Some Food For Thought

I came across an OpEd written by David Brooks in the New York Times that I found to be both thoughtful and thought-provoking.  To be sure, Brooks is a conservative, but a far more moderate one than most these days.  He even supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, and is a vocal critic of Donald Trump.  While I don’t agree with everything he says, this is a speculative piece and he makes some valid points about where this nation is today and what path we may take in the next few years.  I think you’ll find it interesting … it certainly gave me some food for thought.

A 2024 Presidential Candidate Who Meets the Moment

By David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

July 14, 2022

I’d like you to consider the possibility that the political changes that have rocked this country over the past six years will be nothing compared with the changes that will rock it over the next six. I’d like you to consider the possibility that we’re in some sort of prerevolutionary period — the kind of moment that often gives birth to something shocking and new.

Look at the conditions all around us:

First, Americans are deeply dissatisfied with the way things are going. Only 13 percent of voters say the country is on the right track, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll published this week.

Second, Americans are deeply dissatisfied with the leaders of both parties. Joe Biden has a 33 percent job approval rating among registered voters. About half of Republican voters want to move on from Donald Trump and find a new presidential candidate for 2024.

Third, inflation is soaring. Throughout history, inflationary periods have often been linked to political instability. As the economist Lionel Robbins wrote about Weimar Germany, inflation “destroyed the wealth of the more solid elements in German society; and it left behind a moral and economic disequilibrium, apt breeding ground for the disasters which have followed.”

Fourth, the generational turnover is coming. The boomer gerontocracy that now dominates power is bound to retire, leaving a vacuum for something new.

Fifth, Americans are detaching from the two political parties. Far more Americans consider themselves independents than consider themselves either Democrats or Republicans, and independents may be growing more distinct. And there’s some research that suggests independents are increasingly not just closeted members of the two main parties but also hold different beliefs, which put them between parties. Sixty-two percent of Americans believe a third party is needed.

Sixth, disgust with the current system is high. A majority of American voters believe that our system of government does not work, and 58 percent believe that our democracy needs major reforms or a complete overhaul. Nearly half of young adult voters believe voting does not affect how the government operates.

If these conditions persist, the 2024 presidential primaries could be wild. Sure, conventional candidates like the Republican Ron DeSantis or the Democrat Gavin Newsom may run for the nominations. But if the hunger for change is as strong as it is now, the climate will favor unconventional outsiders, the further outside the better. These sorts of oddball or unexpected candidates could set off a series of swings and disequilibriums that will make the existing party systems unstable.

Furthermore, if ever there was a moment ripe for a Ross Perot-like third candidate in the 2024 general election, this is that moment. There are efforts underway to prepare the way for a third candidate, and in this environment an outsider, with no ties to the status quo, who runs against the establishment and on the idea that we need to fundamentally fix the system — well, that person could wind up winning the presidency.

These conditions have already shaken up the stereotypes we used to use to think about politics. We used to think of the Democrats as the party of the economically disadvantaged. But college-educated metropolitan voters continue to flock to it and reshape it more and more each year. In the Times/Siena poll of registered voters, white college graduates wanted Democrats to control Congress by 57 to 36 percent. For the first time in the survey’s history, Democrats had a larger share of support among white college graduates than among nonwhite voters. These white voters are often motivated by social policy issues like abortion rights and gun regulation.

The Republicans used to be the party of business, but now they are emerging as a multiracial working-class party. In the Times/Siena poll, Hispanic voters were nearly evenly split about whether they favored Republicans or Democrats in the midterms. That may be overstating how much Hispanics have shifted, but it does seem as if the Republicans are genuinely becoming a working-class white-brown coalition. These voters care about the economy, the economy and the economy.

In other words, we now have an establishment progressive party and an anti-establishment conservative party. This isn’t normal.

If I were a cynical political operative who wanted to construct a presidential candidate perfectly suited for this moment, I’d start by making this candidate culturally conservative. I’d want the candidate to show by dress, speech and style that he or she is not part of the coastal educated establishment. I’d want the candidate to connect with middle- and working-class voters on values and to be full-throatedly patriotic.

