Think of this as Volume 16, Number 38 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
A new set of assumptions, a political Thesis with a Myth and Values seeking Power, is uniquely vulnerable at this time. Because it's seeking validation for the very first time.
In 1972 Richard Nixon knew this, and he gamed the Democratic Party's nomination process to get the opponent he wanted. He let his paranoia rule him, he was destroyed by that paranoia, but the more important point is that the new assumptions held.
Not just in 1972, but throughout the period of Republican Party ascendency that followed.
I've written about what I call the Nixon Thesis of Conflict, which Reaganism validated, before. We are surrounded by enemies that must be defeated. They have allies within our own country. Our political opponents are allied with those enemies. These political enemies are thus our country's enemies, they are illegitimate. They must not be allowed in power.
Compare this with the Roosevelt Thesis of Unity, which reached its end in 1968, yet which George McGovern still believed in, thoroughly, in 1972. We're all in this together. Every voice has value. Everyone deserves a living income. These assumptions were obsolete in a world where energy had become the currency, and where energy was becoming increasingly scarce, increasingly valuable.
I've also said before that politics lags economics, that the needs of business have always dominated American politics, even when business was against the new. The Roosevelt era was dominated by manufacturing. The Nixon era has been dominated by offices, by technology and content. But both eras rode on energy as their currency – cheap energy in the Roosevelt era, dear energy in the Nixon era.
Which brings us to 2012. The Nixon Thesis is now 44 years old. Listen to Republican arguments in Tampa and you would think this President were McGovern himself. It's an obsolete caricature.
But then peer behind the curtain and what do you see? I see oil money. I see billionaires who are fully-invested in maintaining a high price for the oil and gas remaining in the ground. And I see a lot of desperation.
The key economic issue of our time is energy. Global politics are defined by it. And only one party is promising to fight the oil power, even half-heartedly. That's the President's party. Republicans promise to put government squarely behind more oil drilling at the expense of solar energy, wind energy, biomass and tidal energy. They deny the reality of global warming, even while it withers our crops and burns away our ice caps.
It's what is behind the crazy that you should focus on, the Koch Brothers and their ilk. The neocons who tied American foreign policy to maintaining access to Middle East oil, even at the expense of our young heroes' lives. The social conservatives who claim to oppose Islam, but in fact have made their Christianity into its mirror image. The economic conservatives convinced the world will come to an end if some creditors have to take it in the neck – creditors whose assets are denominated in barrels of oil.
What I most like about this President is how he seems to intuit all of this. He did not try to manipulate the Republican primary. He accepted the 2012 version of Ed Muskie, rather than insisting on a second-tier McGovern candidate. He doesn't even mind being outspent, instead focusing on cloud technology and grassroots organizing, even in the face of Republican efforts to re-write the rules of election and bring back the poll tax.
Rather than confront Republicans directly in Charlotte, as Bill Clinton (whose Third Way anti-thesis to the Nixon Thesis is the basis for the Obama Thesis of Consensus, just as Lincoln followed Clay and FDR followed Wilson) did, Obama calmly laid out the values underlying his program, summing up his “attack” on the oilagarchs with one word – citizenship.
Suddenly Muskie became McGovern. The GOP had nominated a candidate with large accounts in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, one whose definition of citizenship went in only one way – his own – and who was completely opaque concerning his past and his plans for the country.
I think this was the turning point in the whole campaign.
Since then the Romney campaign has been flailing, their Jim Crow campaign against voter participation is being seen for what it is, their embrace of a neocon foreign policy obvious in reaction from Libya, their social policy is going on the down-low rather than being embraced, as Todd Akin learned.
All these elements of the Nixon Thesis were designed originally to create a “them” that the thin majority of “us” would have a knee-jerk reaction against. But what happens when “they” become the majority, and your side the minority? What happens when “they” become organized, when “they” have a more attractive candidate, with a more attractive platform, when “they” become the future and you increasingly look like the past?
That's what was happening to Democrats in 1972, and I can tell you from my life experience it sucked. Watching reporters, women, blacks, academics, drug users, union members and even “liberal” Republicans like Rockefeller be demonized in their turn, and new groups thrown on the fire whenever the fire threatened to turn cold (gays, feminists, environmentalists) was a terrible thing to live through, and those politics defined most of my life.
Most, but not all. Because we do have a solution, finally, to the energy crisis. The Sun shines, the wind blows, the tides roll, and we live on a molten rock. Abundance is coming, we can see crossover through the window of our car as we travel through time.
Everything is ready to be turned on its head. The gating factor in our economy is moving from energy to trained minds and willing hands. That's the new Thesis, an economy built to last on innovation and education, an economy that grows out of labs rather than office towers, that builds value rather than manipulating it.
All that remains is to validate that Thesis, to validate those assumptions, to convince the media that the new majority can survive anything the minority can throw at it.