I’ve never watched Tucker Carlson’s program on Fox but am aware of his reputation. Profiles of him in major media have tended to have one slant. Coming across a one in the American Conservative by Alan Pell Crawford, I gave a read and found a surprising passage:
This raises a question: Can you be a conservative if you don’t embrace foreign policy interventionism? “Look,” Carlson says, “if Bill Kristol is a conservative, I am not.” Further, he suggests he actually isn’t much of a conservative on some economic issues either. “I do not favor cutting tax rates for corporations, and I do not favor invading Iran,” he says. Sometimes, he adds, “the hard left is correct. The biggest problem this country faces is income inequality, and neither the liberals nor the conservatives see it. There is a great social volatility that goes with inequality like we have now. Inequality will work under a dictatorship, maybe, but it does not work in a democracy. It is dangerous in a democracy. In a democracy, when there is inequality like this, the people will rise up and punish their elected representatives.”
Who would have thought that Carlson could find a patch of strong common ground with Bernie Sanders?
It’s 2016 all over again because nothing has really changed. Many people in the country are hurting, even as pundits, talking heads, and other media experts declare that the economy is doing well. Look at those 401(k) numbers! Which is fine if you have a 401(k) or pension plan — 35% of private sector workers don’t have access to one and many that do find themselves too pressed with bills and loans to contribute.
Then there’s your house, which is probably the majority of your wealth, if it has returned to value. At least for now. Of course, if you lost your home in the Great Recession, you probably are paying rent like the rest of the 36.6% of households who do. That’s just shy of the 1965 rate of 37%, a significant increase over recent years. While real median wages have been flat for decades, vital expenses like housing, household energy, medical care, childcare, and higher education raced ahead of all other normal costs. How do you get ahead if education is too expensive and you’re struggling with medical bills and insurance as well as the cost of keeping a roof over your head?
A lot of people are hurting badly. That’s what led to the results in 2016. Donald Trump talked an economic game and ultimately won. Bernie Sanders, who was virtually unknown outside of Vermont and maybe the rest of New England, in about a year was able to get such momentum that he took 43.1% of the Democratic primary vote.
In a normal political year, none of this would have been possible. But what was normal no longer is. People struggle everywhere. Often quietly, where friends and neighbors can’t see or hear. But they do. If you don’t know people who are struggling, you’re in a bubble.
Another new aspect of “normal” is that Democrats and Republicans are so polarized they won’t work together. There is no compromise which, in the past, always managed to fuel some progress, even with great differences in political outlook and philosophies.
Both parties depend on their own versions of group identity and fear of the other side to motivate their bases. Weaponized divisions have driven elected officials, certainly at the national level, to vote in blocks, much as you might expect from a parliamentary structure in Europe. You’re either with or against us/them. The approach precludes compromise for fear that the other side might “win” something. Politics and, therefore, governing have become a zero-sum game.