Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Regime Change: My Essay on The Cycles of Constitutional Time in WaPo


 In today's Washington Post, I have an essay about why we are on the verge of a fundamental shift in American politics. The argument is based on my new book, The Cycles of Constitutional Time.  Here is the opening:

Things look increasingly bad for American democracy. But beneath today’s political despair and confusion are powerful undercurrents of change. Historically, U.S. politics has been characterized by the rise and fall of dominant coalitions, by long cycles of polarization and depolarization and by episodes of political decay followed by periods of reform and renewal. These cycles of constitutional time offer us lessons for understanding our current condition — and a bit of hope.

American politics seems especially fraught today because we are nearing the end of the Republican Party’s long political dominance, and the old order is fighting change with every last ounce of its strength. Even so, demographic shifts and changes in public opinion seem to herald a new regime with a new dominant coalition and a new dominant party, most likely the Democrats.

That is not the only problem. The United States has been suffering from a long period of mounting political polarization, and for the past several decades our constitutional system has decayed into an oligarchical and corrupt politics with growing inequalities of wealth. But we have also faced this dangerous combination before — in the first Gilded Age at the end of the 19th century. That period ultimately gave way to the reforms of the Progressive Era. We are now in our second Gilded Age, and increasing disgust with inequality, corruption and oligarchy in our time has already begun to produce mobilizations for political reform, akin to the first decades of the 20th century.

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