The Disenchantment Of American Politics (And The Coming Uproar)

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by James H Kunstler via Peak Prosperity,

Considering the problems we face as a nation, the torpor and lassitude of current politics in America seems like a kind of offense against history. What other people have allowed circumstances to run over them like so many ‘possums sleeping on the highway?

The financial disturbances of recent years especially have trashed millions of households, yet the fat middle (no pun intended) of the broad public (ditto) seems strangely content with all the tawdry sideshows of the day - Black Thursday, the Kardashians, the NFL playoffs, Twitter, texting, twerking, side boobs - taking little-to-no interest in politics while their prospects for a habitable future swirl around the drain. How might we account for such supernatural passivity?

And, since human affairs don’t remain static indefinitely, in what direction might things go when the political mood finally heaves and shifts? The possibilities are unsettling.

A Failure to Lead

If you care about poll numbers, they tell a simple story of contempt for the current crop of US political leaders. Congress rates a 12 percent approval rating and President Obama, at 35 percent, scores lower than Richard Nixon did in the midst of the Watergate fiasco. I’m surprised that Obama’s numbers aren’t lower (and I voted for him, twice). After all, few American lives were actually touched by the lies and shenanigans that spun off of Watergate, and money was an inconsequential part of it. But a whole lot of people were affected by Obama’s dissimulations around the Affordable Care Act, while his tragic failure to reestablish the rule of law in banking from the get-go in 2009 probably amounts to impeachable malfeasance. Add to this the NSA domestic spying operations revealed by Edward Snowden plus the troops indefinitely garrisoned in Asian countries and you have a portrait of a creeping Orwellian contagion.

The only whiff of rebellion in the air lately has emanated from the so-called conservative end of the political spectrum: the Tea Party. Its complaints mainly range around the offenses of Big Government, though a certain incoherence pervades its agenda as a whole. (I will get to that presently.)  I am sympathetic to gripes against the size and reach of government but I’m convinced that the swerve of US politics in the not-distant future will hinge on the failure of government at this scale to conduct any business competently. Anyway, as a veteran of the hippie uprising of the 1960s, when the Left was insurgent against an obdurate “establishment,” it’s interesting to observe the perverse flip-flop of history that has now put the Tea Party in charge of rebellion central.

The failures of the Left these days are pretty obvious and awful. They got their storybook change-agent elected president and he hasn’t done a darn thing in five years to halt the wholesale racketeering that pervades our national life. Obama’s Department of Justice is home to more zombies than the Grand Cemetery of Port-Au-Prince. The Attorney General’s office essentially signed off on prosecuting bank fraud when Lanny Breuer, chief of the Criminal Division, declared some banks too big to jail. End of story, as Tony Soprano used to say.


Obama promised to brick up the revolving door between Wall Street and the federal agencies and he only added more turnstiles to the gate. Most of the government officials involved in the 2009 TARP program and related crisis management operations are now pulling in six figure salaries at the banks and hedge funds they formerly regulated, while a veteran fixer (Mary Jo White) from the whitest white shoe fixit law shop in the land (Debevoise & Plimpton) was appointed to head the SEC a year ago.

The Left, as represented by President Obama and a majority in the US Senate, did nothing to arrest the ongoing corporate hijacking of the USA. When the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case (2010) that corporations could buy elections via unlimited campaign contributions under the free speech clause of the constitution, Obama had the chance to propose new legislation or a constitutional amendment to redefine the distinction between human persons and corporate “persons.” You’d think that as a constitutional lawyer, he would have been eager to lead on this. But he just ignored the historic opportunity and, anyway, he was on the receiving end of gobs of corporate “free speech” money to run his reelection campaign.

Apart from its pitiful roll-out bugs, the Affordable Care Act has the odor of the biggest insurance scam in history. People joke these days about Obama serving George W. Bush’s fourth term. The internal contradictions of Democratic Party behavior under Obama have only driven political cynicism to new heights. The millennial generation must feel horribly swindled by it.

A Paucity of Good Options

As for the rebellious conservative Tea Party faction, it is hard for me to square their umbrage at Big Government with their avidity for foreign wars (and support for the military-industrial rackets behind them), their failure to oppose the security-state activities of the NSA (while branding whistleblower Snowden “a traitor”), their love of corporate commercial tyranny a la Wal-Mart, their devotion to economically suicidal suburban sprawl, their zeal to control the social and sexual conduct of their fellow citizens, and their efforts to impose religion in civic affairs — all of which is to ask, what do they mean when they shout about “liberty?”

