All modern, western governments, and most non-western governments as well, have some aspects of socialism built into their basic makeup. That wasn’t always the case. In the US, prior to world war 2 we had very, very little social welfare that was part of the federal governments reason for being. After world war 2, the social safety net grew much larger. That wasn’t a coincidence. In order to understand how, it helps to look briefly at the Great Depression. In many ways, you can look at the Great Depression as the biggest large scale failure of capitalism. There was very little federal oversight of any of the biggest industries in the US, and after years of short term thinking and blind optimism, reality came crashing down taking a lot of money with it. We slowly were improving after the worst of it, then world war 2 came along. Suddenly the federal government was spending mind-boggling amounts of money during the war, then afterwards as well in the form of the GI bill, which paid for school and housing for most of the veterans. Which helped set up a long period of prosperity for America. That pattern of disaster, moderate improvement, bigger disaster, then larger improvement may be playing out again.
During the 2000 election it was clear to me that Bush’s presidency would be a nightmare. And by almost any objective measure it was. We were in the worst economic climate since the Great Depression. We were involved in two wars with no clear objectives that we were just dumping money into. I had a hard time understanding why people would vote for someone who didn’t even bother to hide his disdain for the majority of the US, and indeed world. It makes more sense to me now. Bush made a great emotional connection to voters than Gore. The one with the greater connection is most likely to win. It doesn’t really matter if that connection is negative or positive.
Taking a longer view, however, and his disaster of a presidency set the stage for Obama’s moderate success.
After 8 years of Obama we have fewer wars. The economy is growing. Millions more people have healthcare. Gay people can marry. The only reason that happened is because the Bush presidency was such a disaster that the democrats were able to get the House of Representatives and Senate long enough to push through some beneficial laws. If my historical oversimplification is accurate, than we can expect a much bigger disaster now. More wars. An even worse economy. And, not for nothing, trampled individual rights and worse life expectancies. Maybe, just maybe, this is a necessary step before we can make some real changes to benefit a lot of people. After Obamacare is repealed, and whatever replaces it kills millions and costs staggering amounts of money, people might be ready for a single payer system. After the national deficit grows to levels that make even Dick Cheney’s eyes pop, maybe we’ll be ready to raise the capital gains tax and the top level tax rate. After we come to within a hair of nuclear war, again, maybe we’ll finally look at disarmament as the only natural conclusion.
If I’m right, the next 4-8 years will be a nightmare of geological proportions. But, there will be reason for optimism. All we need to do is be ready for the opportunity to do real good. The nature of our government guarantees it.