Entry #365 is a periodic “sense check” about the likelihood of a 5th revolution in the United States. The first entry for this blog was in the fall 2013. The theme was based on a correlation that I discovered while writing another paper. The correlation was the United States has experienced some type of Revolution about every 50 years. (See Entry #1 for more explanation.)
According to my analysis, Revolution #4 occurred in the late 60s, early 1970s. If the pattern holds true, then there should be another revolution sometime around 2020. For nitpickers, measuring social change is not a precise algebraic equation. Therefore, a revolution in 2025 and even a few years later would still fall within the general guidelines of the 50-year cycle.
So, what’s the likelihood of this 5th revolution? What was unknown in 2013 was a likely trigger point. By late 2013 the Obama Administration had implemented numerous social reforms but none seemed likely to trigger a revolution. Doubtless, some groups in society, especially those on the far right, were frustrated by the Administration’s policies but some groups are always frustrated when there’s change.
What has changed since? Enter the effect of Trump. The “Trump effect” cannot be attributed solely to Trump. Trump was more a catalyst than the cause. Some change had been building in the Republican Party for years. No question that Trump has managed to accelerate the change in the Republican Party. And the change has been more extensive and faster than anticipated.
Trump’s involvement was even a surprise to Republicans and Democrats. Few expected him to earn the nomination and even fewer expected him to be elected. But Trump was elected, well sort of elected. Based on a popular vote count Trump received about 3 million fewer votes than Clinton. Nevertheless, Trump won the Electoral College vote, the second consecutive Republican to lose the popular vote and still be elected.
While the Electoral College win was frustrating for many Democrats, what seemed to shatter any hope of Congress and/or voter coming together was Trump’s personal behavior. From the moment the outcome of the election was clear, Trump ramped up his insulting, boorish behavior, further alienating Democrats and many independent voters.
Trump also managed to bully Republicans in the House and Senate into supporting his strange policies. Other than the late Senator John McCain, no Republican has been willing to challenge Trump’s abandonment of many previously held Republican principles – free trade and fiscal conservatism, e.g.
The bullying has resulted in the same Republicans making no public effort to stop Trump’s serial lying, denigration of widely-respected government employees, trashing of the FBI and CIA, insulting the military chain of command, and repeatedly insulting leaders of long-standing US allies. Nor, has any Republican made any serious counter to Trump’s public support of known enemies of the US, which is a direct threat to national security.
Among the voting public, Trump supporters seem to fall into three major camps and a fourth smaller camp. The three major camps are: #1, far-right fringe groups, who relish Trump’s support, whether intentional or not; #2, Evangelical Christians who seem to focus on one issue – abortion – and somehow disregard 99% of Trump’s behavior that seems contrary to their core religious beliefs; #3, long-time Republicans who somehow cannot fathom voting for a Democrat no matter how bad the Republican is for the welfare of the country. Many of these “yellow-dog Republicans” are likely primary voters who hold a disproportionate influence on members of Congress.
The fourth camp, which has the fewest number of people but the most influence, is the money camp. If one filters out all the noise, the quest for money is what drives Trump. His policies, whether tax policies or directives to such agencies as EPA to slow or stop enforcement, have consistently favored the money group. There is considerable evidence that seems to indicate his positive attitude toward and accommodation of the Russians is driven by access to their money.
Maybe most surprising and illogical to me is that Trump and Trump TV talking heads (Fox News) have convinced the three non-money camps that Trump’s policies are in their best economic interest, when in fact, the policies are contrary to the economic interests of virtually all these families. The 2017 tax cut is a good example. The tax cut threw a few bones to middle and lower-income families in the short term. However, beginning in the mid-2020’s, the “tax cut” results in penalties to middle-income families while continuing to benefit the rich.
In addition, the tax cut for corporations combined with the tax cut for the wealthy was so significant that the Federal deficit ballooned in 2019 – up 50% to about $1,000,000,000 – even though the economy was reasonably strong. Oh, yes I forgot, Trump is the reason the economy grew. The deficit grew because of Obama’s policies. (Seriously, if you want to understand more about why “trickle-down” economics is a fraud, even though widely supported by many Republicans, start with Entry #21. It’s conversational and easy to understand. Entry #237 also addresses some fundamentals of economics.)
What could be the trigger point for the 5th US revolution is Trump’s reelection. But the revolution will not be started by Democrats. The revolution will be started by Trump supporters. Why?
Long before Trump, I assigned a name to the projected 5th revolution – the Revenge Revolution. But revenge for what?
Right now the table seems to have lots of plates that qualify for revenge – inequitable economic policies; environmental degradation; a department of education that favors private over public education; a president and first family that are enriching themselves at public expense; an immigration policy where children are physically separated from the parents then housed in cages for indefinite periods; an attorney general who promotes Trump as being above the law; a president who labels wounded military veterans as “scum;” a president who is a serial liar, distorting the truth about even the most insignificant issues…and the list goes on.
