I caught this Robert Reich opinion column during my weekend reading:
What seems certain, however, is that continued high unemployment coupled with slow or no growth will create a new political landscape. This will pose a special challenge — and opportunity. If our political leaders don’t manage the new dividing lines effectively they could invite a politics of resentment that scapegoats certain groups while avoiding the hard work of setting priorities and making difficult choices.
Reich looks to the past, using the Depression as an example, of how the economic hardship changed the parties and the politics in the years during and after. Reich also breaks it down into three groups of people who are likely to emerge as the landscape becomes more polarized. He mentions anti-establishment (Tea Party, Occupy), isolationist (recent draconian Republican anti-immigration bills) and generational rifts (higher unemployment rate in people under 25) and the potential for change given the state of the economy against these three potential cultural strains.
I love how he brings it back to the fact that Democratic policies helped create a virtuous cycle to enable the “American Century”:
The structural reforms begun in the depression decade of the 1930s generated just this kind of virtuous cycle in the three decades after World War II. And in devising and implementing these reforms, the Democratic Party came to represent Americans with little power relative to the financial and business elites that had dominated the country before the great crash of 1929. That political realignment was the most profound and successful of the twentieth century.
Reich is a fantastic thinker and writer. Also? Badass: