How will the history books remember the 2010s?

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The consequences of deregulation

David A. Hollinger is the Preston Hotchkis Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley.

The deregulation endorsed by many Democrats as well as Republicans over the previous decades led to a series of seismic transformations in the life of the United States in the 2010s. Deregulation of the communications industry led to the tribalization of the media of news, including in the creation of Fox News as a semi-official propaganda outlet for the wealthy and extremely conservative Republicans who rallied to President Donald Trump in 2016. Fox News and its smaller counterparts cemented the loyalty of millions of voters by spreading a steady stream of deeply misleading and often outright false narratives on virtually every contested issue in public life. The deregulation of financial, fossil fuel and other industries has had similar transformative consequences, facilitating economic inequality on a scale not seen for many decades and contributing to global warming on a scale scientists have found apocalyptic. President Barack Obama tried to reverse these developments when he took office, but it was late in the day and too many Democratic leaders refused to support the policies Obama tried to push forward. Ultimately, it was the inability of the Democratic Party to use the political and cultural resources at its disposal to adopt and maintain an appropriate regulatory structure until the mid-1990s – under the neoliberal administration of Bill Clinton – that did more than any other single factor to determine the course of American history in the 2010s. Rarely in the history of industrialized societies has political leadership endowed with such magnificent opportunities squandered them so dramatically , thus betraying the nation whose stewards they were charged to be.


Democracy under siege

Nicole Hemmer is the author of Messengers from the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics.

Reserved at one end by United Citizens and on the other by a president impeached for inviting foreign interference in US elections, the 2010s were the decade of democracy under siege. Red states instituted strict voter ID laws and purged their voter rolls, while the Supreme Court gutted the franchise law. Super PACs fueled black money politics. Statehouse Republicans stripped power from their rivals and congressional Republicans broke every institutional standard in an attempt to thwart a popular Democratic president. And social media, which techno-optimists hailed as a force for democratization at the start of the decade, ended the 2010s as a dystopian hellscape teeming with wannabe Nazis and disinformation campaigns. It was also a decade of popular pro-democracy movements, from Occupy Wall Street to Moral Mondays to Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March to March for Our Lives, as reminders that some Americans were resisting democratic decline.


Many Americans have found scapegoats

Eric Rauchway is a professor of history at the University of California at Davis.

During the decade of the 2010s, the United States, like countries around the world, recovered from the financial crisis of 2008, but slowly, which encouraged the rise of right-wing movements. Weak stimulus policies put in place at the height of the crisis prevented a catastrophe on the scale of the Great Depression. But calls for austerity and retrenchment have prevented a rapid return to prosperity. As months of unemployment turned into years, arguments blaming immigrants, foreigners and international bankers (usually a mild euphemism for “Jews”) gained greater support than they had in the years between the two world wars. Scholarly arguments have erupted over whether adherents of these beliefs fully branded themselves fascists or simply authoritarian opponents of democracy, while their core proponents gained and retained office, weakening the alliances and institutions tasked since 1945 with maintaining the peace.


We saw how our democracy would end

Elizabeth Borgwardt is an associate professor of history and law at Washington University in St Louis.

2010-2020 was the decade when we saw the end of our democracy. In 1989, more than 100 million people around the world listened to composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein celebrate the opening of the Berlin Wall, engaging East and West Germans in a moving rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The maestro said he likes the idea of ​​using music and culture to break down the walls in people’s hearts. The Soviet Union quickly disintegrated, but by the late 2010s it had become clear that the United States was more like Russia, rather than the other way around. Rising inequality, fear of immigrants and the spread of fake news have been the building blocks of these new walls.

In Brazil, Hungary, Israel, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, Russia and the United States, among others, indices of democratic decline included attacks on journalists and media, a decline in support for multilateral institutions, attacks on immigrants and asylum seekers, restrictions on an independent judiciary, suppression of the integrity of the electoral process, systematic funding for development aid and higher education, and a similar removal of national standards supporting pluralism and tolerance. Democracy in America didn’t end with Trumpism, of course. But younger, smarter politicians like Josh Hawley were already taking notes, and by 2020 the writing was already on that first slice of border wall: winning hand.


The bases of a constitutional revision

Jack Rakove is Professor Emeritus of History and Political Science at Stanford University. The decade of the 2010s placed America’s constitutional system under the greatest stress it had seen since the New Deal crisis of the 1930s. President Donald Trump demonstrated that he felt no “reverence” (to quote the 49th birthday of James Madison). Federalist document) necessary to maintain constitutional governance standards. Worse still, however, has been the behavior of the Senate and the Supreme Court. Under Republican control, the Senate blithely ignored well-documented charges that the House of Representatives impeached Trump. For its part, the conservative-dominated Supreme Court has fulfilled its long-frustrated agenda: In two high-profile decisions in June 2020, it gutted the Affordable Care Act and allowed individual states to impose harsh limits on the right to choose guaranteed in the 1974 decision in Roe vs. Wade.

The events of the 2010s thus set the stage for the Great Constitutional Review of 2024. Although Joe Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 election, Republicans retained the Senate and the Supreme Court retained its conservative majority. With the national government in a state of near paralysis, a coalition of blue states has united to demand a constitutional convention. A phalanx of 18 solidly red states, representing less than a fifth of the country’s population, quickly rejected that proposal, keeping it two states away from the two-thirds margin required by Article V of the Constitution. Citing the precedent set in 1787, when the first Constitutional Convention rejected the amendment rules set out in the Articles of Confederation, the blue states insisted that the meeting take place. Rather than side with the small bloc of staunchly red states, the now hotly contested states of Texas and Florida sent delegations to the Chicago convention. The overriding theme of the Convention was to make constitutional decision-making respond directly to the one person, one vote standard. This is also how the votes are distributed in the Convention itself. The resulting deliberations resulted in a radically revised Constitution. Among other changes, the president would now be elected by a single nationwide popular vote. The House of Representatives has been expanded to 600 members, with all of its districts designed through an AI process to be as competitive as possible. The Senate became an advisory body that could no longer overrule laws enacted by the House, and senators were now elected on a regional basis rather than by individual states. The Supreme Court was expanded to 15 justices, who would serve 18-year terms on a staggered basis. When the bloc of small red states balked at ratifying the results, they were told they could form their own separate confederation. A few months of pondering how costly it would be to maintain their state government without the financial support of the much more economically productive blue states soon led them to abandon their position.

Trump’s only unintended contribution to American history was to make these changes possible.

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