David Atkins has a great post up over at Digby's joint.
I think he's pretty much nailed the basic problem: the New-Deal-to-Great-Society era is a fading memory, and the energy behind those initiatives has been allowed to dissipate.
You've got a hard-right Republican Party, and (by historic standards, at least) a center-right technocratic party in the Dems. There is no real, actual left in this country. The big "progressive" victories are:
1. Mitt Romney's healthcare plan got passed;
2. Gays can now serve openly in the imperial forces;
3. The results of Wall Street's Panic of 2008 stopped getting worse.
Nothing in the economic system has been reformed in any substantive way. Wall Street and the Rich have been allowed to go back to adding helipads to their yachts and destroying my retirement savings unmolested.
Andrew Sullivan is onto something here:
I read George Will’s retread column from the 1980s today and simply cannot fathom what he is talking about. Except, I fear I can. He is channeling Mitch McConnell. Boehner and McConnell have one goal and it is has nothing to do with the economy. It is destroying this president and this presidency. They are clearly calculating that the economic devastation their vandalism could create will so hurt the economy that it could bring them back to power through the wreckage. And they will use every smear, every lie, every canard possible to advance this goal. The propaganda channel dreamt of by Roger Ailes in the Nixon era will continue to pump poison into the body politic, until they defeat the man whose legitimacy as president they have never truly accepted.
They would rather destroy what’s left of the economy (and work hard, through a useless and thoroughly corrupt media, to then hang the resulting depression on the White House) than let a democrat be perceived to succeed in any way. If they succeed at this, things will get almost unimaginably dire in the US. The Republican Party has truly gone insane.
What they imagine they'll do is destroy Obama, get their guy in in 2012, then do the things they refuse to do now (some form of massive stimulus) and use that as proof that “their” ideas work better than Obama’s.
The Wisconsin situation is a preview of what would follow.
I think the Republicans perceive, with plenty of justification, that final victory is within their grasp: with the destruction of the last vestiges of the only institutions capable of diluting the power of their plutocrat constituency (those institutions being unions and the social safety net), the working class (which will consist of everyone but the plutocrats) will be frightened and servile.
...except that was always a pipe dream; the reality is that desperate people do desperate things. Given the paranoiac, violent and apocalyptic character of much of the rank-and-file right these days, it may take the form of a right-wing authoritarian regime. (I predict that one of such a regime’s efforts will be to restore the unchallenged dominance of white males in our society, with probably extremely dire consequences for racial and cultural minorities.)
It may take the form of a left-wing revolution of some kind (I consider this extremely unlikely – as I said, there is no functioning, real-actual-left in the United States of any real consequence.)
Or, it could be that things will just collapse into disorder. A slow, grinding descent into anarchy and dissolution of the United States as a united, functioning political entity. This is the more likely possibility, in my view.
I’ve always kind of wondered what it was like to live in the Mediterranean region in Late Antiquity. I believe I am now getting a pretty clear sense of the experience.It's the fall of the western empire, except with thousands of hydrogen bombs up for grabs.