Thursday, May 5, 2016

US political pendulum swings... to the right!

For the last few days, Walt has referred several times to two books which, read together, offer a fine guide as to how to bet in the US elections due in November. The books are: Rick Perlstein's Nixonland (Scribner, 2008) and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (Straight Arrow, 1973) by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (PBUH). The former owes a great debt (largely unacknowledged) to the latter, if for no other reason than its restatement of the "pendulum theory" of US politics, which Walt will elucidate forthwith.

In a nutshell, the pendulum theory posits that American "swing voters" -- those who are not lifelong Democrats or Republicans -- have, since 1945, swung back and forth between left and right, liberalism and conservatism, in cycles of about eight years. The liberal, statist Roosevelt era ended in 1952 with the election of Eisenhower. After eight years of McCarthyism, the Cold War and resurgent capitalism, the American public were beguiled by visions of Camelot, and elected a handsome young prince -- the Justin Trudeau of his day -- who promised sunny days and sunny ways.

What America got instead was eight years of what Mr Perlstein calls the "liberal consensus", described by Dr Thompson as "left-bent chaos". Lyndon B. Johnson, much reviled though he was, in fact pushed through more liberal "reforms" than any president since Abraham Lincoln -- federal control of education, integrated schools (complete with forced busing), the expansion of the welfare state, various and sundry "civil rights", etc etc.

What was the result? By 1968, Dr Thompson writes, "the Silent Majority was so deep in a behavioral sink that their only feeling for politics was a powerful sense of revulsion. All they wanted in the White House was a man who would leave them alone and do anything necessary to bring calmness back into their lives -- even if it meant turning the whole state of Nevada into a concentration camp for hippies, niggers, dope fiends, do-gooders, and anyone else who might threaten the status quo."

And so, through the great fissure in their society which developed in the hippy-dippy 60s, Americans entered "Nixonland". But, in Perlstein's view four decades on, the gap between liberals and conservatives, left and right, never closed. The pendulum kept swinging, although the feckless Carter presidency limited the leftward swing of 1976 to just four years. The ignominious defeat of Jimmy Carter lengthened the swing to the right by one administration, that of the almost-as-feckless George H.W. Bush, but since 1992 the eight-year cycle has been as predictable as peristalsis.

Eight years to the left (Clinton), eight years to the right (Dubya), eight years to the left (Barack Hussein Obama), and here we are in 2016, with the mood of the electorate much the same as that described by Hunter Thompson, quoted above. Except that we wouldn't use the N-word today, would we... Walt is certain (lifetime pct .988) that at least 45% of Americans are ready to vote against political correctness, pandering to minorities, a socialistic health care system that doesn't work, weak foreign policy, LGBT "rights" and the rest of the status quo (H. & B. Clinton, props.). Can Donald Trump pick up another 5% + 1? Stay tuned!

Further reading: "Ten Reasons Why the Trump Train's Given the Cocky, Lazy, PC-crazed Washington Elite the Spanking it Deserves -- And Left Hillary Shaking in Her Goldman-Financed Boots", by Piers Moron [Ed., please check surname. May be "Morgan"], in the online Daily Mail (UK), 5/5/16.

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