These contradictions probably seem abstruse compared to the gritty plight of ordinary citizens getting monkey-hammered in an economy that can provide neither decent incomes nor dignified, meaningful social roles for classes of people who could be earnest, honest, and enterprising given the chance. This gets to a more general failure across the political spectrum to apprehend the larger changing dynamics of our time — resource scarcity, capital impairment, contraction, environmental collapse, population overshoot — and to frame a coherent response to these developments. In short, the politicians seem to have no idea where history is taking us, and no road-map to prepare for the journey to get there.

There will probably always be some alignment of Left and Right in politics, but from time to time the packages they come in and the ideologies they contain are in desperate need of either rehabilitation or dissolution. I’d bet that we may soon see the demise of both the Democratic and Republican parties as they are currently structured. They’ve been around an awful long time now, and their presence probably provides a certain reassuring familiarity, but that is also the same growth medium as contempt. The useless and tiresome public quarrels they spawn these days, the kabuki theater debt ceiling showdowns, the can-kickings, and other evasions of responsibility, erode basic institutional trust to a dangerous degree; the people lose faith in the courts, the news media, the banks, the value of their money, and eventually all authority. The two major parties function as mere conduits for all the racketeering operations that define life in this nation today. The mature two-party system may prove to have been a transient product of America’s industrial heyday, which is now over despite the euphoria over stock bubbles, shale oil, computers and other new technology. If the two old parties dry up and blow away, will anyone shed a tear for them? When that happens, there may not be enough political vitality left at the federal level to reconstitute them in new packaging.

Trouble Brewing

If party politics are weak, muddled, and contradictory, the divisions between Americans are starkly clear: wealth in America has never been so unevenly distributed — the fabled one percent versus everyone else. Despite the election of a mixed-race president, and the wish-fulfillment fantasies of Hollywood, race relations in the USA remain tense. 2013 was the year of the “knockout” game for black teenagers randomly targeting “woods” (i.e. non-black “peckerwoods”), some of whom died. It was the year of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case and the echoing recriminations.

Divisions between men and women are tragically compounded by the dangerous dynamics of work in America that leave many men (especially men) in a vacuum of purpose, meaning, and potency. It is almost impossible these days for low-skilled men to support a family. The indignity of this thunders through broken communities and the penitentiary cellblocks. But the anomie is also expressed in the higher ranks of an economy where office work can be done by anybody, and gender confusion lately has been valorized as a compensating mechanism for the marginalization of men and the failure of manhood. The political blowback from this, when it comes, is apt to be fierce. Look no further than Duck Dynasty.

The ongoing national culture war pits the “traditional values” faction against the sexual libertarians; the red states against the blue states; urban against the conflated suburban and rural; the Christian fundamentalists against an array of other positions and belief groups; the entitlement “socialists” against the “free market” conservatives.

Perhaps most divisive of all will be the schism between the young and the old over the table scraps of the dying industrial economy.

These tensions will not remain unresolved indefinitely.

In Part II: Get Ready For Strange Days, we'll forecast the direction that this resolution may follow. The last time the USA faced a comparable political convulsion was the decade leading into the Civil War, but this time it will be more complex and confusing and it will have a different ending. A dominant theme will be a continued loss of faith in the Federal government to solve our ills, and a re-emergence of reliance on local support networks at the state, municipal, community and family levels.

This devolution will likely play out very differently across the major regions of the US. And most will follow this course unwillingly.

Strange days are coming.


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SilverIsKing's picture

"It is almost impossible these days for low-skilled men to support a family."

Perhaps that low-skilled man should refrain from starting a family.

max2205's picture

According to a recent poll Congress has a new low 5% approval rating of the American Public...

Say whattttt

SWRichmond's picture

this time it will be more complex and confusing and it will have a different ending

The good guys are going to win this time.

Mitzibitzi's picture

History does, I'm afraid to point out, say differently. The good guys never win, cos the bad guys have bigger guns and can print fake money to pay the gullible to shoot them. Until we take away that advantage and the control over lawful currency that enables it...

