by Steve Lancaster 1/3/16
One of the strengths of our culture is that our political system is seldom rocked by change by revolutionary passion. The founders were well aware that checks on the power of government were necessary, but also on the popular enthusiasms of the people.
To accomplish this end, our system utilizes the election cycle to channel passions every two years. In this way mass movements have little time to build and the election provides a form of catharsis, reducing political passions even for the loser. In the history of our nation only two instances of a mass movement transcending the restrictions of the election cycle and achieving radical change in the system have occurred.
The first was in 1828 and the beginnings of widespread democracy and the birth of the modern Democrat Party. Jackson broke what had been a very reserved, even genteel, system open and American politics would change to include more voters (male) and open the system to immigrants in the late 1890s – 1920s. A similar change in American politics came with the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. Over the next 13 years the scope and reach of American government expanded and continues to expand under his successors, both Democrat and Republican. Obama is merely the reductio ad absurdum of progressive philosophy.
Both of these major changes came as the result of the creation of a genuine mass movement. A mass movement is an overwhelming thing to behold. The fall of the Berlin wall and the subsequent fall of the USSR were the result of mass movements seeking an end to East German and Soviet excess. Note that both of these mass movements were generated outside of an electoral system that was viewed by the people as corrupt and not representative. Both of these systems fell because they did not offer hope or, as Eric Hoffer says, “Those who would transform a nation or the world cannot do so by breeding and captaining discontent or by demonstrating the reasonableness and desirability of the intended changes or by coercing people into a new way of life. They must know how to kindle and fan an extravagant hope.”
We are on the cusp of another major mass movement in American politics. It may be that Donald Trump is already on the glide path for victory in November. His rallies are constantly filled to overflow and his poll numbers are consistently rising. He is tapping the current unhappiness of the electorate, democrat and republican; “For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and potentialities of the future. Finally, they must be wholly ignorant of the difficulties involved in their vast undertaking.”
Trump has captured this angst and the hope for change without revolution. Trump gatherings have the elements of a nationalist rally, revival and rock concert rolled into one. His potential opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton does not have a clue about how to counter a mass movement, nor is she capable of fomenting one. Not to mention that she may be under indictment before the convention. The only counter to an active mass movement is another mass movement of equal strength. There does not seem to be a leader or movement capable of stopping the Trump onslaught.
The problem Trump will face on 20 January 2017 is converting from leader of a popular movement to practical man of action. His experience in business will lessen the impact, as a successful businessman he is cognizant of the need to delegate. His major challenge will be to govern and not rule. If he can make this transition and his followers also make the same journey then Trump will have not only a “bully pulpit” but also the political capitol to unleash the creative skills of the American people and success over the next four years will go a long way towards erasing the stink of the last 8 years.
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