Back in March, Tom Engelhardt posted this question: Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country?
He argued the emerging political system in the US has five primary characteristics.
- 1% Elections
- Privatization of the State
- The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency
- The Rise of the National Security State as the Fourth Branch of Government
- The Demobilization of the American People
Each of this characteristics represents a risk to the democratic process and state. As part of his conclusion, Engelhardt observed:
In the meantime, let me be as clear as I can be about something that seems murky indeed: this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual. Put together our 1% elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the U.S. military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you have something like a new ballgame.
While significant planning has been involved in all of this, there may be no ruling pattern or design. Much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion. In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention. Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state.
In the twilight of American empire, something very worrying is happening indeed. The old system fell apart, the new one arose in an ad-hoc fashion, improvised fashion. The problem, from where I stand, is that this new system is incredibly unstable.
Over the years, the US has had several iterations of governance and politics, called the various party systems, i.e. the First Party System and so on. The New Deal Party system was forged in the 1930s and (depending on who you ask) lasted until the late 1960s or the early 1990s. The New Deal Party System was incredibly powerful and stable for man years; I personally date its demise to the 1994 mid-terms when Republicans re-took control of Congress. However, rather than a new system arising, we’ve been stuck in a long, grinding, and unproductive period of gridlock.
Some of the problem is that the US’s political architecture is inherently resistant to change – the US Constitutional government has so many veto points that change of any sort is a Herculean effort. Republicans have too much invested in actively sabotaging government to seek any form of governance that might be productive and are left with nothing but obstruction. Democratic politicians, by contrast, are in the odd position of fighting to maintain the advances achieved by the New Deal and Great Society programs. The result is a bizarre inversion by which the party which seeks reform ends up defending the status quo while the conservative party has embraced irredentism and conservative identity politics. Today’s Republicans are a radical, destructive force trying to roll back 100 years of policy. We’re not living with anything like politics as usual or governance as usual.
The emerging political system is one of stumbling crisis to crisis with little or no governing philosophy or theory behind it, economic disequilibrium, and a growing and unhappy struggling populace.
At the end of the day, the American populace is unlikely to stay demobilized, which means they will be unlikely to accept the delegitimatization of the President and Congress and will demand the state be returned to the public. Sustaining the emerging system requires economic disparity and inequality, and the continued valorization of the 1% and given that many of them seem to be grade A morons and buffoons, I fail to see how that happens.