Joe Biden has made one of the great political comebacks in history! He looks now to be on the road to the Democratic nomination for president.
I’m not that excited about Joe Biden. I think he’s a nice guy, moderate and honest and experienced in government. Democrats and anti-Trump voters will vote for him out of desperation. Biden just doesn’t excite me, though. He’s prone to verbal gaffes, and he’s not as sharp at 78 as I would prefer.
As those of you who read this column know, I’m even less excited about President Trump. I’m afraid for the survival of the republic. Trump is a threat to our democracy because he values loyalty to him over faithfulness to the Constitution and to morality and decency. He has even talked publicly of continuing in the presidency after his second term.
When I talk with Trump supporters, I’m told I should get over Trump’s character deficiencies. I can’t. Character and concern for the common good matter in my own life, and I’d like a president who shares the integrity of a Washington or a Lincoln.
When I asked a supporter why he favors Trump, the answer I got was that Trump is decisive and independent. I have to agree that he may be decisive today, but tomorrow he will likely be decisive on the opposite side of the issue. Back in the days when George H.W. Bush ran against Democrat Michael Dukakis, Republicans criticized Dukakis for being a “flip-flopper”. Dukakis lost.
Now we have a president who changes his mind constantly, and it doesn’t matter. When I ask those on the Religious Right why they support such a liar and narcissist as Trump, I’m told that so-and-so is worse. That’s called deflection. Those on the Religious Right have to go through mental gymnastics to support Trump and his ilk. It’s fascinating to watch.
Or, based upon the Republican vote over removing Trump from office after being impeached, I asked a Trump supporter what his red line for an impeachable offense was. The response I got was that he would get back to me. I don’t think he had ever considered the question.
Republican officeholders support Trump for three reasons, according to an article I read in “Foreign Affairs”: 1) They’re afraid. They fear that Trump will turn his criticism on them and call them traitors. They’re fearful that they’ll be challenged by Trump opponents in the primaries and lose their seat in Congress. 2) Their tribal affiliations are more important than the good of the nation. Trump represents the Republican Party, if not its values. He pushes their agenda and is helping fill the Federal court system with loyal Trump conservatives. 3) They want power and pleasing Trump is the route to that end.
George Friedman’s just published book, “The Storm Before the Calm”, explained a great deal about politics in 2020. He asserts we are ending an 80-year institutional cycle—when the government that began after World War II just doesn’t function well anymore; agencies are separated and overwhelmed with data and rules that make no sense. These government agencies are run by technocrats, experts in their fields, who don’t communicate with other technocrats. Government is a confused and muddled mess.
There is also a 50-year socio-economic cycle that began about 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan. Reagan freed up the economy with large tax cuts which created money for investment that spurred productivity. That cycle is now ending as white industrial workers who were able to lead middle class lives in that 50-year period, are now frustrated at their diminished power and prestige. They can barely make a living wage.
These frustrated workers support Trump because he speaks their language. Trump blames immigrants and technocrats (experts) because he senses that these industrial workers are resentful for the attention and support immigrants get when American citizens like them are ignored. Trump has played very effectively to this group and they return the favor with their whole-hearted support.
Friedman states that both these cycles are merging in the 2020s. It is the first time in U.S. history that this has occurred. He predicts that strife will continue until the late 2020s or early 2030s when the storm will end, and calm and productivity will reign.
After reading Friedman’s book, I realized I’m a technocrat—an expert in history, government, politics, teaching and writing. The struggle between the industrial workers and the technocrats now comes clear. This explains why some technocrats support Trump. They have seen the confusion and stupidity of government and are looking for someone to “drain the swamp”.
In actuality, we are caught up in two stable and repetitive cycles that have repeated themselves over our history. My hope that by making this understanding clear to you, you will learn how to cope and be patient with the storm that will rage through the 2020s, followed by the calm at the end of the decade. May it come quickly.