Generational Cycle of Crisis and Power

It’s an interesting situation right now with the Democrats and Republicans. I’m not talking about the impeachment trial and the earlier Mueller investigation or anything else along those lines. That is all spectacle to distract and rile up the masses. The elite in both parties have been playing a long game that isn’t obvious to most people. It has to do with the presidency, but not in the way one might think. It’s not about any given election. Let us begin by talking about Steve Bannon, the mastermind behind Donald Trump’s campaign.

Bannon wanted to frame Trump as the next Franklin Delano Roosevelt, someone who would rebuild America, quite literally (Old School Progressivism). To Bannon, “Make America Great Again” was not merely an empty campaign slogan. He thought that Trump would be a figurehead, a puppet he could control. It turns out he was wrong, although no more wrong than other Republicans who thought they could manage Trump. Still, as a Machiavellian, Bannon’s general strategy was brilliant, even as his timing was off. It turns out that he was too clever by half. This requires some explaining.

“Darkness is good,” explained Bannon with almost refreshing honesty. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power” Then speaking of the Democrats, he stated that, “It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.” That is what he needed Trump for, as a demagogue who he described as “greatest orator since William Jennings Bryan” (Bryan was the most powerful leader during the Populist era). Follow that up with something else he said about what he hoped to achieve, a right-wing ultra-nationalism and pseudo-progressive economic populism:

“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement. It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

If one doesn’t recall the 1930s, it is primarily remembered as the era of the Great Depression. It was a tumultuous era of stark poverty, mass unemployment, labor revolt, class war, racial violence, and top-down government response. That decade saw the threat of the Business Plot, a planned fascist coup by American corporate leaders with the intent to forcefully overthrow the US government with military. On the other end of the spectrum, the federal government so feared a populist uprising that they violently attacked the bonus army of veterans which was non-violently protesting because they hadn’t received the money they were promised.

Bannon wanted to bring America back to that era of crisis, desperation, and moral panic. He thought, if he could gin up fear and anxiety, he could use it for his own dreams of a different kind of government takeover. As a businessman who had worked on Wall Street and in Hollywood, his dream essentially was a fascism for the 21st century. And he hoped to be part of the new ruling elite that would ruthlessly rebuild America in their own image. It hasn’t exactly been a success and Bannon lost grip of power, but the destruction is still in progress. He still might be victorious in bringing us back to the excitement of the 1930s. If one believes darkness is good, we might be heading toward very ‘good’ times.

That is only one half of the equation. These events were also orchestrated by the Democrats, specifically the Clinton dynasty. Last election, as with this election, Bernie Sanders is the most popular candidate in either party and has received more small donations than any candidate ever before. That is contrasted with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two least popular candidates since data has been kept. The Clinton Democrats rightfully feared Sanders more than Trump. They purposely rigged the nomination to steal it from Sanders, even though they knew this would mean giving the election to Trump.

As I said, they were playing a long game, even if a different long game than Bannon, as all they had to was bide their time by keeping the progressives and left-wingers out of power, just to keep punching left as they keep pushing right. They had the luxury of being patient, a luxury Republicans did not have. The GOP was in a do or die situation — long term control required, so it seemed to the elite, that they take the presidency and use it for all its worth. Yet they also knew they needed to reposition themselves toward the young and minorities. Bannon tried to do that by saying that, if his plans worked, it would benefit all Americans. He didn’t factor in the explosive nature of Trump who, as a narcissistic attention whore, discovered that racist rhetoric got him lots of media reporting, social media buzz, and loud praise from a small but loyal following.

This is leading the GOP down a dead-end street. Old white people are not the future of the country. Sanders won not only young white males (what Clinton dismissed as “Bernie Bros”) but also young females and young  minorities, while likewise winning the working class. Trump didn’t win the working class, which is seen in how his strongest base in his campaign came from the middle class (Alienated Middle Class Whites). And Clinton couldn’t even win middle class white women, the exact demographic she was when she first reached voting age, instead doing best among the well-educated upper classes. Even so, the Clinton Democrats turned out to be better Machiavellian social dominators, in that they were essentially right that the only way for them to win (i.e., maintain power) was by losing, that is to say by giving away the election.

The same scenario is still playing out as we speak. This is another election that the Clinton Democrats would be wise to lose, from the perspective of manipulating over the long term. Once again, that requires keeping Sanders out of the nomination, as he still is the only candidate with strong chances against Trump. That is what few don’t understand. There is nothing for the Clinton Democrats to gain by winning this election. They have the Republicans exactly where they want them. This is where they out-smarted Bannon. Some background is necessary.

