It feels like nothing much is happening except the unbearable, suffocating, enervating heat wave here in the South. I can’t be bothered to do much of anything after working outside in it.
I look around at the political and cultural landscape … and I am unimpressed. It feels like we are just meandering through another calm summer. Sure, there are separate fires everywhere and smoke everywhere and we seem to be sitting on top of a smoldering volcano, but it hasn’t exploded yet. We aren’t engulfed by fire yet. It is still possible to tune out and enjoy the last few months of normalcy. If Neil Howe and Peter Turchin are correct in the forecasts, that’s really what we should be doing.
Let us count the ways:
- If past is prologue, then we are due for a major upheaval, which tends to happen roughly every 75-80 years in American history, which is the span of time between the American Revolution and the War Between the States and the Great Depression and World War II
- The sheer radicalism of the social atmosphere and the paranoia and the deep distrust of government has reached a level only seen in the 1760s/1770s, the 1850s and the 1930s. Sure, nothing as spectacular has happened as the riots of the late 1960s and the bombings of the 1970s or the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 or the Red Scare under Woodrow Wilson or all the labor violence of the 1880s, but all that happened under a government which was perceived as legitimate
- As bad as the riots, bombings and assassinations got in the late 1960s / early 1970s, the voters were still World War II veterans. The media was powerful enough to bring down Richard Nixon. The government was trusted in a way which just isn’t true anymore.
- It can’t be stressed enough that the Greatest Generation is dead now and the Silent Generation has nearly died off and their moderating effect on our politics is disappearing. No one alive today has experienced a major war which makes such a thing far more likely to happen.
- The people around Joe Biden who are running his administration are reckless and playing with fire both at home and abroad. Whether it is the war in Ukraine or arresting Donald Trump, the people in charge are taking stability for granted.
- War is cyclical. We are due for a major war, not a sideshow like the War on Terror. The people in charge of the Biden administration have already started a war.
- The lack of trust in institutions. As recently as 2005, most people trusted the government. Even the media and universities were considerably more trusted in 2015. Trust in institutions has collapsed and is simply vanishing among large swathes of the population.
- The country is more polarized than at any point since the War Between the States. The states and the political parties are sorting over their irreconcilable differences. Millions of people are open to secession. Most expect to see a Civil War in their lifetimes. The public has begun to accept this. Once again, this is a far cry from any other point in the postwar era whether it was the 1970s or the 1990s or the 2010s. It is no longer unimaginable.
- How late is it? We’re at the point where huge swathes of the population are losing confidence in 1.) the military, 2.) federal law enforcement, 3.) the judicial system and 4.) elections
- Donald Trump is about to be arrested and indicted for a third time over 1/6. There is no precedent for this. The country has never had to confront a situation where the incumbent president is trying to take out his leading political opponent.
- The invasion of Ukraine reflects Russia’s bullish assessment of our internal politics. Foreign adversaries have made big moves like this before like when France under Napoleon III occupied Mexico or like when Germany and Japan made big moves before World War II.
- America’s deteriorating fiscal situation with the mounting national debt and de-dollarization led by foreign adversaries.
- Popular immiseration is getting worse especially among Millennials and Zoomers who are embracing radical politics.
- A surplus of frustrated elites which is only going to get worse after the recent Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action and student loan debt relief
- The telltale signs of social instability – riots, mass shootings, other bizarre acts of violence like 1/6 – which precede major happenings. Congress itself was stormed by normies
- The sheer number of people who have been radicalized under Joe Biden. The Great Replacement has now gone mainstream. Normally, radicals are overwhelmingly outnumbered by moderates and this was true through the entire Trump administration. Trump’s victory in 2016 was a major breakthrough, but our numbers were still low. The number of radicals in a population has to hit a critical mass for the system to destabilize.
- Donald Trump himself has been radicalized. Again, this wasn’t true in 2016 or 2020. He ran on tax cuts and the Platinum Plan. He was content to be in office. He squandered his presidency. He didn’t take the vindictiveness of his enemies seriously enough.
- If you buy into Neil Howe’s theory of generational change and personality types, the stars are aligned now with the Greatest Generation and Silent Generation in their graves and with reckless Boomers in charge
There are a lot of other reasons that escape me at the moment.
Basically, the population has never been this primed for a major war or upheaval at any point in my lifetime or my father’s lifetime. The people in charge are taking social stability for granted. They can’t imagine how bad things can get and how fast because no one in power today has any experience or memory of that. For a variety of reasons, the timing just wasn’t ripe in the 2000s or the 2010s.
It is only a matter of time before one of these idiots – I am betting it is a woman – sets in motion a chain of events with unintended and unforseen consequences and lights the spark and unlike last summer with the Ricky Shiffer meltdown and attack on the FBI it sets off a conflagration. It could happen either here around the election or abroad with the war in Ukraine.
Both scenarios are in the cards.
Note: I’m more impressed with Peter Turchin’s model than Neil Howe’s more mystical theory of generational change. Maybe both are just capitalizing on the current mood. I think the two are definitely on to something though. It just seems like we are building up to a climax. There is going to be a confrontation and one side or the other is going to win out.