September 17th, 2016
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics is seeping into American public life — and with it, the belief that the status quo isn’t worth saving
We’ve seen in this cycle — in the candidacy of Bernie Sanders as well as Donald Trump — the appeal of a politics that puts forward a robust alternative vision for society. A politics that doesn’t just promise improvements to the lives of individual voters but declares what America itself ought to be.
That’s not a vision that can be put into practice by tinkering at the margins. Before Silicon Valley taught us to call it “disruption,” economics professors and capitalists called it “creative destruction.” It’s a more honest name: It acknowledges that sometimes things will be not just nudged aside but broken. But it’s also a happier one. It offers the possibility of creation: a generation of something new.
If Americans are less enamored of the status quo, and more willing to destroy it, it makes some sense: It’s no longer as easy as it was 10 or 20 years ago to pretend that political change can be contained to politics and the rest of society can continue apace. It’s harder than it was a decade ago to pretend that every aspect of public life — sports, pop culture, how everyday people interact with each other — isn’t inflected by politics.
It’s extremely hard to pretend that American society is unified and dynamic when the nation’s being torn apart by a controversy over a backup San Francisco quarterback’s decision to take a knee when the national anthem is played. For either side of the new culture wars, signs of change for the worse are all around.
Both the alt-right and Black Lives Matter (to name two examples) are social movements that have a politics but are not contained to the electoral sphere. Neither began with this election, and neither will end with it.
They’re transformational movements, holding out the promise that American society can be remade into something better. But both acknowledge that the status quo needs to be cracked first — not just in politics but in society as a whole. Brunchers need to be confronted by “die-ins;” politically correct social justice warriors need to be bombarded with abuse and memes. Working within the system is anathema, because the system itself is sick.