Bannon wasn’t simply being ambitious. He was basing his strategy on a long study of the generation theory of William Strauss and Neil Howe. Those two thinkers, in first having written back in the 1991, have been proven right in many of their predictions (e.g., increasing security in schools). But there was one specific prediction that Bannon honed in on. The basic idea is that, as a country, we have been heading into a crisis, what is called the Fourth Turning. This was something they were saying before Trump’s election, before the 2008 Great Recession, and before the 2001 terrorist attack. They based this conclusion on how the generational cycle had happened in the past, following an approximate 80 year period of four generations.

It wasn’t only that they predicted the crisis we’re now in for it was a particular detail that caught Bannon’s attention. Whichever political party was in power when the crisis hit would be out of power for a generation. And in a two-party system like in the United States, that means the only other viable party would rule with total dominance. That is how FDR was able to implement the New Deal and overhaul society. It is all about timing. Bannon assumed that 2008 was the point of crisis and that, since Obama was president following its beginning, the Democrats would get scapegoated. But with some fancy footwork, the Democrats moderated the crisis they inherited from the Bush administration and so delayed its effects. The problem is that they merely propped the economy up for a bit longer. The longer the crisis is delayed the worse it will be when it finally comes crashing down.

That is what Bannon didn’t plan on. Trump has further propped up the economy with tariffs and whatnot, but we are now coming to the point where no further jerry-rigging is going to matter. There is a high probability that an economic crash will happen in the near future, possibly the next four years. That will be the real crisis that fits the generational model. If the Clinton Democrats can keep Sanders out of the nomination and guarantee Trump wins again, they can create a melodrama that will send the Republicans into a burning conflagration. All they have to do, then, would be to cause continuous problems and bungle up the works, forcing the crisis to go out of control. After that, they could swoop in as self-styled saviors and thus fulfill Strauss and Howe’s prediction, stealing the glory from Bannon’s vision.

Of course, the Clinton Democrats have no meaningful solutions. As long as they keep out the progressives and left-wingers, they will continue to fuck it up and their great opportunity will go to waste. But that is to be worried about later. The point is that the Clinton Democrats would have found a way to stay in power, to maintain control, and remain relevant. Maybe Chelsea Clinton would be promoted into power. Or else various Clinton Cronies would carry on the legacy. One way or another, they would keep the status quo going for another generation. As for the Republicans, it appears they are doomed. In Trump winning last election, the old GOP elite was ousted from power. So, now this election is almost irrelevant, win or lose. Trump has so severely destroyed any respectability and coherency that the only thing loyal Republicans can hope for at this point is a right-wing fascist or theocratic takeover of the government, which I wouldn’t discount. It’s still a dangerous situation. Clinton Democrats, for all their success, will underestimate what they are facing and they won’t be up for the task of the coming crisis.

All in all, even as Bannon got the timing wrong about the predicted crisis, he was right that the crisis was coming and it would decide who was in power. But what few in power, other than military officials, are seeing clearly is that this crisis might boil over into world war and environmental catastrophe. It might be of an immensity never before seen. At the end of the destruction, it could be that neither party will still be in power or maybe even exist. The United States itself might lose its grip as a global superpower and the threat of civil war could threaten or else a balkanization as happened with the fall of the Soviet Union. This Game of Thrones is high stakes and we the public will bear the brunt of the elites’ corrupt machinations. No matter which party wins this election or which global superpower might win the future, average people in America and around the world are almost guaranteed to lose.

[I should give credit to the inspiration of this post. I had been following Bannon for many years now, going back to his career as a documentary producer long before the Trump campaign. But I was reminded again of Bannon with a post by a blogger I follow, Scott Preston at The Chrysalis blog. The post in question is Faustian Man and the Mephistophelean Spirit.]

9 thoughts on “Generational Cycle of Crisis and Power

  1. I am not as schooled/studied in these factors and trends as you, but my sense of the underlying forces is different (perhaps). What I see is the supranational corporations in league with the banks and their coterie being, long-term, more important than any nation or set of nations–roughly, there two sets: those that profit from war and preparedness for war; those who profit from stability in world markets and activities. The national and local politics will always be left vs right, waxing and waning over the generations.
    As Private Will sings in Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta “Iolanthe”:
    I often think it’s comical – Fal, lal, la!
    How Nature always does contrive – Fal, lal, la!
    That every boy and every gal
    That’s born into the world alive
    Is either a little Liberal
    Or else a little Conservative!
    Fal, lal, la!

