A Prediction That May Have Come True

Source: The New York Times, November 21

The American law professor Richard Rorty made this prediction in the book Achieving Our Country, published in 1998:

Book cover“Members of labour unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers – themselves desperately afraid of being downsized – are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

“At that point, something will crack. The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for – someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots….

“One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion…. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”


4 responses to “A Prediction That May Have Come True

  1. Wow! Talk about hitting a nail on the head!

  2. perceptive – but Rorty was quoting a book by Edward Luttwack. credit where due, etc. There is no question that the Democrats have to figure out how to deal with economic class issues and not just social issues. Sanders was addressing those issues, notably without engaging in racism, sexism or other nastiness (except maybe for the banks… who can stand it.) A coherent approach to economic equality may be able to persuade the disaffected that the enemy is not immigrants, people of colour or metrosexuals, and the solution does not lie in attacking them.

  3. Rorty’s (or Luttwack’s) prediction is a strong projection – but of only some dynamics. Put a clear-eye and energy toward other dynamics, and the situation is not so simple. What we can create of it may not be so bad. For example: ‘Tablet’ provides Jewish news and politics, i.e. it’s about good people who are alert about being targeted. A current article counsels calm http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/218451/nazis-arent-marching-on-brooklyn . Another example: ‘Breitbart’ is villainized as a vehicle for the emerging nasty alt-right. But a current article unpacks this conservative spectre; it distinguishes ‘establishment conservatives’, ‘natural conservatives’, and ‘alt-right’ http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/03/29/an-establishment-conservatives-guide-to-the-alt-right/ .

  4. Questions: lots of other stuff was published in 1998 too… how could anyone have known at the time how prescient this quote would turn out to be? (Hindsight is 20/20.) And, had one known somehow, what could have been done to improve the outlook? Many “what-if”s…