Despite all the obvious reasons for revenge against the Trump Administration, the Revenge Revolution may be started by an unexpected group. The group is Trump supporters.
If Trump is reelected, Trump will try to satisfy his money camp and start screaming about the need to reduce the Federal deficit. But Trump will argue the deficit cannot be reduced by raising taxes – such a move would kill economic growth and result in a recession. No, the only way to reduce the Federal deficit is with additional cuts in spending for social programs – food stamps, e.g. – as well as cutbacks in Medicare, Social Security and support for Obamacare.
If Trump is not reelected, then Republicans will make the same arguments that the Federal deficit is too high and must be reduced. One thing about their argument is correct. The rate of increase in the deficit needs to be reduced. But reduced by returning tax rates to levels under Obama, or even Clinton, and not by cutting social programs and cutting benefits for program workers have funded.
The proposed cuts in Medicare and Social Security may finally awaken Trump supporters to realize how much they’re going to be screwed economically under Trump’s new proposals , and then how much they have been screwed under Trump’s existing policies. When they do awaken, this group will be shocked and angry. They might also start listening to their children and grandchildren and finally acknowledge that global warming is real and not a hoax of some 3,000 scientist and every credible news outlet worldwide.
What form might the Revenge Revolution take? The 4th revolution in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s was a mix of social upheaval and armed rebellion. The social side is often referenced with a cutesy photograph of a couple hippies dressed in tie-dyes and smoking weed in Haight Asbury or at Woodstock.
The armed side of the 4th Revolution was much grimmer. Events included significant riots that devastated parts of Newark, Detroit and Los Angeles as well as protests in many other cities and college campuses. 1968 included the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
Given the continued expansion of ownership of firearms, the Revenge Revolution is likely to be more of an armed rebellion than the 1960’s/1970’s. But who will be the aggressors and who will be the targets in the Revenge Revolution?
Although I have not done a deep-dive into the psychology of why, a group that seems likely to be part of the aggressors is those who view the changing demographics of the United States as diminishing the value of their “whiteness.” To me such thinking seems a bit absurd.
However, a long article in The NY Times (19 12 29 NYT Example of Attitude of Trump Supporters in AZ) discussed attitudes of some of Trump’s core base in Arizona. The base is very white, less-educated and seemingly either brainwashed or completely delusional about who is really impacted by Trump’s policies. Like many Trump supporters I’ve tried to talk to and understand, this group’s lexicon seems to be unique – “up” means “down,” “good” means “bad,” “hate” means ”patriotic,” etc.
A number of comments and quotes in the article left my head shaking. One comment from a Trump supporter that I found both frightening and amusing, “I don’t have a problem with Muslims but can they take the rag off their head out of respect for our country?” The scary part is this guy’s very anti-Muslim, and probably anti-black, anti-Asian and anti-Semitic as well.
The amusing side was it probably never occurred to the speaker he too was wearing a head-cover, thus by his own definition, disrespecting this country. And it probably never occurred to him his MAGA hat was made of the same basic cotton as the Muslim’s “rag.” Somehow I don’t irony would play well with this guy.
This group of self-proclaimed patriots discussed having an armed revolt if Trump was not reelected in 2020. Nice to see the patriots support the US Constitution and the electoral process.
On a broader scale the likelihood of a 5th US Revolution seems to increase with the findings of the impeachment proceedings, the bizarre actions/inactions by Mitch McConnell and the continued overhang of the many unanswered questions of Mueller Report, especially Trump’s association with the Russians – likely more about money than philosophy.
In the last Sense Check, Entry #332, I indicated the probability of the revolution had increased to “highly likely.” Based on what’s happened in Washington the past few months, a forecast of “highly likely” seems on solid ground with an emerging forecast closer to “almost assured.”
Unfortunately, as experienced during the 4th Revolution, the 5th US Revolution is likely to include the assassinations of high-profile figures. Targets will likely include those deemed “liberal,” whether judges, politicians, prominent business people, or media personalities. Equally unfortunate is that the police and/or the US military will be unable to prevent many of these killings.
Think about all the mass killings in the US and how they’ve occurred. (As of December 31, 2019, 434 mass shootings occurred in 2019… In these shootings, over 1,643 people were injured and 517 died, for a total of over 2,160 victims.) Virtually all were carried out by a single individual. Imagine a well-organized killing effort by a group of individuals with military-assault style rifles. There are millions of AR-15’s in private hands and even more rounds of ammunition. Yes, it’s scary.
As noted repeatedly throughout this blog, I hope the assumption is wrong about a 5th US revolution, the Revenge Revolution. Everyone who makes predictions makes mistakes. And I am no exception. However, I wish my track record at making accurate predictions were a little less positive than it is.
Welcome to the year 2020.