My blogs over the past few years have agonized over the American Decline, but I was gratified that my last blog forecasting an Obama re-election proved accurate, and I also got the move to collaboration right. Lord knows we futurists need credibility. I think this election could prove a crucial turnaround because the election signalled a move toward toward inclusiveness, facing reality, and economic balance.
The most obvious significance of Obama’s victory is the broad range of constituents who voted Democratic. A strong majority of Latinos, Blacks, Asians, women, and young people all went for Obama, with only white men favouring Romney. After a long history of white rule, America is finally embracing its heritage of inclusiveness and now looks like the rest of the world. We have known that the electorate was moving this way for decades, but the election means that women, youth, and people of colour now have political clout. And Obama’s newfound political strength derives from his special role as a symbol of this diverse new America. Dana Milbank’s article in the Washington Post called it the “Defeat of the 1 Percent.”
The election was also a victory for one of my “Five Bits of Advice” in another blog — Americans are facing reality. Laws legalizing Marijuana in Colorado and Washington suggest that people are ready to move beyond the futile war on drugs that has wasted almost a trillion dollars in enforcement, produced the highest rates of imprisoned people in the world, and fuelled the brutal drug trade in Mexico. Laws recognizing same-sex marriages are sweeping the land, finally accepting homosexuals as full-fledged citizens. And with the confirmation of ObamaCare, the U.S. now joins the rest of the modern world in having a universal health care system.
Most importantly, Obama’s win marks a thankful end to the Triumphant Capitalism that begun with Reagan’s election in 1980. The past 30 years were a welcome move to entrepreneurship and free markets, but the economic busts of 2000 and 2008, the failure of trickle-down economics to benefit the middle-class, and the growing chasm between rich and poor now make the limits of free markets vividly apparent. George Stieglitz, who won a Noble for his work in economics, thinks “The 2008 financial crisis was to Capitalism what the fall of the Berlin Wall was to Communism.”
Current talk of cooperation between Republicans and Democrats is wonderful, but very difficult obstacles must be overcome as both left and right confront the limits of their beliefs. Republicans are right that a decentralized nation is essential to manage exploding complexity, but they have to accept the equally essential need for government. The economic success of Germany, the Nordic states, Singapore, South Korea, and even China demonstrate the superior performance of nations that balance free markets and strong governments. Steve Pearlstein, business editor for the Washington Post, wrote: “A pure market economy is an ideological fantasy.”
Likewise, Democrats may be ascendant now, but they also have to accept the brutal need to curb excessive government spending and bureaucracy. Ironically, the use of markets in education, healthcare, welfare, and other government services could wonders to ensure accountability and innovation.
There is no shortage of inventive workable solutions to these challenges, as I have tried to show on www.BillHalal.com and www.TechCast.org. It’s important to recognize, however, that this is fundamentally an ideological battle of beliefs, and it requires some sort of creative shift in national consciousness. The hopeful thing is that today’s influx of women, Latinos, Blacks, Asians, youth, gays – and possibly people smoking pot openly – has fortuitously appeared just as fresh views are so crucial. There is good reason for optimism again.