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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/20/21

Are We Standing On the Edge Of a Grand New Progressive Era?

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Do we stand on the edge of a grand new progressive era, with good wages for all, racial and gender equality and justice, and a reduction of the political power of reactionary forces in America? Or will the next president gleefully overthrow American democracy, shutter the free press, and imprison those who object?

When Mussolini put Antonio Gramsci, the founder of Italy's Communist Party, in prison in 1927, Gramsci wrote from his prison cell that, "[T]he old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear."

Two forces in American politics are similarly on a collision course today: neoliberalism and progressivism. In the friction zone between the two, the "morbid symptom" of Trump's white-power neofascism is claiming territory and has largely seized the power structures of the GOP.

Whether American history goes in cycles, as Strauss and Howe posit in The Fourth Turning, or merely "rhymes" as in the apocryphal quote from Twain, we can identify periods when a particular political and economic philosophy holds court - and the periods when philosophies or regimes begin to collapse.

The Fourth Turning posits roughly 80-year cycles in American history, each ending with an economic crash and a war, then each rebooting into a new progressive era: the Depression of the early 1770s and the American Revolution, the Panic of 1856 and the Civil War, the 1930s Republican Great Depression and World War II.

It's been about 80 years since the end of that war, indicating, if this theory is right, that a crash and war may be around the corner.

Another way of looking at the cycles of American history is through the lens of "regimes," as articulated by Stephen Skowronek in his 1993 book The Politics Presidents Make and recently revived in The New York Times by Professor Corey Robin.

"The Jeffersonian regime lasted from 1800 to 1828," Robin writes, "the Jacksonian regime, from 1828 to 1860; the Republican regime, from 1860 to 1932; the New Deal order, from 1932 to 1980."

The Reagan order is thus now almost certainly in its calcification stage, becoming brittle, more fragile, and less vigorous as inevitably happens with every turn of regimes.

In my opinion, the progressive movement - for example the unionization effort where Kellogg's fired their workers and irate young people crashed their job-application server - is the ascendant group that will soon take power and hold the country for another turn of history.

Unless, of course, Trump's neofascists succeed in closing off that option by utterly destroying our system of government.

Evidence abounds that the Reagan era or regime is rapidly disintegrating; that the Trump neofascist movement isn't strong or broad-based enough to replace it (although they can cause considerable violence and distress); and, like in the 1930s and 1960s, that a young progressive movement is rapidly acquiring and consolidating political power.

If I'm right and that's what's happening, it's almost certainly because Americans are realizing that Reagan's neoliberalism regime (which was carried on by the following five presidents) was largely a scam designed to disempower the working class while enriching the already well-off.

All its vaunted rhetoric about "fiscal responsibility" and "conservative values" was just a smokescreen to hide naked theft, racism and misogyny.

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

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