Hard being a Libertarian, ain't it? You want to follow the non-aggression principle but the path to true liberty pretty much guarantees that you can't, if you actually want to win!

chumbawamba's picture

I’m surprised that Obama’s numbers aren’t lower (and I voted for him, twice).

Jesus Christ, Cuntsler, you're a fucking idiot.

I am Chumbawamba.

chumbawamba's picture

Cuntsler: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again!

In the end, he's just another oblivious statist tool, basically in the same vein as Webster Tarpley.



401K of Dooom's picture

Tyler is a bigger idiot for putting his article up on ZH!

mkkby's picture

It makes total sense that the charade known as politics is ignored by most people.  Nothing can be done about it, so worry about something more productive.

I also makes sense that most people don't actively resist.  Some day things will get much much worse.  Think actual hunger.  Then, and only then, the streets will be in chaos and rope will be in short supply.

Race Car Driver's picture

+1 Link

Wow, what a well done production. The guy, at his age, is still a master of his craft.

StacksOnStacks's picture

Thinking the same thing.  Why is it ok to have a bunch of kids and no job but weird if you have no kids and a job?

SWRichmond's picture

There was a time not so long ago when an unskilled or semi-skilled man (or woman, though most modern American women do not want and would not take these jobs) could find work as a laborer in a mine, steel mill, etc and earn something that resembled a living wage.  For several reasons, including technological advancement, globalization, the impossibly phony financialized economy we live in where no one actually makes anything, inflation, etc, that is now quite difficult if not impossible.  So what are the people who are not able to learn a skill or skiled trade to do?

The dems would say "go on welfare and vote democratic".  This is where we are right now as the lower economic classes were the first to get chewed off the economic ladder.  Warehousemen, painters, drywall finishers, isulators, are all good examples.

I still believe that a growing and healthy economy is possible and could provide meaningful and productive employment for everyone who wanted to / could work.  Neither major party shares my views.

Binko's picture

The problem is even bigger than that. Once we reach a permanent state where there is far more labor looking for work than there is demand for labor then even SKILLED labor will have their wages beaten down below a living wage. We are trending towards becoming a society where only government workers and various protected classes of professions actually earn a wage that can support a family.

SDShack's picture

It's called the New Feudal Order. Kings/Queens set the rules and run the system. Lords do their bidding from New Castle Fortresses with access to all the New Security Order (FBI, NSA, TSA, IRS, etc). The Serfs are kept controlled in their Potters Slums, eaking out a minimal barely subsistance wage, that is taxed by the Kings/Queens, while living in a rented shack from the Kings/Queens. The great unwashed masses are confined to Fema Trailer Parks and Tent Cities, or left to fend for themselves in the de-militarized inner cities, like Detroit. Plan accordingly. 

Rafferty's picture

Agreed, but such a society is insustainable.

Kobe Beef's picture

That's the good part. It will end.

prains's picture

$85 Billion a month  would buy a lot of drywall that needed finishing, just sayin.


where does all that money go each month anyway?

Kobe Beef's picture

Stocks, Real Estate and Fine Art, apparently. Minus kickbacks to the pols, of course.

A better question is, where do these people live? Maybe a take a tour, see what our $85 billion a month bought them.

PTR's picture


Scroll down a little to where Grant talks about real estate.  It's buying real estate and turning homes in to rental dividends for the hedge funds and big ticket investors.


70% of sales were all cash in Brooklyn...

Spumoni's picture

Maybe you haven't noticed, but a great many people had children WHEN they had jobs. Duh.

Yenbot's picture

Perhaps that low-skilled man should refrain from starting a family.

Yeah, sure. Future Earth needs more weak, skinny nerd scientists to survive the coming Ice Age and recreate Smog. The high skilled should have to survive a cage fight with the low skilled before reproducing.

falconflight's picture

Who needs a man for anything, that's the societial progressive refrain today.  70% of black women and now over 30% of white women marry the government instead of a man. 

Kobe Beef's picture

In which case, the present iteration will end as soon as the oil needs changing.

Josey Montana's picture

I'd give you a +1 but the green icon has no associated hotspot!

