America has resisted many progressive reforms that most western societies have successfully embraced decades ago.
Whether that makes America exceptional or the least advanced of the world’s advanced democratic nations is debatable — as is whether such reforms are good or bad. That is typically a subjective judgment based on personal philosophy and/or how they might affect a person’s life.
In America, those resisting change are primarily those for whom change will most likely cost them power, privilege and wealth — and/or those who oppose change on ideological or theological grounds. These are conservatives, typically represented by the Republican Party.
Conversely, those promoting and embracing change are those who are disadvantaged by and/or philosophically at odds with the status quo. These folks are generally identified as liberals or progressives and are typically represented by the Democratic Party.
In the philosophical struggle between conservatives and progressives over change, adamantine adherence to ideology afflicts both sides. It obstructs objective examination of reality and rational efforts to address issues.
And, while both sides are guilty of reprehensible conduct, the Republicans who are the more desperate because the nation’s changing demographics and the weight of reality does not favor them, are the dirtier fighters.
In order to maintain enough political power to stave off changes disadvantageous to them, they actively work to dilute democracy — e.g. voter suppression, gerrymandering, obstructing efforts to prevent Russian interference in our elections, and more.
But ultimately change is unavoidable.
In the vast complexity of life, the physics of action and reaction that drive social change have incalculable possibilities. Eventually, though, the chain reaction leads to a movement that, when enough people join in, overwhelms all resistance to it.
America has wrestled with profound change throughout its history, and such change is brewing once again. Socio-economic conditions in America have reached an inflection point as the continuing erosion of the beleaguered middle class threatens social stability.
While free market capitalism has proven that it can provide the most benefit for the most people, the forces of greed in America have transmogrified capitalism into an economic Darwinian jungle dominated by huge merciless monopolizing corporations whose insatiable appetite for profit threatens the general welfare. With their vast wealth, they have captured government, and subsequently stymied regulations designed to rein in corporate greed, thwart monopolization and prevent environmental pollution.
Consequently, avaricious banks can recklessly crash the economy. Pharmaceutical companies can push opiates on the public and create a deadly addiction epidemic. The health-care industry can price patients into bankruptcy while health insurers raise rates, increase deductibles and resist making payouts.
Our common environment and our future are forfeit to short-sighted greed as fossil fuel emissions are rapidly altering the planet’s climate while purchased politicians deny the science of cause and effect and loosen regulations on extraction and use.
Massive tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy are once again sold to the public as “trickle-down economics,” but for most Americans it is more aptly “table-scraps economics” that only increases wealth disparity and adds to the untenably high national debt.
The election of President Donald Trump was in no small part a result of broad discontent with current conditions, a demand for profound change. But Make America Great Again is no Renaissance, and Trump has clearly not ushered in an age of reason.
He is, however, the crowning culmination of Republican Party desperation to retain power, cater to wealthy interests and pursue irresponsibly selfish policies in disregard of the general welfare.
The shock and horror of the Trump presidency may have woken up America’s rational majority, who now see the danger of political apathy and how essential it is to engage in the political process at least enough to prevent something like Trump from happening.
And, while the Democrats are rightfully focused on preventing a second term of this dangerous buffoon, they should not be so cautious that they nominate a business-as-usual candidate and disregard the sea swell of change out there.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that younger Americans — now the largest segment of the population — place far less importance on traditional notions of patriotism, religion and family than do older generations of Americans. Because they must confront a dubious future, the young are more concerned with the environment and their fading economic prospects than with flag-waving, mythological divinities and procreation.
Corporate America sees where society is going and recognizes that it must reform itself and embrace social responsibility.
In a major philosophical shift, 188 of 195 of the nation’s most powerful CEOs meeting at the Business Roundtable urged businesses to consider all stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers and communities — rather than just profits. Additionally, major corporations in the oil and auto sectors have openly rejected Trump’s reversals of environmental regulations affecting their industries.
These companies understand what Trump and many conservatives do not. The nation has changed. Resistance is futile. Today’s public will not tolerate cannibal capitalism, environmental degradation, unreasonable wealth disparity and partisan ideological idiocy paralyzing rational public policy.
Democrats better understand this, too, and be careful not to ignore change but be bold enough to lead it.
— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.