Our opinion: A new liberal era is dawning in America
The news has been flush lately with stories about the closures of DMV offices and taking away the right to vote from felons, not to mention gerrymanders, voter fraud and changing the way Americans elect their representatives to Congress.
But that's all part and parcel of the tactics the conservatives of the United States are employing because they know, in the long run, they are on the losing end of electoral politics. The demographics of this great nation are rapidly changing, with the Latino population growing quickly and Millenials coming of age. Soon, minorities will be the majority in the United States and the old guard of white, privileged masculinity will be nothing more than history. Many of us, even the white men who have benefited from this patriarchal society, cheer the changes.
But it's not just demographics that are dooming the Republican Party as it exists today. Despite the fire and brimstone spouting forth from rallies featuring Donald Trump and his fellow candidates for the Republican nod in 2016, America is actually becoming more liberal.
Peter Beinart, writing for The Atlantic, notes that while Republicans have a lock on state houses around the country, a new era began when Pres. Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2008. Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and the incredible shot-in-the-dark candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders (which seems to be less and less unlikely day to day), are examples of the eye-opening occurrences that have Americans talking about real hope and real change.
"I watched as Ronald Reagan moved the country hard to the right, and as Bill Clinton made his peace with this new political reality by assuring white America that his party would fight crime mercilessly," writes Beinart. Despite the sound and fury of right-wing talk radio and outlets such as Fox News, he notes, these years look more like the '60s and early '70s than they do the Reagan/Clinton years.
"There is a backlash against the liberalism of the Obama era. But it is louder than it is strong. Instead of turning right, the country as a whole is still moving to the left." Partly to blame, notes Beinart, was the reaction to Sept. 11 of the Bush administration, which destroyed centrism in the United States ("You're either with us, or against us"), a trend that continues. If the Republican Party fails to recognize this coming change, it will need to rely on its ability to continue to dupe its base or it must implement more draconian voter restriction measures than we see today.
While the Republican Party in the Reagan era was able to appeal to Blue Dog Democrats, conservatives who believed that critiquing liberalism from the right was morally and politically necessary, notes Beinart. The result was the Clinton administration, which was not much more than the left-wing of the Republican Party. "George W. Bush wiped this community out. Partly, he did so by rooting the GOP more firmly in the South — Reagan's political base had been in the West — aiding the slow-motion extinction of white southern Democrats that had begun when the party embraced civil rights," writes Beinart.
Clinton and Bush and their apparatchiks were also able to embarrass and tarnish the left to the point that liberal became a dirty word. But then there was Iraq and Afghanistan and tax cuts andthe economy crashed. "If the lesson of the Reagan era had been that Democrats should give a Republican president his due, the lesson of the Bush era was that doing so brought disaster," notes Beinart.
With the emergence of economists such as Paul Krugman, Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," and "The Colbert Report," liberal and left-wing websites such as Daily Kos and the Huffington Post, an underground tremor began to pass through American society. "The presidency of George W. Bush had made Democrats unapologetically liberal, and the presidency of Barack Obama was the most tangible result," notes Beinart.
Though Obama wasn't the liberal saviour many of us had hoped for, Americans have taken it into their own hands to push the country to the left and folks such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have re-legitimatized the liberal ethos. And don't expect age to turn minorities or Millenials into conservatives, asserts Beinart.
"Millennials are not liberal primarily because they are young. They are liberal because their formative political experiences were the Iraq War and the Great Recession, and because they make up the most secular, most racially diverse, least nationalistic generation in American history. And none of that is likely to change."
There is hope that real change is just around the corner and this new year could be the mile marker.
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