Friday, October 26, 2012

Standing Athwart History

For those of us who live outside the United States, the angry divide there is profoundly puzzling. There are, indeed, two philosophies of government at stake in this election. But the anger suggests that the fault lines run deeper than that. Eugene Robinson's column in this morning's Washington Post offers an important insight into the battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney: "It is too simplistic to conclude," he writes, "that demography equals destiny.

Both men are being sincere when they vow to serve the interests of all Americans. But it would be disingenuous to pretend not to notice the obvious cleavage between those who have long held power in this society and those who are beginning to attain it.

The United States has changed radically in the last thirty years. While Republicans were actualizing the Reagan Revolution, there were all kinds of other revolutions taking place:

In my lifetime, we’ve experienced the civil rights movement, the countercultural explosion of the 1960s, the sexual revolution, the women’s movement and an unprecedented wave of Latino immigration. Within a few decades, there will be no white majority in this country — no majority of any kind, in fact. We will be a nation of racial and ethnic minorities, and we will only prosper if everyone learns to give and take.
Our place in the world has changed as well. The United States remains the dominant economic and military power; our ideals remain a beacon for those around the globe still yearning to breathe free. But our capacity for unilateral action is diminished; we can assert but not dictate, and we must learn to persuade.

While the Reaganites desperately tried to return to the world of Ward and June Cleaver, the ground shifted under their feet. The presence of an African American in the White House is a daily reminder of how much the ground has shifted.

Republicans dearly hope to accomplish what the late William F. Buckley sought to do in the pages of National Review: to "stand athwart history, yelling stop!" and to "tell the violated businessman's side of the story."

We all have wished to go back to an idyllic past. Thomas Wolfe, however, understood how the world works. "You Can't," he wrote, "Go Home Again."

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.


thwap said...


That's interesting way of describing the demographic and cultural change's impact.

I take issue with the premise that both men sincerely aim to serve all Americans.

Both men are soulless creatures serving corporate America by deliberately serving up the majority of their fellow citizens to them.

Owen Gray said...

Chris Hedges, who wrote the Death of the Liberal Class, agrees with you, thwap.

At this point, though -- and given the choices that are available -- Obama is the better of the two candidates.

I'm not sure, however, that the Americans have figured that out.

Anonymous said...

Good, cogent an ex-Yank who has been a citizen of Canada for decades, couldn't agree with you more..

Owen Gray said...

Forty years ago, I was a grad student in North Carolina, prole. When Bill Clinton was elected, I thought the South -- and the country -- had changed.

But when I read that John Sununu believes that Colin Powell endorsed Obama because they share the same skin colour, I begin to wonder if much has really changed.

Anonymous said...

I think Sununu was probably "projecting".

I'm sure he's not colourblind when it comes to him and Romney (though I doubt he'd admit it).

Owen Gray said...

That's an interesting observation.

I'm sure that if someone pointed out that he and Romney were both Caucasian, he'd say his support for the governor -- another similarity between the two of them -- has to do with policy, not appearance.