People predicted Barack Obama’s initial election as President of the United States would result in the next major political revolution. Hopes were high. People naively asked: Would racism finally end? Fears were high, too. How would a “Black, Muslim, foreign-born” person act as President? People blindly bought into labels that further, and inaccurately, Othered him and asked: Would he destroy the nation? People waited with feelings of apprehension, and other than even more gridlock in Congress (the level of partisanship and lack of work has been increasing for decades), nothing really happened, nothing really changed more than in any other Administration’s period.
…Until much later…
When we consider how this election cycle has been going, it is a mistake to consider it an anomaly or the result of tensions developing in the last year or two. Rather, both prevailing extremes, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, are part of the predicted revolution. Predictions were wrong about the timing but correct otherwise. We’re in the middle of a revolution. Instead of battlefields, fighting happens over television, email, and social media 24/7 and occasionally, at rallies and convention.
Sanders, of course, represents a continued and even expanded vision of hope started by Obama’s campaign messages. Sanders goes against rules and traditions. He says what other politicians don’t say. He’s a reminder of the diversity that exists in the United States. He promises change, to start a political revolution…that has actually already started.
Trump promises to continue a very different revolution. Obama’s and Sanders’s revolutionary vision promises to create a more equal society (without recognizing the “problem” of such “ideals”). People like Trump and his supporters naturally hear this as a threat to what they believe to be sacred truths and practices that affect their money and status. Trump brings a message that says “to hell with the rules.” And people find this appealing.
Both Trump and Sanders actually have messages very much driven by both fear and hope. These messages of hope and fear are intended for their supporters and opponents.
Even Hillary Clinton, essentially the moderate candidate according to her own words and commentary, is a manifestation of the on-going revolution. But her political party, political ideologies, and sex complicate it further. I’ve long held in my research about the Civil Right Revolution that every one was involved, even if by non participation. Clinton kind of fits the involvement-by-non-participation model, thus far, when we look at her overall words and actions.
We’re at a very peculiar moment when no matter who is elected–seemingly Clinton, Sanders, or Trump–the person to become 45 will be a threat to the existing status quo, a threat to deeply-held notions about who should and shouldn’t be President and what they can and can’t do or think or say.
The shape of civil religion in the United States is taking significant shifts — unlike those seen since either the rise of the Liberal Consensus or its fall. Effects of the current revolution will likely take another 5-10 years to become somewhat defined, then will last another 10-20 years or so, before slowing shifting into something else for another 5-10 years. And we need to remember that regardless of the prevailing ideologies and mores at any given historical moment, there have always been streams of thought going in other directions. Equally, the United States is a big place – where “conservative” and “liberal” stand for very different things depending on the region and its demographics.
Who wins the Presidential election in November matters a great deal but so do all the other elections for mayors, county commissioners, governors, judges, school board representatives, senators, and so, so many others. It’s all too easy to fall in the trap of only really caring about who the President is and perpetuate notions of the imperial presidency. Those passionately backing Presidential candidates absolutely must begin applying the same energy to all elections for any of their hopes and efforts to really take root.
I predict that the power structure–largely unknown and unknowable–might put more of its focus and hopes on Sanders. No matter who is elected, he or she will likely accomplish little as far as working with Congress. A Clinton presidency would bring out feelings of sexism en masse – and it would likely get worse, as racism has gotten worse the last eight years. I’m not sure, sadly, the status quo could handle having a woman in the nation’s highest office. Equally, I don’t think they want Trump. He’s too unpredictable and would likely be impeached within a month or two. Then, even with Sanders. He is somewhat historically “raced” due to being Jewish, and he is a socialist. The status quo will want a situation where at least everything stays about the same.
Pause for a moment to recognize how many different ways, only some of which are listed here, make all three candidates historically unprecedented – thus only adding to the political revolution currently underway. Given this revolution’s revolutionary manifestations, we’re certainly far from even beginning to fully “see” it.
What do you think?
Andrew Joseph Pegoda
Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives