American Fall

This is a sequel. Read American Spring first.

“We conclude that the concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution. In this view all economic history is the slow heartbeat of the social organism, a vast systole and diastole of concentrating wealth and compulsive recirculation.”

– Will and Ariel Durant

In 2016, the American Republic birthed a second political party.

This came as a shock to the prosperous, college-educated Elites. The four horsemen of technology, trade, immigration, and bailouts had let them manufacture products, labor, voters, and money at will.

The people ruled the things, the politicians ruled the people, and the bankers ruled them all.

Elite America clustered on the temperate coasts, connected by airplanes and fiber optics. Its vision of open markets and open borders was supposed to eventually integrate the commoners in the interior.

But the Internet had turned media into a choose-your-own-reality adventure. Crowd funding and crowd media let the masses self assemble. Masses who had lost their livelihoods to trade, immigrants, and mechanization, and lost their culture to the march of progress.

The idealists, led by Bernie, were the first to storm the gates. It took the full might of the Media, the Party, and the Financiers to throw them from the walls. On the other front, Populists led by Trump broke through and seized the Republican banner.

The new Populists shared little with the old Republicans. They didn’t want to roll back entitlements and saw the culture wars as a distraction. They no longer wanted to send their children to fight wars declared by the Elites. They were tired of subsidizing naked gambling on Wall Street. They were out of sympathy for the wretched masses huddled at the border.

The great fake war is over, and the Republicans lost.

Now, the Populists are rallied behind Trump – a reality TV star who built a brand out of building brands. With slowing growth, they want to put America and Americans first. Never mind that high walls and high tariffs won’t stop the robots from taking all of the jobs in the end.

With the Bush dynasty failed, the Elites have consolidated behind a second Clinton. “L’État, c’est moi,” they say.

If the New Democrats remind you of the old Republicans, consider that they both always had war, immigration, bailouts, and trade in common. The poorest now unexpectedly find themselves sheltering with the neocons, the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, lobbyists, and every nervous foreign regime dependent on American financial and military largesse. Mirroring an unstable Middle Eastern state, an uneasy alliance of elites and minorities rules over the angry masses, even as the blue-collar workers and trade unions slip out the back door.

The Libertarians, the Greens, and the Socialists find themselves homeless once again, now joined by a moral minority.

This is the first battle, the beginning of a long war. Just as the rifle and the printing press once did, the technologies of crowd media and crowd funding have redistributed power between the Populists and the Elites.

Minorities, Elites, and white males have already picked sides. The remaining battles will be fought over white women and their issues. Just as the British Empire, and not Britain, fought most of its wars, the shock troops for the Elites are the most threatened and vulnerable minorities in the populace. The Elites set the strategy, the press issues the orders, and the poor take to the streets.

The Elites have money, media, colleges, institutions, and numbers. Through histrionics they will defeat Trump, through demographics, the mob. As for the displaced, let them eat quinoa!

Any victory in November will be short lived – the Populists, on left and right, are here to stay. A future leader somewhere between Trump and Bernie could unite them to victory at the ballot box. If not, and if the Populists are convinced that the system cannot be redeemed, a true American Spring may be upon us.

History’s classic solution is either politics distributing prosperity or revolution distributing poverty. Thankfully, the last real insurrection was settled 150 years ago. All that remains of that dispute is the re-enactment called Sunday night football.

Disturbingly, the gun owners, the police, and the military are in the wrong demographic. Who, the Elites wonder, is sitting on the hundreds of millions of guns and over a trillion bullets out there? How, exactly, are the unarmed Americans going to disarm the armed Americans? Even for the blissful turkey, Thanksgiving eventually arrives.

Technology-created prosperity may be a third way out, but technology displaces one generation as it prepares the next. The abundance that it creates is hardly a substitute for the self-determination and meaning that people crave.

Ultimately, it may be the Elites that sue for secession. Just like Syria and Iraq, perhaps America is two countries now – the coasts and the center, the city and the country, the Elites and the Populists. Social media and identity politics reinforce tribalism, and expose the absurdity of ruling sea to shining sea from a single iron throne.

If a new Berlin wall were to go up, we’d have to put it somewhere in Austin.

Perhaps a stable solution exists. In the meantime, it’s war in November, the most polarized election in memory. Trump’s demand is simple – “America first!” So is Clinton’s warning – “Après moi, le déluge.”