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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Does History Tilt Progressive?

I would like to think so. When I took Western History in high school and college (Greece/Rome/Mid-East to Europe and liberated territories/colonies), I thought that the march of history was to the left, e.g. from Tory to Whig to Republican. Hegel, as wonderfully analyzed by Francis Fukuyama, saw the End of History in liberal democracy. Marx picked up the "science" of history as moving from aristocracy to bourgeoisie to proletariats. But dictatorial fascism and bolshevism and, now, the new global plutocratic oligarchy seems to have put the kibosh on the seeming inevitable progressive unfolding of humanity.

"Progress is our most important product" is a great slogan. But not if it is measured in consumable wealth or money rather than in human happiness that comes with integration with one's self, neighbors, community, nature, and the universe.

The question asks itself in this presidential election which is shaping up as a choice.  Between a return to the past, e.g. our image of the greatest WWII victorious generation of the mid 20th century or "the way we never were" as one author puts it. Or a new racially, sexually, ethnically, socially, economically diverse but integrated, in creative class communities, through advanced technology, solving all our problems intelligently through science or "the way we never will be" as a new author might put it.

Clearly the Romney campaign is most appealing to white men and their women and older folk who see Obama taking the country down the road to perdition. While Obama is appealing to youth, liberated women, intellectuals, Latinos and African Americans who are setting new standards of morality.  (See the article in the WP today: "Electing the Future or the Past").

Demographics may now seem to be on the side of the Democratic Party--no matter who wins this election. Republicans by identifying themselves more with the regressive white South and with white working men who fear the loss of their once dominant position and their income are courting disaster in the long run. But that could change. Look at Clarence Thomas and Marco Rubio and Herman Cain. Look at how urban Catholics, once the mainstay of the Democratic party, moved to the suburbs and became Republican. Maybe Republicans will come to their senses and work for a McCain/Bush/Obama comprehensive immigration reform which would bring in many more Latinos.

As I have said earlier, it's not the Parties. I trust I would have been a strong supporter of Republicans under Abe Lincoln, Bob Taft, Teddy Roosevelt, and even Ike--attacking slavery, robber barons, and the military-industrial complex. Both Parties seem trapped by economic concerns and need strong challenges as to their notion of wealth, freedom, public, and humanity. Both Parties are now dominated by superstar plutocrats whose policies and methods undermine the republic. (You can tell that I am reading Plutocrats by Chrystia Freeland.)

Back to the question. Is history on a progressive or regressive track?  I think that the tilt of history question is somewhat like the "fundamental option" or "Paschal's Wager" (which we discussed earlier). It's our choice that makes it so.