I’ve historically written a lot about the cycles of American history, having largely been inspired by Michael Lind’s treatment of the subject in The Next American Nation and Land of Promise.
Here’s the gist- you have great “founding moments” or “revolutions” of our institutions and society, presided over by great “lawgivers” like Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. These institutions decay under a series of reasonably great leaders until a great populist revolt is unleashed, another charismatic leader reforms the institutions, and the democratic legitimacy of the Republic is restored. These institutions further decay under a series of relatively mediocre leaders, and the decay gets so bad that when the next great crisis strikes, another Washington-esque leader rises, reforms the Republic, and sets of another cycle.
You have Lincolns and FDRs. But before you can have them, you need to go through Buchanans and Hoovers.
Hillary Clinton is not yet President of the United States, but bar something cataclysmic happening, she’ll be it. And how will she do?
Some feminists and mainstream Democrats have been overly optimistic, methinks. She’s a competent enough administrator, but she doesn’t seem to have much in the way of “the vision thing” or even the charisma to go do great things. She’s also, by the way, the absolute epitome of the left-right neoliberal establishment- nothing new comes from her speeches, while promises of centralizing-neoliberal economics and neoconservative foreign policy- in other words, elite globalism- abound in her pronouncements. Todd S. Purdum nicely documents her boringness in a piece at Politico out yesterday.
In other words, when Secretary Clinton ascends to the Oval Office, we’ll see a historic first- a woman as the leader of the free world- but we’ll also see a historic much-of-the-same. We here at PRL don’t foresee Clinton taking bold stances on governance reform, taking on the plutocracy, addressing the debt and deficit, rebuilding America’s productivity and innovation base, or crafting a new concept of world order, much less re-articulating America’s national purpose and national identity. She’s steeped in the ways of the past thirty years, and appears temperamentally incapable of thinking outside the neoliberal globalist box.
That’s fine. She’s still a responsible governing figure, and at the very least will make a fine President who won’t drag us into fiscal or constitutional crisis the way Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump would. Her ascendancy is to be expected, though neither celebrated nor feared.
What next, then?
We of the Progressive Republican League are hoping that some enterprising and charismatic politician, Republican or Democrat, can not only revitalize the Republican Party in the next few years, but send it along in a new, reformist direction. We have some hopes- Jon Huntsman, maybe, or perhaps a Californian like Kevin Faulconer or Gavin Newsom- but whoever it is, they’ll have to think outside the box and bear in mind the great historic moment at which they stand.
In the meantime, though, we’ll have to get through the inevitable stagnation and insipidity of the second Clinton Presidency. That’s plenty of time to think up new ideas and craft a new coalition- maybe by 2020 or 2024, the country will be ready for greatness again.
And not a moment too soon- the clouds of war and sirens of decay are gathering and sounding. Let’s marshal ourselves together, America. Greatness awaits.