Forecasting the results of this financial crisis – part I, about politics

As this economic earthquake continues shaking the world, we can only guess at the results.  There will be a recession, probably a global one.  But that too will pass.  What effects from this will ripple into the future?

This is speculation about the unknowable, to help us understand the magnitude of these events and open our imaginations to the possibility of extreme outcomes.  This series considers the following ways in which the crisis will have large and long-reaching effects.

  1. Political realignment in the US — dominance of the Democratic Party for a generation or more.
  2. Economic structure — a massive increase of government power, a slower growing but more stable economy.
  3. Oil prices and supply — lower prices followed by far higher prices, perhaps government ownership.

This post discusses #1:  the coming political realignment of America.  Political parties have three kinds of life:  intellectual, popularity, and power.  This crisis will lead to a massive shift in all three dimensions from the Republicans to the Democrats.

Intellectual

Parties have doctrines, which have life in its “thinkers”  — who may be in an ignored remnant, a vibrant minority, or dominant.  Since WWII the Conservatives (the ideological heart of the Republican Party) went through this sequence; now they will return to stage one — a ignored minority, considered cranks by a large fraction of the public.

This is a fate they have earned.  They supported the mutant Republicanism of Bush II:  a big-government, anti-civil liberty, pro-foreign war President.  Now they follow McCain — even less conservative than Bush II — into oblivion.  Pro-gun and anti-abortion have become the lodestones of Conservative thought, as other other beliefs were cast aside.  Their support for Governor Palin shows the bankruptcy of this strategy; their mindless prattle about her wonderfulness are perhaps their last lines on the American political stage.  For the next generation they will again be talking mostly to one another; perhaps during this time in the desert they will again find something worth our attention.

Popularity

Consider the the Republican Party’s record of domestic and foreign policy.  It has led us into two wars that so far have yielded zero benefits to America, and seem likely to yield less benefits in the future.  As the dominant party since 1980, their management of the economy will be considered the epitome of insanity by future generations — the reckless accumulation of debt on all levels that eventually capsized the economy.  These policies were largely supported by the Democratic Party — key policy initiatives in America are usually bipartisan — but the leading party takes responsibility for the success or failure of its policies.

The only factor saving the Republicans from electoral annihilation in November is that events have moved so quickly that Americans do not yet know the scope and magnitude of the damage.  The 2010 election probably will complete the purge from office of all but the most strongly entrenched Republicans.

Power

Power in our society is distributed among a network of “nodes.”  Media, academia, political structures, the military, the judicial system, businesses, etc.  Liberals, the heart of the Democratic Party, gained control of many sectors in the New Deal — and retain them today.  They will add more nodes to their score in the coming years.  Most notably, they will gain near-total control of the judicial system.  Control of the academia, mainstream media, and all three branches of government — this will give them the ability to reshape America.  A time of crisis and uncertainty will open American to change.  This nation will look much different ten years from now.


Originally published at Fabius Maximus on Oct 13, 2008 and reproduced here with the author’s permission.