March 1st, 2008

The end of a Cycle
of American History?

Maybe Reaganism is melting, melting before our eyes in both the political and economic spheres.

(“Neoliberalism” as they call it in Europe …)


– Rush Limbaugh’s comment that if McCain is the nominee it means the end of the GOP reshaped and empowered by the Gipper. The end of the Reagan coalition.

– The Clinton restoration (which I was looking forward to happily enough) falling to Obama’s spirit song. Hillary seems to have been pinned to the mat, fairly and squarely, by association with NAFTA and her vote for the Iraq War.

(It seems to me legitimate but also tragic that she and the femme hopes she represents may get passed over in this way — hoisted in part by the petard of Identity Politics that our familiar neo-feminism, first and foremost, advanced with Academic ploys in the 80s and consciously applied to splinter the traditional American Left constituency. Helping Reaganism take root.

Barbara Jordan, whom Hillary has been admiring aloud in Texas this week, famously and thunderously said no to Identity Politics — “Separatism is not allowed!” — during her (second) keynote address, at the 1992 Democratic convention. “Change: From What to What?”

Our neo-feminism is not a child of the 60s but, rather, a reaction against them — a Special reaction against the Universalism of Marx and Woodstock — which came into the world about the same time as Disco and MTV (the latter which splintered the integral, pansocial rock of the 60s and 70s, a prime medium of the politics of the day, into a thousand sounds and furies signifying nothing ….).

I shrugged with disappointment when Bill Clinton caved in to the megacorps on NAFTA. And was disappointed but not surprised when both NY senators in 2002 (Hillary and Chuck Schumer) gave Bush the blank check on Iraq. Barack’s pressing on these points is the strongest moment in his stump speech. If Hillary now misses her tide because of them, there seems little basis for complaint. Yet each might be defended as sensible tactical concessions to the world Reagan left behind, particularly for a woman aspiring to the White House.

I do see her as the better sort of feminist, a true child of the 60s, a fellow traveller of Barbara Jordan. Her focus on economic justice bespeaks that. A Camille Paglia feminist, one might say, rather than the now typical university fare.)


The deepening credit crunch has people in money-center banks and Congress talking this week about Uncle Sam buying billions worth of homes and/or mortgages to stave off the foreclosure crisis. Unheard of since … FDR and the Home Owners Loan Corporation. Imagine that.

Then add to that my ridiculous idea that price controls on wounded classes of structured finance bonds may be the only way out of the credit crisis, which in the past two weeks has gone broader and deeper, leaving Bernanke nearly weeping this week before Congress.

(As for Paulson … A hopeless bonehead raised on Reaganism. Dinosaur. But he’s not alone. The business world, and the business press, are inhabited entirely by shallow (ie historyless) Free Marketeers. “Capitalism” they chant, as if it still exists …)

In any case: as this crisis swells it becomes increasingly clear there is no market cure for what ails the markets. Laissez Faire is dead, again.


To the point:

Arthur Schlesinger, R.I.P., wrote a famous book called a The Cycles of American History — charting the story by observing regular, quasi-generational (Oedipal?) pendulum swings in political dogma and public opinion.

? Perhaps the reactionary swing that Reagan inaugurated, both nostalgic and fearful, which has polluted my entire adult life (graduated from undergrad in 1982), is about spent?

One can easily lay the Schlesinger idea over Hegel’s spiralling cycles to restore a picture of progress.

Might spell relief.

The End, beautiful friends?

Can you picture what will be?
So limitless and free
Desperately in need
Of some stranger’s hand
In a desperate land

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  1. Federico Antin says:

    For me there’s always a Sword of Damocles over North America’s destiny, we’re always talking about “If”, but finally nothing really deep happens. Would be this time?

    March 1st, 2008 at 12:06 pm

  2. bernthal says:

    I love Hillary too.

    She would be the next president absent Lewinsky. clintonpantsdown.jpg

    Comforting that there is some homeostatic trigger correcting outrages, synthesizing theses.

    If Obama wins the presidency it will be thanks to the real disasters of the Baby Bush years, and those disasters are still with us.

