Civil rights, social justice, racism, police brutality, the anti-war movement, distrust of government, feminism, sexual liberation, sexism, gay rights, legalizing marijuana, rights for the handicapped and disabled, tobacco smoking in public, civil protest, immigration, abortion, universal access to health care, gun control, terrorism, globalization, environmentalism, government regulation (did I miss anything?) all rose to the surface of the American political consciousness in the mid-’60s and early ’70s as the Boomer generation, my and Donald Trump’s generation, came of age. This culture war has shaped our politics ever since.
On its most simplistic level it has been a conflict between those who value the 1950s American status quo vs. those who feel disenfranchised, persecuted and unheard within that status quo. On its rawest level it has been a conflict between white, mostly male, entitlement and outrage at white male entitlement.
Beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan, the status quo forces have won most of the political battles. Even with the two Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the Democrats could only win with centrist moderates and even then both were stymied by GOP congressional majorities, the first time since 1953 that both houses were dominated by the GOP. But while the status quo dominated the political game most of the time, change, even radical change, has been percolating and progressing virtually on all fronts within American society. It is almost as if two tectonic plates have been rubbing and crashing against each other, sometimes under the surface and sometimes above it, until there is no more room left to gently adjust and the result is a potential political/social earthquake.
Trump — despite being profoundly unread, historically illiterate and lacking any curiosity whatsoever — is brilliant, truly and uniquely brilliant, at one thing, possibly the thing that matters most in American politics: BRANDING. The birther conspiracy theory was the perfect vehicle to brand Trump, especially given his very public persona as the classic lech, as the loudest megaphone for the status quo and white male entitlement. Ultimately, with the passing of the Boomers and the demographic browning of America, that status quo is doomed, but he likely would have succeeded in politically defending it into the late 2020s, possibly even the 2030s.
Enter COVID-19 and George Floyd into the American consciousness. There is an old Jewish maxim, “Man plans and God laughs.” Does Trump have enough fingers to stop the leaks overwhelming the dike of the status quo? Will the dike come crashing down in 2020 as one day in the not-too-distant future it inevitably must? Stay tuned, boys and girls. America will likely answer that question next November!