Americans are angry. We're upset, confused and frightened. I understand it. We're living through economic dislocation, terror, war, cultural anxiety, and environmental threat.
Indications are that state and federal elections will see a strong rightward shift. Short term, I think this will be a disaster. More income inequality, increased corporate power, more punitive treatment of the poor, and the dismantling of the social safety net are all on the agenda of the right. On social policy, international policy... Back to the Future. A significant number of crazies may be elected. Xenophobia, conspiratorial thinking, belligerence. All on the menu.
But. We've been here before. Eventually, we ended up in a good place.
The anger, anxiety and reactionary mood is something like what happened in the 1930's. We had a financial bubble, large inequality in wealth, a financial crash, followed by governmental belt tightening, blame for the poor, and anti-immigrant sentiment. There was the better part of a decade between the Crash of 1929 and the New Deal successes and Keynesian war spending of the mid-to-late 30's. Though the country headed in the wrong direction during the first years of the Great Depression, eventually we had a progressive tax system, a burgeoning middle class, robust financial regulation, smart public investments, etc. The false starts we made from (roughly) 1929-1934 actually set the stage for decades of prosperity from the 40's to the 60's.
Invoking Winston Churchill: "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing... after they have exhausted all other possibilities."
That's why I'm hopeful. Though anger and confusion rule today, we may eventually do the right thing.