22 November 2017

Not Giving Up Yet

I’ve made it pretty clear I take a dim view of the prospects for this liberal democracy of ours over the next generation or so.
- Razib Khan 

He's certainly not the only pessimist out there. And there is absolutely reason to feel that way.

In Poland, 60,000 neo-Nazis marched in its streets on its independence day. This dark movement has also made gains in Czechia, Hungary, and France. The U.K. has voted to leave the E.U. Spain's reaction to the Catalan independence is little more than naked brutality. A Nobel peace prize winner who attained political power after decades of repression has launched a campaign of mass rape, genocidal murder and ethnic cleansing directed at one of Burma's ethnic minorities. North Korea has brought us to the brink of a nuclear World War III. There are slave markets again in Libya. Even as ISIS is almost defeated in Iraq and Syria, the movement it represents is thriving and deadly in the African Sahel. Most of the revolutions of the Arab Spring failed and left repressive dictatorships in place in their wake.

In American politics, the madmen have seized control of the asylum. Bizarro world nut cases who are detached from reality and viciously hateful like Donald Trump and Roy Moore win support from the Republican grass roots. The Republican herd chases all manner of policies long proven to be just plain wrong as a matter of empirical evidence and so many of them really are morally deplorable. The NRA's grip on our nation's politics is unshaken by a rising tide of mass murders. Solid science is stubbornly dismissed in policy making, foxes are placed everywhere to guard the hen houses, and the involvement of Russian autocrats in the highest level of the current administration is shocking.

Despite every reason for pessimism, deep down, the hope is still burning. Liberal democracy can't afford to rest on its laurels, but necessity is driving a steely determination to fight back. We know what the promised land looks like and aren't willing to abandon it. We know what works and aren't divorced from reality. We are holding together an incredibly diverse coalition as the right fractures despite its homogeneity.

We aren't winning every battle, but we are winning some elections that have long seemed impossibly out of reach and are winning legislative battles by turning the handful of establishment Republicans who have had enough of this insanity. Saudi Arabia's recklessly bold new crown prince is taking on his nation's religious conservatives knowing that they are holding his country back. The military in Zimbabwe is ousting a dictator. Technology is continuing to develop and it has a liberal bias. Years of judicial appointments are restraining Trump's effort to run roughshod over legal and political norms. The ranks of the secular are growing, while the ranks of the religious, especially white Christians, are waning.

Long before the Civil War, the North was in a dominant position over the South, because the productivity advantage that it developed from water wheels grossly outmatched what the South attempted to gain with slave labor. Something similar is true today. The left may have a slight popular vote majority that gerrymandering and vote suppression can overcome. But, in terms of economic power, the vastly more economically productive blue cities tower over the economically stagnant red rural areas. And, ultimately, the Marxists are right in noticing that economic power usually prevails politically in the end.

They say that it is darkest before dawn. So far, I'm still willing to believe that.

(And, to be clear, I understand that Razib is no liberal. But, he does recognize the virtues of liberal democracy, another thing entirely, as so many on the right these days do not.)

1 comment:

Guy said...


I think that the major determinate of all this is the unequal distribution of economic progress in the last two generations. The lower class has done well, as has the upper class. However the lower middle and middle classes have been intentionally left out. Now they are saying - we want polices that benefit us relative to the upper and lower class. Taxing the upper class is something neither party has shown much appetite for - since all of our elites are by definition members of that class. But I think the right might be willing to pay that price to solidify their grip on the middle class. Many folks on the middle think the lower class has done right well and no longer need special handouts and set-asides. The rest of it - including abortion and LGBT is just theater.