Muslim parents of a fallen Army Captain sobered America the last week in July. To understand Donald Trump’s response to the father’s Democratic convention speech, consider how the collapsing economic paradigm continues to provoke political upheaval, as hate mongers stir the pot ahead of the presidential election.
The paradigm is akin to a grand narrative about how the world is supposed to work. When paradigm elites falter in ability to explain what is happening and to accurately predict the future, then their personal futures collapse also. Subsequently, a new paradigm story is birthed, but very painfully, most probably.
Many citizens are fighting back now, politically, because their lives aren’t succeeding, economically. Next, amid chaos, will follow reform—eventually—empowered by a new—or at least a revitalized story. For the new one to succeed, brighter economic outcomes must be forthcoming over the longer haul.
Eighty years ago the laissez-faire paradigm collapsed amid aftershocks of the stock market crash of 1929. Laissez-faire was swept away, except in the minds and hearts of die-hard ideologues. Economic institutions were reformed and others were birthed at the hand of President Franklin Roosevelt, elected during that darkest winter of 1932-33.
Laissez-faire die-hards never accepted Roosevelt’s practical paradigm revision—known as Keynesianism—with its new stabilizing role for government, however. Successors to these folks launched a successful counter-revolution in 1980, at the hand of Ronald Reagan. Now, even this counter-revolution is facing revulsion by many prior adherents.
One indicator of paradigm health—or sickness—stands above all others—historically. It is that each generation of Americans is expected to live more prosperously than the prior generation. Alarm bells began ringing early in this century, however, followed later by Great Recession evidence, that the Great American bread machine is faltering.
Paradigm breakdown, of course, is evident in the 2016 political rise of upstarts—Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. American families, struggling to make ends meet, command front page news, almost daily. Their stories are about stalled wages, increased debt loads and rising monthly rent.
The perpetrators, according to Donald Trump, are Mexican immigrants who depress wages by flooding the market with cheap labor, Chinese factories that steal American jobs, then oversupply American retailers, and lopsided international trade deals.
Amid chaos, too often one’s opponents, politically, now become political enemies. Too often, hatred dominates, across the aisle.
Witness Donald Trump in the aftermath of the Democratic National Convention. To keep his political “troops” mobilized, he must give them “red meat,” of course, and in Trump’s world, this translates into something to hate. Consider Trump’s unprincipled, unprecedented attack on the parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq in 2004.
Capt. Khan’s father, Khizr, blasted Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric. “You have sacrificed for no one,” Kahn observed of the Republican contender.
In response, Trump questioned whether Hillary Clinton’s speech writers were the one’s actually responsible for Kahn’s remarks. The inference: no Muslim speaker is competent to frame a take-down of Trump without a political speech writer. Then he turned to Capt. Kahn’s mother and opined: “His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say,” he said.
Critical response to the candidate’s remarks was swift and sure on both sides of the political aisle. Now Trump is being pummeled for lack of compassion and absence of presidential temperament, to use the kindest language possible.
Not so for senior GOP leaders, however, who fail to take a position, much less to express revulsion, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Well, more hatred will come, no doubt—much more. How else can rank and file Trump supporters be kept in line by handlers, absent the requisite political dog whistles emanating from their leader?
In this chaotic election only one thing is sure. With or without hatred stoked by Donald Trump, our now-chaotic country will remain in paradigm free-fall. No one knows what the next guiding economic narrative will be, come 2017.
From Boulder, Colorado, this is Jim Sawyer for Capitalism in Crisis.