    • We aren’t in disagreement, as far as I can tell. You’re just emphasizing something different than the focus of my post. But generally speaking, I’m right there with you about supranational corporations.

      I sense that most plutocrats and oligarchs have no identity with and loyalty to any particular nation. My suspicion is that the deep state of inverted totalitarianism is transnational, as the elites that rule it have positions, homes, bank accounts, etc in various places around the world.

      I wonder about something like the CIA. If the CIA became a rogue agency that controlled multiple governments, as opposed to being part of the US government, how would we know? Well, we wouldn’t. That is how authoritarianism works now at the highest level, not in the old fashioned way of monarchy, fascism, theocracy, and dictatorship.

  2. Really thought-provoking post. How they despise the average citizen.

    So how do they stop Bernie getting the nomination this time? If he does, and he goes on to become president, is it going to be business as usual for a bit longer, as capitalism and earth changes allow? Will it make any difference at all, or will it finally be the endgame for these two empty glove parties but meanwhile the deep state rolls on?

    • I don’t think Sanders is a radical. He isn’t particular threatening to the status quo. After all, he has been a professional politician for most of his life. He is a moderate reformer, no where near as far left as FDR. But the Clinton Democrats have pushed the party so far right that someone like Sanders looks like a Stalinist communist in comparison. His election as president would mean the end of the rule by the Clinton Democrats.

      I just don’t know that it would make much difference, whether or not the Clinton Democrats stay in power or if the party structure continues as is or even if the US remains in power or falls apart. This age of crisis is global, not partisan or national. The next stage of authoritarianism, as I’ve argued, will also likely be global, if it remains hidden for a while longer as it slowly seizes control. Whatever might happen, I’m not pinning my hopes on any particular candidate saving us by getting elected president.

      The long term events will spin out of control one way or another. What we are faced with is the immediate situation. For all their evil scheming, the Clinton Democrats could get it as wrong as did Bannon, though admittedly he has been quite successful. He was a major force in pushing Brexit and fomenting a right-wing backlash in the UK, not that it has helped him achieve his personal ambitions. It is one of those situations where winning still ends in losing because no one can ultimately be victorious in an existential crisis that might threaten civilization itself.

      That is just what it is. The schemers will go on scheming until the end of the world. We can ignore all of that for a moment, though. Everything is a gamble and right now the various players are going for broke. This throws everything up in the air. Sanders could end up president, no matter how much the party elite are against him. If he loses the nomination, he might stay in the race as a third party candidate. And right now we are ripe for a new party to replace one of the old parties, as the Republican party did about a century and a half ago. In that case, it would make things all the more interesting, for whatever that might be worth.

      Certainly, I’m not opposed to Sanders winning. I don’t think of myself as particularly radical, as my views tend to be more or less in line with majority public opinion or at least not in contradiction to it. But even by my standards mild-mannered Midwestern left-liberalism, I don’t see Sanders as all that radical. His administration could go many ways, depending on who is his vice president and who he puts into other positions such as Hillary Clinton’s former role as secretary of state. He’d probably be hobbled by the system, even if he was radical enough to attempt what FDR achieved, which he isn’t.

      Change is more likely to come from the more generational change of younger politicians coming into power with entirely different priorities and expectations. A Sanders administration might make it easier for that younger generation to assert their power in demanding change. We’ll see. Until then, I’m not going to get too excited about any of it.

    • I might sound merely pessimistic. But that isn’t the overall way I see the world. It is a crisis and that simply means uncertainty. Also, it offers opportunity for change and the collective motivation, the political will to make that change happen.

      What results could be good or bad. It’s too early to say. I just don’t see the locus of change being primarily political. The cause and force of change will come from elsewhere with politics being one of the results. So it isn’t about the success or failure of any particular politician or political vision/scheme.

    • As I recall, you only recently started following my blog. You might not be familiar with my perspective.

      I don’t tend to put much faith in politics proper. The forces that maintain or transform a society are located in the realms of psychology, neurocognition, diet, culture, social constructivism, linguistic relativism, ideological realism, propaganda model of media, covert operations of alphabet soup agencies, etc. Revolutions of society and politics, I’d argue, are always preceded by a revolution of what it means to be human — as John Adams put it: “The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.”