Then I’d make the candidate economically center-left. I’d want to fuse the economic anxieties of the working-class Republicans with the economic anxieties of the Bernie Sanders young into one big riled populist package. College debt forgiveness. An aggressive home-building project to bring down prices. Whatever it took.

Then I’d have that candidate deliver one nonpartisan message: Everything is broken. Then he or she would offer a slew of institutional reforms to match the comprehensive institutional reforms the Progressive movement offered more than a century ago.

I guess I’m looking for a sort of modern Theodore Roosevelt. But heck, I don’t know. What’s coming down the pike is probably so unforeseeable that I don’t even have categories for it yet.

28 thoughts on “Some Food For Thought

  1. The conditions are definitely there for a transformational revolution. Lots of dissatisfaction and dissent on both sides and so much conflict. Hopeful the big turning point is one that brings longterm and sustained positive change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right … there is a great deal of angst on both sides. However, there is also a great deal of apathy and that concerns me. Too many people say, “Oh well … it doesn’t matter … it will all work out in the long run just like it always has.” Well no, it hasn’t always. Remember a dude named Adolf Hitler who Trump seems to model himself after? Or Lenin? Mussolini? And more recently … Putin? Erdoğan? Bolsonaro? Orbán? Sigh. Just because we’ve been lucky for over 200 years doesn’t mean it can’t happen here, for it can and almost did. Like you, I hope there is a big turning point that brings a positive outcome, but … I’m not liking what I’m seeing so far. Fingers crossed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The apathy, for sure, is also concerning and the feeling that why bother, when my vote and my voice don’t make a difference. I could see political machines targeting and trying to grow these bases too, because it all serves their greater purpose. I do hope the next generation – and their anger – will help fuel another much needed revolutionary change.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I can definitely understand how easy it is to fall into the trap of believing that one person cannot make a difference. And yet … one person’s voice paired with another and then several more, can maybe … just maybe … make a powerful statement. We have to start somewhere … and silence is not, in my book, an option. There is a quote … ““The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I think that speaks volumes. I would love to come back 100 years from now to see how historians treat this era!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. And, every election, we are, forced to choose between, the bad, the worse, and the, worst, that is how the voting system in the, free world works , and, turning that GUN on our selves, is still NOT, a, viable option either, which is why, a lot of us now, don’t feel, motivated enough to head to the polls and, casting that, ballot, because, what’s the, point???

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ahhh … but that is a dangerous apathy, my friend. Sure, sometimes the choices are between ‘bad’ and ‘only slightly better’, but we cannot give up our voice, we hold our nose and head to the polls to vote for ‘the lesser of two evils’ and start working to hold the winner accountable for his actions, to make it clear what We the People want. If we don’t, if we give up and say “why bother?”, then we lose before we even get to the gate.


  3. Pingback: SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT. | | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  4. Tongue in cheek, maybe what Americans need is a Democratic Dictator, one who has the regular people of America in mind as he or she dictates the changes that are needed to restore an advanced form of social democracy upon the nation — a leader the wealth-owners cannot buy or influence, someone who will take the bull by the horns, hogtie it, and shove its tail down its own throat. (I said tongue-in-cheek, but I really didn’t mean it, I only said that to get you to listen.) Such a person is exactly what is needed to lead America out of its political morass, which is more ass than grass!
    But such a person will never be found in America, because he or she cannot live in America. Americans know something is wrong but their own “democratic republic” beliefs prevent them from opening their minds to seeing what people all over the world can see: hslf of America wants to fix things with modest diplomacy while the other half wants to turn the democracy into a backwsrd-looking oligarchic-headed authoritarianist state. These two systems are unsustainable in head-to-head combat.
    Rules that do not work need to be mended, or thrown out completely. And they need to be replaced simultaneously with a vision that is achievable for all. Right now there is no one vision for America. There is only democracy or republicanism. There is no middle path because the sides are too far apart. Therefore a step needs to be taken in a totally new direction. And it needs to be brand new!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Actually, your concept is a pretty good one! But, as you say, such a person is unlikely to be found in the U.S. or probably anywhere in the world. I think that even those who start with the right ideas, humanitarian ideas, are quickly corrupted by money and power once they enter the political arena. And I agree with your premise that we need a new direction, but … I don’t see it happening soon. Unfortunately, I think things will have to get much worse before we wake up and begin to seriously try to fix them. By then, it may be too late.

