If the last three weeks of presidential politics have proven anything, it's that Donald Trump is one of the nation's first "metamodern" politicians. What this means is that Trump is neither sincere nor ironic, optimistic nor cynical, authentic nor false. Instead, he somehow manages to exist outside space and time.
I recently got an email invitation from a Democratic congressional office to come to a "watch party" to view President Obama's State of the Union address. His "fourth-quarter priorities," according to the White House-inspired talking points of the message, are "home ownership, free community college, and high-paying jobs." That sounds pretty good. But if you unpack the specifics, the president is offering pretty weak tea. Obama proposes to have the federal government cover 75 percent of the cost, if states will participate. This could save students an average of over $3,000 a year. By contrast, the original G.I. Bill of Rights of 1944 covered living expenses as well as tuition. The point is that this Obama proposal is not going to be passed by the Republican Congress in any case, so why not think big and act bold? Why not propose something that would make a major difference in the lives of millions of moderate income Americans and dare the Republicans to oppose it?
Until recently, few people took seriously the possibility that Scotland might actually secede from the United Kingdom. However, with a referendum scheduled for September 18, the latest polls show secession in the lead for the first time, and gaining dramatic momentum. The British government is frantically scrambling to offer the Scots a much more autonomous form of federalism, to head off the drive for full independence. Meanwhile, the specter of a diminished Britain has led to speculative attack against the British pound. What's going on here? For one thing, with the European Union allowing membership for lots of micro-states, the idea of splitting up established countries with minority regions becomes economically plausible. An independent Scotland, population 5.3 million, would be a bigger country than nine EU members -- Ireland, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta.
When you consider what has been happening to the average working person since the era of Ronald Reagan, it's amazing that the Republicans have fought the Democrats about to a draw. The recipe of Reagan and both Bushes has been to weaken government, undermine the regulation of market excesses, attack core social insurance programs, tilt the tax system away from the wealthy and towards the middle class, gut the safeguards that protect workers on the job, make college ever more unaffordable, and appoint judges who undermine democracy itself. That stuff is not exactly popular. Yet Democrats seem largely unable to convert Republican elitism to their advantage.
Even the people who've had experience with addiction, molestation, abusive fathers, hysterical mothers, horrible politicians, and Russian sporting events are not necessarily experts. At least not in the classic sense. They can be experts about themselves, their experiences. But no one else, no one else's experiences.