Thanks to generations of progress in civil rights, race, and more specifically “whiteness,” is failing. Being white is losing its meaning, its privileges, its social and even religious significance. As it fades, it has weakened a load-bearing wall in our democracy. Our goal of transcending race, encoded as a distant aspiration in our founding documents, threatens to undermine the “classless” assumptions that make the rest of our system work. Stripped of race as a reference point, and of whiteness as a marker of special privilege, we are left to cope with class as our main expression of identity.
From chaos comes opportunity. Prepare to see new faces and hear new voices. As we begin what will likely be a long, painful struggle toward the Third Republic, these seven people may have interesting roles to play.
Happy New Year. Celebrate safely. Thank you for all you’ve done to make this such a thoughtful, smart, challenging community over many long years and into the next one.
Notable stories from around the web.
In short, 2016 was a pretty amazing year. A Trump Administration is dedicated to undoing much of the progress we achieved in the years to come. With a hearty resistance and a little luck, they may fail. Enjoy the holidays.
We embrace fake news because it is easy, because it confirms what we want to believe about the world. Fake news is folklore; comfortable, mentally soothing stories about things that did not happen. Fake news may be pleasant, but it is an inferior evolutionary adaptation. Institutions built on fake news will underperform fact-driven institutions until they are eventually swept away in failure.
Fukuyama’s End of History did a pretty good job of anticipating Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. It did a pretty good job of anticipating the anomie and aimlessness that might drive people toward self-destructive political choices. Almost thirty years after his original thesis, he still seems to have a better read on our political situation than either the Marxist theorists he was skewering or the emerging culture-warriors like Huntington who most fiercely opposed him. It may be a mistake to dismiss Fukuyama out of hand.
Though grifters find ample opportunity in fake news, dismissing the genre as mere deception is an error. There is a philosophy of fake news, a populist ethic of folklore versus facts. That ethic doesn’t legitimize fake news, but it provides an explanation for its reach and its persistent appeal, even in the face of consistent failure. Fake news is never defeated by fact-checkers. You overcome the power of fake news by delivering a better story.
We are well-beyond any Trump vs. Clinton rivalry. We are beyond partisan rivalry. We are now in banana republic territory, in which our fates will turn on the outcome of a potentially lethal standoff between rival deep state bodies. President Trump has signaled his intention to strengthen his supporters in the FBI and police. He earned Russian support for his intention to weaken, if not destroy, our military and international intelligence apparatus. It seems unlikely that the CIA will stand by while an inept goofball in the White House tries to gut their power.
As Cheeto Hitler takes the reins of our government, we can expect political conditions to get ugly fast. Next spring is not the time to figure out how you plan to get engaged in politics. This is the time to get organized, while things are quiet and there are still some competent people in charge.
Here are a few steps I’m taking. If you’ll join me on these, particularly in gathering contact information for elected officials, we’ll plan on taking some actions together when the time comes.