The Center Held, but Just Barely
Remember your eighth-grade civics class? You learned what a democracy is — a government run by the people. You learned what a republic is — a government that uses representatives to express the will of those people. And while we can make nuanced arguments about the effectiveness of our systems and institutions, or the original intent behind them, the fact remains that the United States is a republican democracy.
Well, America, you almost lost both of them. And just because Trump has slunk off to Mar-a-Lago, don’t think you can rest easy. It’s not over.
Four years. That’s all it took to go from a stable government to a shaky, uncertain government. An insurrectionist mob of angry Whites storming its capitol to undermine a legal election showed how fragile the government is.
Of course, it didn’t just take four years. One can argue that White anger has been brewing since 1980 when a cynical Republican administration began burying the remains of 1960s and ’70s optimism under “trickle-down” economics, corporate deregulation, and tax cuts for the wealthy.
The middle class began to buckle. It was hard to see, masked by Baby Boomers riding the cresting wave of opportunity their parents set in motion after World War II. But it was buckling nonetheless.
Jobs that 50 years ago would have put someone squarely in the Middle Class now barely break even. One-income families are no longer the norm. Two- or three-income families are, with side gigs to stitch up the gaps.
Wrongly, many of the dissatisfied Whites blame not faulty economic policies for their situation, but rather minorities taking their jobs. That’s been a common refrain of White America for decades. It despised Chinese immigrants for doing jobs at low wages; it feared a post-Civil War Black migration to the North to take traditionally White work.