James Howard Kunstler -- World News Trust
Feb. 27, 2017
We need a new civil war like we need a hole in the head.
But that’s just it: America has a hole in its head. It’s the place formerly known as The Center. It didn’t hold. It was the place where people of differing views could rely on each other to behave reasonably around a touchstone called the National Interest. That abandoned place is now cordoned off, a Chernobyl of the mind, where figures on each side of the political margin fear to even sojourn, let alone occupy, lest they go radioactive.
Anyway, the old parties at each side of the political transect, are melting down in equivalent fugues of delusion, rage, and impotence -- as predicted here through the election year of 2016. They can’t make anything good happen in the National Interest. They can’t control the runaway rackets that they engineered in legislation, policy, and practice under the dominion of each party, by turns, going back to Lyndon B. Johnson, and so they have driven themselves and each other insane.
Trump and Hillary perfectly embodied the climactic stage of each party before their final mutual sprint to collapse. Both had more than a tinge of the psychopath. Trump is the bluff that the Republicans called on themselves, having jettisoned anything identifiable as coherent principles translatable to useful action. Hillary was an American Lady Macbeth attempting to pull off the ultimate inside job by any means necessary, her wickedness so plain to see that even the voters picked up on it. These two are the old parties’ revenge on each other, and on themselves, for decades of bad choices and bad faith.
The anti-intellectual Trump is, for the Right, the answer to the Intellectual-Yet-Idiots (IYIs) that Nassim Taleb has so ably identified as infesting the Left. It is a good guess that President Trump has not read a book since high school, and perhaps never in his entire life. But are you not amazed at how the IYIs of the Left have savaged the life-of-the-mind on campus, and out in the other precincts of culture where free inquiry once flourished? From the craven college presidents who pretend that race-segregated “safe spaces” represent “inclusiveness,” to The New York Times editors who pretend in headlines that illegal immigrants have done nothing illegal, the mendacity is awesome.
Something like this has happened before in U.S. history and it may be cyclical. The former Princeton University professor and President, Woodrow Wilson, dragged America into the First World War, which killed more than 53,000 Americans (as many as Vietnam) in only 18 months. He promulgated the Red Scare, a bit of hysteria not unlike the Race and Gender Phobia Accusation Fest on the Left today. Professor Wilson was also responsible for creating the Federal Reserve and all the mischief it has entailed, especially the loss of more than 90 percent of the dollar’s value since 1913. Wilson, the perfect IYI of that day.
The reaction to Wilson was Warren Gamaliel Harding, the hard-drinking, card-playing Ohio Main Street boob picked in the notorious “smoke-filled room” of the 1920 GOP convention. He invoked a return to “normalcy,” which was not even a word (try normality), and was laughed at as we now laugh at Trump for his idiotic utterances such as “win bigly” (or is that big league?). Harding is also known for confessing in a letter: “I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.” Yet, in his brief term (died in office, 1923), Harding navigated the country successfully through a fierce post-World War One depression simply by not resorting to government intervention.
Something like the same dynamic returned in 1952 when General Eisenhower took over from Harry Truman and the defeated Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson quipped, “The New Dealers have been replaced by the car dealers.” Ha! If he only knew! After all, who was on board as Ike’s Veep? None other than Tricky Dick Nixon, soon to be cast as America’s quintessential used car salesman.
Well, those were the days, and those days are over. So much has gone wrong here in the past 30 years and the game of salugi being played by the Dems and the GOP is not helping any of it. And that is why the two parties are heading toward extinction. We’re in the phase of intra-party factional conflict for now. Each party has its own preliminary civil war going on. The election of Obama era Labor Secretary and party hack, Tom Perez, as DNC chair yesterday has set the Bernie Sanders Prog troops into paroxysms of animadversion. They’re calling out all up-and-down the Twitterverse for a new party of their own. Trump faces his own mutineers on the Right, and not just the two cheerleaders for WW III, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Coming out of the Conservative CPAC meeting last week, just about his whole agenda was written off as (cough, cough) politically impractical by the poobahs in attendance: reform-and-replacement of the Affordable Care Act, tax reform, the promised massive infrastructure-building stimulus orgy, the border wall, the trade blockages.
Anon, comes the expiration of the current debt ceiling, at around $20 trillion, in mid-March. Do you imagine that the two parties warring with each other in congress will be able to come to some resolution over that? Fuggeddabowdit. The Democrats have every incentive to let President Trump stew in this fatal brine like a Delancey Street corned beef. What it means, of course, is that the U.S. Treasury runs out of ready cash in mid-summer and some invoices just don’t get paid, maybe even some bigly ones like social security checks and Medicare bills. Won’t that be a spectacle? That’s where Trump becomes a political quadriplegic and the voters start jumping off the dying parties like fleas off of two dead dogs.
By then, plenty of other mischief will be afoot in the world, including the fractious outcome of elections in France and the Netherlands, with the European Union spinning into its own event horizon, and currency instability like the world has never seen before. Enjoy the remaining weeks of normality.
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James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling -- A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.