trimegistus says:

    A bargain is only possible if both sides agree. The Democrats don’t bargain any more, they dictate. Their idea of a compromise is the same as how Churchill described the Munich Agreement:

    “One pound was demanded at pistol’s point. When it was given, two pounds were demanded at the pistol’s point. Finally, the dictator consented to take 1L 17s. 6d. and the rest in promise of good will for the future.”

    This will go on until either America is a bankrupt, tyrannized “failed state” like Venezuela or Cuba — or until there is a violent reaction. By refusing to compromise, the Democrats have made saving the situation peacefully impossible.


    • Fenster says:

      if past is prologue you will be right, and not a good thing.
      sad! sad! sad! that Trump has emerged as the tribune of the people. i have tried to persuade myself that he is not too erratic and that he has actual commitments in line with his tortured rhetoric. that’s not working too well. it is almost certain that it would have taken a bomber to break through on the issues he has broken through on, so that is to be noted. i do hope that the post-november mess will allow for a more prudent spokesman to take up the issues he has surfaced. but it says something that that person is not even on the horizon! and that old habits die hard. i hope you are not correct.


    • plwinkler says:

      On the evening of Obama’s first inauguration, leading Republicans got together in a private meeting to plot a strategy to make sure Obama remained a one-term president by systematically blocking every initiative he put forward.


      • JV says:

        I was gonna say. Obama and the Dems ain’t perfect by a long shot, but to say something like “The Democrats don’t bargain any more” is to miss half the picture.


  2. peterike says:

    Trump is the greatest Presidential candidate since Andrew Jackson. Whether or not he delivers remains to be seen. But since essentially all the major evil in the world is against him, you have to like a guy with enemies like that. They are terrified for a reason.

    But can Trump do what needs to be done without a coup of some kind? He can do a lot with executive power (look how much damage Obama has done with it), but to really break the oligarchs he will have to go out of bounds. I dearly hope he does. But I don’t think he’s even going to win. Too many forces aligned against him. Too much fraud in the system.


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