The Political Class combines cluelessness and rapaciousness in a way that would have 18th Century French aristocrats scribbling notes:
For decades now, across the board, nearly every policy that’s been pushed by the establishment here in the US and in most other industrial nations has benefited the middle classes at the expense of the working classes. That’s why we’ve gone from the situation in 1960, when one working class income could support a family comfortably, to the situation in 2020, when one working class income won’t keep a family off the street. Those changes weren’t accidental, nor were they inevitable; they were the results of readily identifiable policies pushed by a bipartisan consensus, and defended by government, corporate, and media flacks with a disingenuousness that borders on the pathological.
The difficulty we’re in now, of course, is that a very large number of people are aware of this, and they’re far from happy about it. Here in the United States, a vast number of citizens—quite probably a majority—believe that they live under a senile kleptocracy propped up by rigged elections and breathtakingly dishonest media, in which their votes do not count and their needs will not be addressed by those in power. What’s more, they have more than a little evidence to support these beliefs, and strange to say, another round of patronizing putdowns by the mouthpieces of the well-to-do is unlikely to change their minds. The resulting crisis of legitimacy has become a political fact of immense importance.
A few years back, my fellow blogger and more than occasional debating partner Dmitry Orlov wrote a series of essays (later collected into his book Reinventing Collapse) pointing out that the United States is vulnerable to the same sort of sudden political implosion that overtook the Warsaw Pact nations of eastern Europe in 1989 and the Soviet Union in 1991. His point has lost none of its sharpness since then. When political theorists of an earlier generation noted that governments exist by the consent of the governed, they were stating a simple fact, not proposing an ideal; a government, any government, survives solely because most of the people it rules play along, obeying its laws and edicts no matter how absurd those happen to be. If they withdraw that consent, the existing order of things comes tumbling down.
As we saw some thirty years ago, the most effective way to get people to withdraw their consent from the government that claims to rule them is to show them, over and over again, that their needs and concerns are of no interest to a self-aggrandizing elite, and that they have nothing to hope for from the continuation of the present system and nothing to lose if it falls. A very substantial share of Americans, and a significant number of people in other Western industrial countries, have already had that experience and come to those conclusions—and the enthusiasm displayed by the comfortable classes for shoving off the costs of change on the impoverished majority while seizing the benefits for themselves has played a huge role in that state of affairs.
As a result, it’s entirely possible that at some point in the near future, when next the United States faces a serious crisis, most Americans will shrug and let it fall, as most Soviet citizens did when the Soviet Union hit its final crisis in 1991. Keep in mind that the vast majority of active duty US police and military personnel—the final bulwark of any regime in crisis—voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, and might not be in any hurry to come to the rescue of a system that treats them with the same casual contempt it turns on everyone outside the circles of privilege. It’s entirely possible, in other words, that ten years from now people will talk about the former United States the way they talk about the former Soviet Union.
A number of folks have pointed out that most cops and military will follow orders, because of the paycheck. History shows that unpopular orders are followed without enthusiasm, and often without rigor. We'll see. But there's very little doubt that there's a Bad Moon rising, and political leadership to slow this is in very short supply.