Dr. Destructo's picture

Nevermind the "poor shouldn't have families" claptrap, why would ANYONE want to create a family in this climate? With the degradation of societal values, government becoming a totalitarian entity, and the destruction of the economy due to crony capitalism why bring a child in that environment? It sure as hell won't get better.

dick cheneys ghost's picture

I agree with you but Mike Stivak said the same thing back in the 1970's..........

Dr. Destructo's picture

Are the circumstances the same today as it was back in the 70's?

You cannot fall forever -unless you're in space or refuse the Necromonger religion.

Lednbrass's picture

Unfortunatley the Meathead didn't follow his own advice on the show and his counterparts of that generation rarely did either- millions of weak, pathetic, whining dorks just like him created millions of spoiled little brats.

That said, ease of life is exactly what has created so many useless, mindless two legged sheep.  Think of everyone you have known in your life that you truly respect- did they have it easy? Did they inherit alot of money and live a life of leisure without a care in the world, or did they have a damn tough time of it but never quit, never gave up, never stopped?

My experience leads me to believe that the worthiness and value of individuals is usually in inverse proportion to the level of hardship they have experienced and triumphed over.  Trust funds kids are almost always useless, vapid douchebags for life while people who have walked a hard road but kept standing are some of the best humans you will ever meet.

Bring on the hard times; maybe we'll finally get more people who don't completely suck.

Any sniveling, incapable Mike Stivik types out there should get your balls snipped and do everyone a favor- you should in fact not reproduce.

Spumoni's picture

The harsher the land, the kinder the heart. War provides a context for peace. Sad state of our species that we must have stupidity in the broad strokes for anyone to recognize where intelligence provides a detail. Good words, Lednbrass.

mumbo_jumbo's picture

"Did they inherit a lot of money and live a life of leisure without a care in the world"


you nailed it!!!  here in socal for the 20-30 cohort, i can not tell you how many people i know who are "caregivers" taking care of dad and mom until that fateful day when they get the million dollar house, it's everywhere here.   most friends i have with kids in their 20's are still taking care of them and i once remarked to a 20-something female friend that i have no idea what she should be doing to get a well paying job (the joke around here for the last 20 years was to get a state our county job since that is the ONLY way to get a decent wage with ANY benefits) and her reply was priceless.

"well Mumbo some of us have parents that will take care of US"  and there you have, the end of the USA as we knew it.

Shizzmoney's picture

God bless you for writing this

Trust funds kids are almost always useless, vapid douchebags for life

I work with one.  My *god* is he insufferable and extremely aloof.


CH1's picture

why would ANYONE want to create a family in this climate?

Because life is the imperative, and because children are new lives. 

The Gooch's picture

THey're also the greatest adventure and a helluva lot of fun when you can block out the BS.


The Gooch's picture

<---- Junker has no soul

<---- Junker has no sperm count

savedbyfreethought's picture

Imagine a country where every couple can only have two children or more if some other couples choose not to have as many as they could.

Upon the birth of the child he/she is given a pot of land large enough for him to live and farm on by the state as required by law and it's illegal for anyone to buy or sell the land of that nature.

The average child goes out to work with his father and learn his trade by his side, let it be agriculture or machinery.  Typically in the afternoon he receives eduation at home, he will be taught about subjects like philosophy, maths, literature and history. There is no state controlled compulsory education or exams. Qualification is not needed, a person only needs to learn how to do his trade properly as recognised by this neighbours.

Every family have enough natural resources to produce the materials to support themselves with the help of 21st century technology. Technological advances allow greater automation thus more free time for the residents to develop new ideas, with their basic survival taken care for, they begin to engage in manufacturing and start to trade among themselves.

Improvment of productivity is not achieved at the expense of independence (specialisation) but purely by technological advancement. No service or product necessary is purchased from a foreign country as they know that that little bit of convenience comes at the cost of loss of sercurity.They consciously only buy from each other to keep their wealth and jobs among themselves because they know if they don't they will all end up trapped in slavery by foreign entities.

It's an economy where no big profit can be ever be made because no one is taken advantage of thus there are no big cooperations around. Equally there is no social  mobility because no one would need any social mobility in the firs place. There is no unemployment/ homelessness because no one's live depends on working for anyone apart from himself.

A man born there does not have competition as the central theme of his life, instead he spends most of his leisure thinking how to make his trade (primarily agriculture) more efficient as to make his work easier. Living a good life is the purpose.  Upon his death he will pass on his land and weapons to his children as they will do so to their own children.

