I have always been a proponent of the pendulum theory. Call me a student of history or just a cockeyed optimist. It always seems that no matter how crazy things get, there occurs a righting moment. That’s a nautical term where the ship can list over only so far. If it goes beyond it, the mighty vessel capsizes. If it holds there is soon a return to equilibrium or and even keel as it were.
Last Saturday morning as I opened the Wall Street Journal’s Review section I was hit right between the eyes by Charles Murray’s discussion of “Trump’s America” which I think was poorly titled. I passed the article on to a few of you stating it was not political and I don’t think it was. It defined an anger and frustration that could have been amped up by either The Donald or Bernie. A frustration that can only be described as an alienation from what has made America great.
Let’s say the American tradition or creed as Murray puts it has been egalitarianism, liberty and individualism. Fair enough. Point being that the middle class doesn’t feel the love and are backing the two outsiders. They feel and its true that over the last few decades that have at best been treading water financially. The old formula of work hard, raise a family and do your best has produced a bitter taste rather than the sweet nectar of accomplishment.
They want to lash out at Wall Street but that is just an address. There is an elite of the media, legal fields, finance and technology that embodies raw power and separation from their lesser brethren. When I was growing up I guess you could say we had money and many of those around us did also. But we never knew it or even more importantly betray any sense of elitism. We were part of the town, church and school in every sense of the word. If you got on a high horse there was mom or dad more than willing to knock you off it.
Egalitarianism was alive and well in Manhasset, NY. You played ball with every ethnic and racial group. Yes, there were plenty of blacks. It seems the affluent, whatever that means, were neat but not gaudy. We lived in nice homes but if I were to go there today I would not describe them as opulent. If people had wealth they did not flaunt it. They wanted to fit in rather than stand out. Their weal was not hidden as much as worn well. Then things changed.
Probably the seeds were sprouting some twenty five years ago. A lot was not enough. Some wanted it all. Everywhere we became driven by ROI. Find the fastest,cheapest way to deliver product and mom and pop did not enter the discussion. This is not a diatribe against capitalism a much as a description of what happened to a whole lot of people as a result. Wealth no longer described a nice lifestyle but a race to have it all and fast. And there were casualties. Those were not bums but nice guys who saw their way of life and dreams shattered. And they are fodder for our opportunistic politicians.
Establishment is not selling. Each party is wringing their hands trying to find the right message but the natives are restless. They are galled and they are impatient. They have been buying the Kool Aid for too long. It no longer slakes their thirst. As we grow larger and larger we have to deal with the masses. Treat people as groups not individuals. Gotta have a rule for this and that and the government becomes stifling rather than empowering.
Add them up and our American creed as we knew it seems to be fraying at the edges if not completely threadbare. We lash out at the immigrants and if we send them all back home everything will be all right again. Really? A lot of these people are more than hard working and resourceful. Family and religion for all it defines are terribly important to them. We started off for the most part as Anglo Protestants. Gradually that morphed into Catholic, Judaeo Christian and yes a melange of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and whatever. Pardon me but I think that is what makes us great….or at least did.
This election cycle as obnoxious as it is becomes defining. There is a considerable part of our populace that are pissed off for one reason or another. I happen to believe that the middle class have a case to make. They are not on the dole as so many of our lower class are. They see the poor as living off the fruit of their efforts and the dependency is not easing. Men don’t work and fewer and fewer are married. Numbers of unwed mothers are soaring and the resources to sustain them are incomprehensible. They have also been outed by the upper class. The rich and famous like things just fine but a lot of what they have has to a large degree been on the back of productivity and cost cutting. Trickle down is exactly working out as planned.
Somebody or some party might figure this out. We can’t have healthcare and free tuition for all. At the same time we can’t be insular and pay lip service to the shills of conservatism. It’s ironic that Nino Scalia died this week. He was a strict wordsmith when it came to the Constitution. It’s not today that set the end lines but what was happening in the 1700’s. The founding fathers laid down the rules and we agreed to live by them. But once again those were based on egalitarianism, liberty and individualism. Do we still believe it?
I am not sure if the ship is going to right itself or if it should? I just hope we put some real thought into our collective cultural future as well as our economic one. I would hope the WSJ and other media outlets would put in as many articles as this one as they do on the IMF, The Middle East, the price of oil and the Fed. That would really be a sea change…and for the better.
Ted The Great
None to speak of.