Is the perfect storm upon us?

Can we get past 2020? In the past year:

  • The Dow Jones hit a record high, plunged 37%, then reversed course to new record highs. US debt increased by 61% to almost $28 trillion.
  • The Covid pandemic struck. Mandatory closings collapsed small business, schools were closed and virtual classes didn’t work nearly as well. Expensive offices and time-consuming commutes became unnecessary. Many left the big cities.
  • Riots raged. Urban crime, especially homicide, spiked as never before. An anti-police crusade led to a shortage of officers just when they were needed most. Firearms and ammunition sales broke all records.
  • ”Cancel culture” was institutionalized. Monuments were toppled, removed, or defaced. Schools, buildings, roads, and parks were renamed as academic and political elites publicly repudiated our Republic’s founders, and rebranded as evil America’s heritage.
  • A significant segment of the population did not accept the 2020 presidential election as legitimate.
  • The President of the United States was impeached twice within thirteen months.
  • The British medical journal Lancet published a study forecasting “jaw-dropping” declines in fertility rates worldwide.

About that perfect storm? We’re smack in the middle of it. Grim tidings, perhaps -- but the first step to recovery is acceptance, so we must face reality. We can’t move forward without an informed awareness of the current situation. We are in a bit of a sticky wicket, a vastly different world than twelve months ago, but that is not going to ruin my day. As a friend once said, “I’ve heard there is a recession going on, but I decline to participate.” We must face the future with just such a positive mindset.

So from new 2020 realities, what lies ahead in American politics?

Identity politics

There is no escape from it in print, broadcast and online media. On Valentine’s Day the venerable UK Guardian greeted readers with the following news story: 

'White supremacy won today': critics condemn Trump acquittal as racist vote -- Analysts say ‘whiteness protects its own’ after only seven Republicans vote to convict Trump of inciting deadly Capitol riot.

Most folks don’t think White supremacy had anything to do with the impeachment. But a media-driven Greek chorus of toxic identity politics will ensure that race and rancor pollute political discourse going forward. The polarizing “oppressor-victim” narrative is here to stay. It is the idée fixe of the Democratic Party, a powerful but uneasy coalition of moneyed corporatists, “woke” Whites, and ethnic minorities known in PC-speak as “marginalized communities.” Working-class Whites are not part of the equation. Democratic presidential contender Gov. Howard Dean’s 2003 comment "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks…" is ancient history.

People vote their pocketbooks

With the personal finances of millions plunged into chaos, populism will claim sizeable political shelf space. The GOP has an identity crisis. Blue-collar Whites are moving into their column as the party hemorrhages the most affluent suburbanites. In 2020 Republicans gained significantly among Black, Hispanic and Asian voters -- so populism is definitely not about race. This trend will continue into 2024, seized upon by ambitious politicos climbing the ladder to notoriety. We’re seeing the rise of a multi-ethnic blue-collar/middle-class bloc. The Deplorables persist.

Social cohesion erodes

While corporate media censor news and even try to destroy competing social media (think of Parler), the law of supply and demand will not be defied. Alternative outlets are rapidly growing. The mask of faux “civility” has been ripped from political discourse. “Fake news,” “political correctness,” “the deep state” and the downside of globalism are openly discussed. Cancel culture tries to stifle it, but the genie is out of the bottle.  

Plunging fertility

As for the litany of lament at the outset of this piece, one item stands apart. That is plunging fertility, an existential issue. Failing to replace ourselves could eventually lead to extinction. The world total fertility rate has declined 50 percent in the last 50 years. Fertility in the West and in East Asia has been below replacement level (2.1) for decades. The year 1972 was the last time the US surpassed it, at 2.132. The American population has continued to increase, but only because of immigration, higher fertility rates among immigrants and increased life expectancy. And even that is changing. A just-released study by the Center for Immigration Studies reveals that the declining fertility rate of US immigrants fell below replacement for the first time in 2019 at 2.02. Is such a decline the price of assimilation? According to the study’s lead author:

“Immigration is no fix for an aging society… [the study] completely shatters the idea that you can use immigration to increase your fertility and make your society much younger.”

Much is written about the looming consequences of declining fertility. Yet it is the cultural dimension that begs further study. It seems that over time, society has become family-unfriendly. Globalism’s quest for maximum efficiency and return on profit has degraded the human element. Traditional modes of interaction have been supplanted by faceless digital chat. PC culture’s moral relativism has confounded formerly set notions of right and wrong. Public confidence is in a tailspin. Elected officials should cease being the problem and search for solutions. Otherwise, we have to ask, what is to become of the vibrant, variegated humanity that we’ve so long taken for granted?

Demography is destiny, wrote the 19th century sociologist August Comte.  Can society reverse the decline in fertility? Stay tuned.   


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