Most people say this is pure idealism but the thing is if people live for anything other than ideals then the only outcome is that they will all end up living in hell that is of their own making. Maybe the perfect world can only exist in a man's imagination because his reality will forever be shaped by his inferiorities. [it's time to wake up and be a slave again.]

r3phl0x's picture

A man born there does not have competition as the central theme of his life

And that's what makes it untenable. The female in every sexual species will always encourage male competition to help identify and select the best mate. Social systems designed against this Nature - such as communism - will always fail - so we are probably stuck with something like winner-take-all crony capitalism, under the faux guise of democracy.

samsara's picture

I guess young the Japanese have figured that out eh?

buyingsterling's picture

"why would ANYONE want to create a family in this climate? "

Because a loving family is an end in itself. Most familes find a way to get by (and they'd find a way to get by without government help, especially if they had less government interference).

PTR's picture



(Yeah, I know, practical abilities come into play, but you said "Why?")

And for what it's worth, I asked that of a friend a decade ago, and he replied to the effect that you do the best that you can and that you can't predict the future (like Wendell Berry says.)  He's got 2 kids and has been able to enjoy his life with them, warts and all, since.


Love.  Without it, those things you mention wins.  The day we cease to laugh, we as a species are truly fucked.

krispkritter's picture

Define 'low-skilled'. By today's standards; a guy who can fix a diesel engine, make furniture from a tree trunk, drill a well, or build you a house, and so on.  50+ years ago, these were all skilled professions. Anyone who thinks banking, finance, and politicians are 'highly-skilled' are f'ing retarded.  I never met a diesel mechanic who bilked his customers out of $1.6 billion dollars...

Dr. Destructo's picture


What some would consider 'low-skilled' labor fail to understand the skill behind filling quotas, multitasking, and operating machinery. However one can sit on his/her ass, do 1 hour of work (or who you know and blow in the politician's case, but in every job you gotta be a policitian come to think of it), and make a killing.

Offthebeach's picture

In the late 60's I'd accompany my father to the building dept to get a building permit for a then pretty nice house. He'd have hand drawn but then blown up photocopied plot plans, set backs, elevations and a perc test. In and out and approved in 30 minutes, or less. Cost $25.
That would include foundation, frame, electrical, plumb and final. Insulation was not required then.
Now you need, for the same house and lot lawyer, architect, environmental, some times tree count. It can take a year, or more. You need plans for everything. The houses are way overbuilt and over cost. Inspections and faults are money generators and job guarantees for inspectors. At their leasure. Whenever.

You used to make an OK to good living providing working people-middle class nice affordible houses that would last decades with NO maintenance at all. Now you hope for rich yuppies.

The town, manufacturers, lawyers, enviros, architects have all gamed and rent seeked the cash to them at the expense of the worker and customer.

I won't mentioned work comp, insurance etc.

I can remember reading about the quality decline over time of Roman construction as the empire decayed. I have seen it here in my life time. For example, real old knocked up mulit generation furniture was common. Cabinets were real wood or cab grade ply. Now mdf, particle board, photo finish thats failing junk the minute it goes up.

401K of Dooom's picture

Don't forget the Endangered Species Act or EEO regulations.  Oh and have you noticed that property values go up no matter what the state of the neighborhood is in?  I have a friend whose childhood home is located in a drug zone in Lowell, MA. and it is appraised in the mid to high six figures.  Thank you Pukeachusetts!

Anusocracy's picture

Low skilled = someone who survives by grifting or stealing rather than producing something of value.

krispkritter's picture

There lie bankers, financiers, and politicians...?  I mean, if value is something other than physical goods?

The Gooch's picture

Or even someone resourceful enough to do all of the above. Minus bilking. I mean
"banking". I mean "governing". I mean .308 fodder when SHTF.


samsara's picture

"Thru this land I traveled, I met some funny men

Some will rob you with a sixgun, and some with a fountain pen.

Thru this land you'll ramble, and thru this land you'll roam,

but you will never see an outlaw, kick a family from their home..."

"Pretty Boy Floyd"    - W.G.

Spumoni's picture

My how times have changed! Seems kicking folks from their homes is the primary fun for outlaws these days.