    May God have mercy on more of us.

    March 1st, 2008 at 12:23 pm

  3. ed says:

    “Love …”

    Hard to say.  In any case I think Hillary would make a fine president, and would be a shoe-in in November against any GOPher.  Unless Vince Foster were to rise from the grave.

    Obama sings the song of my spirit. But he remains re policy largely a cipher, and his apparent admiration of Reagan bespeaks a surprising lack of historical and socioeconomic awareness.

    He was a teenager during the Reagantime.  Brainwashed a bit with the rest of his cohort?

    But I like — and find a clue to the cipher in — the way his silky voice turned briefly and uncontrollably to a growl in the Ohio debate the two times he uttered the word “Cheney.”

    I continue to think Barack a riskier bet for the Donkeys than Hillary. The country was ready for a woman president when the campaign season kicked off a year ago. I don’t think it was ready for a black man.

    But ready or not, here he seems to come, beating Hillary with those two bedrock policy points: NAFTA and Iraq. I do think he’s winning fair & square: on the issues not the show.

    I imagine he would face more resistance than she as president, and perhaps spend his first years in chaos, simply trying to stay on his radical feet — precisely the JFK precedent — while articulating in policy proposals his visions of Change. And to the extent here successful, his chances of holding a Donkey Congress in 2010 would likely decline, as the people who own & operate the country dig deep, as they did in 1994, to resist.

    (JFK’s early “radicalness” was simply to say No to the bristling and radical military-industrial complex, which had struggled effectively behind the scenes to defuse Eisenhower’s Crusade for Peace and looked forward throughout the 1960 campaign to new freedoms under a Nixon administration. And then, frustrated, tried to stampede the callow new president in Laos, Cuba and Vietnam. This battle — of a frustrated Cowboy MIC versus a clan of talented and stubborn Yankee intellectuals — as JFK struggled to re-educate himself (quickly discovering, eg, that the “missile gap” was a fiction of MIC publicity), was the essence of JFK’s dangerous first 22 months.)

    But, despite the resistance a President Obama would likely face … Change comes when s–t happens, and we’ve had an unprecedented amount down our throats since November 2000. The future is a mist, but this seems an improvement over the vista post 2004 elections, a spiritual nadir that (I dare hope, Federico) we now seem unlikely to re-test.

    March 3rd, 2008 at 11:15 am

  4. Stockholm Tom says:

    Have to disagree with your post on a few points.

    To begin with, I think Hillary is really wrong for the country at this point. It’s a separate issue that I haven’t liked her since 1991.

    I certainly have concerns about Obama’s experience—if he becomes president, his success will turn, perhaps more than has been the case with most presidents, on his wisdom in choosing the people around him and his ability to delegate. But it’s reasonable to hope that he’d be good at those things.

    I don’t think it’s likely that capitalism is dead. Whether there’s a market solution to present woes depends on how you define “solution.” Would people starving in the streets constitute a solution? There are certainly plenty of closet social Darwinists out there. One thing is sure: change is coming, with or without Obama. And change is almost always associated with pain. There’s going to be plenty of that.

    Otherwise, I enjoy the blog and read it regularly.

    March 3rd, 2008 at 1:45 pm

  5. ed says:

    Well. Fastforward six months and all has come to pass.

    Gee, wish I’d traded my own line …

    Here’s the finance minister of Germany announcing the end of Wall Street and American power as we know it, where all five big brokers have been bought or reduced to Fed-controlled banks.

    September 28th, 2008 at 2:34 am

  6. ed says:

    Here’s a panel from the September to Remember, discussing the End ..

    October 5th, 2008 at 9:20 am

  7. ed says:

    We have truly come to a revolutionary moment.

    The leaders of the free world — at an emergency meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bankers — are talking with grave seriousness about nationalizing the sectors of the global finance system under their respective hands.

    The November election, less than a month away, suddenly seems about whether something like global socialism or global fascism is the future.

    The globality business is rather ominous either way. But here it comes. Sign on the back of a high 18-wheeler: “If your brakes don’t work, smile as you go under.”

    October 11th, 2008 at 3:51 pm

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