      Liked by 2 people

        • But see … if we all have that defeatist notion, then we stop trying (see taurusingemini’s comment) and if we stop trying, then we will never know if we could have made a difference. As the quote that is often attributed to Burke goes … “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,”

          Liked by 1 person

          • I didn’t think I was being defeatist, but I was implying it would be a hekkuva lot easier to do something right now. If the Republicans get back into power, and the Democrats don’t filibuster them into inaction, the citizens of the USA are going to suffer big time.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yeah, it would be, but progress seems to be slow, and some days it seems that for every step forward, we are pushed two steps backward! The citizens of this country are going to have to find ways to let the politicos know that there are consequences for their actions, or inactions, and that We the People will not bend to their will. Easier said than done, though.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Now who is being defeatist? For at least 3 months now I have been saying this is the most important election in the history of the United States. There may be no “future history” if the Dems lose this election, or if the status stays quo. Yet I have heard almost no one agreeing with me about this year being so important to voters. Maybe you don’t believe it is. But the more people say it is, whether they believe it or not (I really do believe it is!), it might make others believe it is too, and get more voters out. I need some help here.
                I’m not going to quit! Is America?

                Liked by 1 person

                • No, not being defeatist, just wondering how we wake people up and show them that yes, this DOES affect them! Too many are wearing blinders, thinking that it’s all just political game-playing and no matter what happens, their petty little lives will go on just as they are today. I wonder how many Germans thought the same way back in 1933?

                  I definitely agree with you about the importance of this upcoming mid-term election! If the Republicans gain a majority in either chamber of Congress, or worse yet in both, anything resembling human rights, women’s rights, civil rights, climate change action, voting rights and more will be dead in the water. The Republicans have “promised” retaliation for every single thing they view as “wrong” including steps to ‘punish’ Nancy Pelosi, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and many more. And frankly, if they do gain a majority, the 2024 election could well be naught but a farce as more and more states install partisans to oversee elections, curtail voting rights, and more. So yeah, I agree with you, my friend, and the key is to wake up the people I mention above, the fools who fall for the bullshit the Republicans tell them.


  5. As long as what’s coming down the Turnpike isn’;t what some countries seem to have adopted, The Authoritarian. Some of them are looking at dictator in the rear view mirror and the type seem to be gathering speed in some quarters.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Sadly, I think that is exactly the goal of the Republican Party … an authoritarian government. I’ve even heard people say they WANT a dictator, want a “strong man” at the helm. I don’t think the average voter has any concept of what that would mean for most of us, but the politicians know full well … and their efforts are being supported by those who have a vested interest in removing the elements of a democracy, of removing such things as regulations on businesses, taxes on the wealthy, climate change initiatives, social welfare programs. Sigh.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I doubt the wealthy would remain tax free or ‘donation free’ for very long under a dictator. They tend to like the trappings of wealth themselves and must get their money from somewhere. Viktor Orban has the backing of a couple of oligarchs (Russian?) and he won’t be cheap.

        Liked by 2 people

        • You’re so right, but see … people here don’t realize that, for most have never lived under an authoritarian regime and have no idea what they’d be letting themselves in for. And by the time they figured it out, it would take a war to dislodge the regime.

          Liked by 1 person

    • It is broken … here, it is broken by many things, but greed seems to me the main one. We cater to the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. The income disparity is larger today than ever before, and politicians keep protecting that wealth … in part because most of them are part of that upper wealthy class. Sigh. But your country and mine are not alone, Clive … there are signs of authoritarianism creeping in in many western nations today … think France, Germany … it’s chilling if you think about it.

      Liked by 4 people

        • It does feel very much that way … and it’s a chilling feeling, one that keeps me awake nights, else plagues my nights with nightmares. People tell me that I should “just chill” and not worry about it because “it’ll all work out somehow”. Not in my nature to ‘just chill’. And imagine if we all did that … taking over our countries would be like taking candy from a baby.

          Liked by 2 people

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