The question is how will we handle the changes just that are just over the horizon? Will we rise to the occasion or will we turn on one another? Do we boldly move towards openness and equality or do we look towards the past for comfort? If you’re hoping for the former, the election of Donald Trump could be a very bad sign. America might be entering a much different era than the one we thought President Obama ushered in eighth years ago.
Hope and change has given way to pray and hope we survive.
Age of Obama
In 2008 the election of President Barack Obama gave many of us hope for a “post racial” society. His reelection in 2012 seemed to confirm this vision. Coming into 2016 progressives understood there was much work to be done. Obama’s legacy needed to cemented, but overall we felt good about the future.
To help matters, the other side was in chaos. Nearly two dozen candidates sought the GOP nomination for president. The so-called strong Republican bench filled with familiar faces was getting beat by reality TV star Donald Trump. And we all loved it. Democrats seemed poised for an easy run to the White House. Surely the Donald would be no match for either Sanders or Clinton. The more Trump won, the louder we cheered.
The Obama years weren’t perfect by any standard. But there was solid progress on a number of fronts.
- Gay marriage was legalized all over the country.
- The idea of prison reform gained steam.
- The Iran Nuclear Deal was going to help us avoid yet another Middle Eastern war.
- Marijuana was legalized in some states.
- Twenty million people now had health insurance thanks to Obamacare.
- Overtime rules had been expanded to protect workers.
- Many states raised their minimum wage.
- The economy became stable.
- We stopped the Keystone Pipeline.
- We saved the American auto industry along with millions of jobs.
- Even gas prices were low.
To add tho this, the future of progressivism seemed to be in good hands. Our ideas were voiced by the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. So if we could just put a Democrat in the White House Obama’s legacy might be safe.
Amidst the progress of the last eight years, there were disturbing contradictions. The economy improved, yet inequality grew worse. We had an African American president. But cops still murdered unarmed blacks. (And got away with it). Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated by a major party. Yet abortion rights were under fire in too many places to name. Incomes rose. But wages were still far below where they needed to be. And then, the most disturbing contradiction of all: Donald Trump’s campaign went from a joke to one of the biggest threats ever faced by this country.
America’s racist, nativist and sexist chickens came home to roost in November. So the first female president was derailed by a man who should be a registered sex offender. And that’s not the only Trump contradiction: He’s a wildly successful businessman who’s just happened to bankrupt four companies. He’s an honest, tell it like it is, non – politician who profited from a fake university. He’s a self made billionaire who inherited 14 million dollars. He’s one of the biggest liars in the history of American politics, but Hillary was a crook who couldn’t be trusted.
No wonder we’re so confused.
The Last Gasp
Some have called the election of Donald Trump the last gasp for white supremacy. Hopefully that’s true. One thing is sure. The concept of a post racial America has been scuttled for the near future. It must be, if we’re going to deal honestly with the conflicts ahead. The fact is most immigrants legal or otherwise hail from from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The 2050 census is expected to be the first one to show a white minority. By that time 53% of us will be non-white. That’s right, no more white majority.
This new ethnic reality won’t be the result of rampant illegal immigration. It will be caused by higher birthrates among immigrants. So, building the wall or deporting 11 million undocumented will make little to no difference.
If you just happen to know a white supremacist who’s nervous about the future, please let him know President Trump can’t do much to change the country’s racial makeup. His grandchildren are likely to be born into a much different America than the one he knows. Even if we had a “whites only” immigration policy, this country would just keep getting browner.
Now it’s possible the definition of “whiteness” could change by the mid-21st century. Possible. But not likely. The concept of race is so firmly entrenched in our psyche that I don’t see it changing anytime soon. The “one drop rule” will probably still be in full effect. If you’re not familiar with the term, this simply means that anyone with African blood can’t be considered white no matter how they look.
Young vs. Old
By 2060 there will be as many Americans above the age of 85 as below the age of five. This is going to make for generational battles over government spending, public policy, and social mores.
For example, today there are 31 working people for every retired person, by 2043 there will be only thirteen. Who’s gonna support all of those old people? The young will of course.
With Americans living longer, generational population numbers will even out like never before in our history. In healthy societies population distribution across age groups usually resembles a pyramid. This shows a solid base of young people supporting a smaller and smaller number of older folks as we move towards the top. Well, America’s pyramid has changed shape. It’s come to resemble a rectangle or square.
Another major point of contention is the cost of programs for the aging. These expenses will soon account for more than half of the national budget. Of course we can only spend so much. So funding for priorities like education, research and infrastructure may suffer. All of these things have a far greater impact on the lives of young people.
The hardest thing to figure out is exactly how future demographic changes will effect politics. Our current swing states are mostly in the Midwest…… Ohio. Pennsylvania. Michigan. Florida is sometimes thrown in there too.
In 2050 those states should still have a solid white majority. Right now many of them have GOP governors as well as Republican dominated statehouses. Union busting policies and strict voter ID laws may give these states a Republican majority for years to come.
The wild card in this is the fact that we don’t know which states will have better economies. So we can’t predict shifts in population. As we know, people tend to go where the jobs are. If more good jobs are created in a particular region that’s where folks will move.
Another trend in politics is gradual leftward drift. Folks under the age of 30 have far more liberal views than older Americans. The younger generation is very supportive of same sex marriage. They stand behind legalizing marijuana. In general they’re supportive of an activist government.
More than two thirds of Millennials, about 68%, support same sex marriage…Forty Eight percent of “Baby Boomers” agree…But only 38% of the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945) support gay marriage.
So the future of more progressive social policies seems to be bright. This also extends to foreign policy. Understandably, younger Americans don’t support the idea of military intervention overseas. (They do the fighting).
The fact that we have been at war in the Middle East for over fifteen years doesn’t help either. The never ending carnage has helped to sour an entire generation on pointless foreign wars. We invaded Iraq in 2002, when the youngest voters in the 2016 election were only 4 or 5 years old.
A Bright Future?
The Trump years will be tough, but the overall trends favor a bright future for this country. Once we’re past the Trump stumble, we’ll still need to sort some things out. And that won’t be easy.
In spite of everything I said in this article Demographics aren’t destiny. Just because progressive ideas are popular with today’s youth doesn’t guarantee they will be implemented going forward. People might get used to the idea of having no social safety net.
Over the next few years, government programs we take for granted could be severely cut. With total control of Washington, Republicans could hand billions of taxpayer dollars to giant corporations so they can gamble on Wall Street. The GOP will call it “privatization” but we both know its just more corporate welfare.
Increasing racial and ethnic diversity won’t create a color blind society. In some places multiculturalism is already a dirty word. White supremacy isn’t going to disappear along with the white majority. In fact it could even get worse.
As Western societies become more racially diverse, white resentment tends to rise. Just look at the racial strife in Europe right now. As America becomes browner, conservative social policies could become more popular.
In short, there’s plenty of work to be done, if we want a bright post-Trump future we’ll have to fight for it.