Well, that was interesting. I will be merciful and spare you the flashbacks of past events and predictions of future news that fill the air around the new year. You can read, think, and do most of the math yourself. But what are the larger themes? What is beginning and what is beginning to end? When historians look back from a vantage point of decades, perhaps more, what will 2018 mean?
Let’s take a crack at it.
The Breakup of the Modern Consensus: For a long time, Americans had a deal with the political and legal class who run this country. Steal some, but not a lot. Lie to us daily, but not enough to insult our intelligence. They could enact laws and regulations that chiefly benefit themselves, but leave us to live our lives in our communities, our families relatively untouched by the dissipated cultural standards of the uberhive. It was a consensus between governors and the governed, between the administrative state and Burke’s Little Platoons.
John Locke, call your office.
But as we understand all people are fallen and thus fallible, we know the kind of people who are drawn to run for high position. They are usually middle-class hustlers who want a shortcut to status and money. The long road, working hard in the private sector, is not to their taste. Their sensibilities are much too transcendent for that. Hence, the consensus always struck them as unfairly limiting their power to grant the rest of us the enforced wisdom of their superior perspectives.
We meet these folks early on in life. The kids who make it a point to stroke the ego of weak teachers and the purveyors of the obsequious platitudes of the self-righteous pedant. In today’s America they will rise far if they keep to the script of fashionable indoctrination and then pledge fealty to the reigning post-modern status quo.
The problem has become that a large part of the rest of the nation is way off script. Surveying sundry parts of the globe, others are following suit.
This is not just annoying Gallic types or the American pitchfork brigades having a temper tantrum. The very basic precepts of political representation are being questioned by those who wonder what Nancy Pelosi is doing at a five- star Hawaiian getaway when the government is supposedly in budgetary crisis or how the French president deals with the consequences of the urban riots of late sunning himself at Fort Bregancon.
2018 was the beginning of an upheaval that is gaining traction. No, it won’t be led by Sanders-like socialist populism or insipid mouth-breathing followers of “Q.” It is the modern equivalent of an international discovery of Howard Beale, the deranged anchorman from “Network” (still one of the greatest films ever made, as it stands the test of time and then some) who cries out in existential extremis, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Where the madness will lead us is hard to tell, as I promised no specific predictions of the future. But it is afoot and it may be a very good thing. Or it could be the onset of Weimar.
The Weaponization of Emotion and the End of Logic: If the Era of Beale is beginning then a time when a majority followed, or at least paid lip service to, Aristotelian logic is passing us.
As we saw in the Kavanaugh debate, facts matter little anymore to approximately half of the American public. An A is not an A, but can be whatever childish emotion dictates it to be at that moment. Tyrannies are constructed of such stuff.
There is no rational discussion with a person who, like a child plugging their fingers in their ears and repeating “lalalalala,” thinks an individual is a rapist when the charge is not only completely non-corroborated but denied by some who made the charge in the first place. There is no logical debate with people who think any president of the United States has been sent by God himself (Gott Mit Uns, anybody?) and who buttress that view by the enlightenment of entertainment fare featuring aliens, pawn shops, and conspiracy theories that always feature —guess who— the Jews or the CIA. Perhaps they should combine the concepts for convenience and just blame the Mossad.
Those who rail on about the New World Order, not being bright enough to realize it was just Bush the Elder’s shorthand for describing geopolitics after the fall of the Soviet Union, are played for salivating fools by their own amygdala just as surely as any dim-witted antifa toddler overturning a downtown trash bin in the name of “the people.” Both, following the Atwater aphorism, led to “feel, not think.”
2018 was red meat for all the participants in this danse macabre, an ancient choreography where reason is substituted for idol worship, objective fact for twisted hysterics. The reality it portends, at least temporarily, will cause retrospectives to wonder what happened. It could not just be about a nominee to the Supreme Court, a border wall, or a controversial president.
The times of 2018, while materially and in so many avenues of tech progress quite advanced, are a harbinger of a coming tide. The political and legal classes will try to hold on to their perks by deploying their respective flying monkeys. The pop culture will screech their common epithets at all who think them shallow and tawdry. As that story line doesn’t play any longer with a great many, next year’s story may be just how far we are willing to go to thwart them and return a modicum of accountability to government and adulthood to the culture.
And when a piece like this is written a year from now, after all the upcoming fights, posturing, and smoke, we may look around at the still secure bastions of the pseudoelites, at the corrosive influence of the effete poodles of modern culture, and decide to give up the fight and light the way to President Sanders or Harris in 2020. Or we may redouble our vigor and resist the future some have planned for us.
The coda for that is yet to be written. But rest assured, 2019 will have a hand in it.