      Most recently, I’ve been focused on addiction, as it relates to diet, egoic consciousness, hyper-individualism, and authoritarianism. Then the war on addiction as the war on drugs, similar to Prohibition before it, is in reality a war on the poor and disadvantaged in maintaining social control. It’s a fascinating topic. For a sample platter of my way of thinking, see the following where addiction is discussed to varying degrees (in some of the posts, most of the discussion is in the comments section):

  3. A deeper issue is not being addressed by Benjamin Steele, which involves nature in revolt. Native Americans, ecologists, environmentalists, deep ecologists, marine ecologists, climatologists,etc, all have profound environmental concerns. These environmental crises are taking place on a massive scale, including the overuse of resources as aquifers dry up in Africa, Asia & the Americas while glaciers are melting in Europe and the Himalayas; Billions of tons of melting ice in Greenland & Antarctica are raising water levels at an accelerating rate while the Amazon forests are being rapidly depleted. One can go on and on about the destructive nature of modern civilization with its fossil fuel obsessions which has resulted in an ecological footprint that sees America and Europe using more than ten times the resources beyond the average in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, China and India’s economies are now replicating the American model of consumerism. A case can be made that empires fall, not due to political stupidity but to how political & corporate elites react to crises such as climate refugees fleeing from crises such as water depletion and desertification. Two world wars resulted in the demise of the British Empire as India and other colonies gained independence. Steele seems to focus on Steve Bannon as an example of trying to force political changes. But he is merely one of many like-minded people in Europe & America who are, at heart, White Supremacists attempting to re-assert control over the destiny of nations. But it’s much too late for that. The earth is spinning its own web and humans need to learn to live with the vast environmental changes that will soon be taking place or succumb to them.

    • Out of curiosity, why are you speaking as if I’m not present? I’m not offended or anything. Feel free to speak however you wish. But you could direct your comment to me. In either case, I’ll respond. It just amused me that you were talking about me as if addressing yourself to some other audience. My blog doesn’t exactly attract much of an following. No one is likely to read your comment other than me.

      This is just one post focused on something very specific, not an attempt to explain all of reality on earth. Bannon is just an example used with no intended implication that he represents everything wrong with the world. He is simply an interesting character, if only one of many symptoms of a sick society. About environmentalism, I’ve written about that topic many times over the years, numbering in at least dozens upon dozens or maybe hundreds of posts (use the search function, if your curious, and you’ll find some post or another about every single thing you brought up in your comment). About a month ago, I wrote a piece on the environment and not long before that I wrote about the environmentalist views of Warren and Sanders. It’s also come up quite often in my writings about diet and food systems.

      There is no lack of addressing it in this blog. But there is only so much one can say about pollution, mass extinction, environmental destruction, and climate crisis. I speak of it when it seems relevant to the focus of a particular post and when I have some worthy comment to make. Still, I don’t want to continually repeat myself. My views on environmentalism have already been outlined in immense detail. I’ve been reading and talking about such things for about as long as I can remember. In high school, I wrote papers about pollution and overpopulation. I’m a GenXer and was raised on movies portraying post-apocalypse. As early as elementary school, I had written a story for a class assignment that was about the survivors following an ecological apocalypse. So, it’s been on my mind since my childhood in the 1980s.

      In general, environmentalist literature and thought has shaped my entire sense of the world. It’s a major framework to how I approach many other topics. I see humans as being inseparable from environment, in all senses of that word. So, even when I don’t directly make a statement about the environment, it’s always there in the background of my mind. It’s just the way I see the world, far beyond climate change — such as: culture, epigenetics, neighborhood effect, intergenerational trauma, toxicity rates, etc. If anything, I’m overly obsessive about my environmentalist take on things. Even in this post, I directly spoke of “environmental catastrophe” as being central to the crisis at hand.

    • Let me explain my focus here. It really was a narrow focus. I sometimes write sprawling posts that cover massive territory, but that this one was a more typical post as seen in the blogosphere.

      I was honing in on a specific aspect of the US two-party stranglehold in terms of some of the most corrupt figures who use it as their own personal Game of Thrones. The generations theory was the key to understanding my interest here. It wasn’t only Bannon who read that book but also Bill Clinton and so Hillary probably also is familiar with it. A number of powerful people have mentioned reading it. That fascinates me.

      No matter what anyone thinks about it, whether or not it is a theory that turns out true, it will in a sense be made true if enough powerful people act on it. The book that originally was written to explain history has already altered history that has happened since. Future historians will have to include how certain historically-related books became part of the history. We will never fully know to what degree their predictions were correct or merely a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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