In 1997 I read "The Fourth Turning," a book by William Strauss and Neil Howe. They saw an American society that was unraveling, predicted it would get progressively worse, and reach a crisis in about 20 years. They wrote, “The prospect for great civic achievement – or disintegration – will be great” as the two sides with widely divergent aspirations for America’s future compete to lead America out of the crisis.

Strauss and Howe assert that every crisis ends with a large transformation in American society. For example, many progressive Democratic programs were enacted after the Great Depression and the Civil War ended slavery. Thus the “emergent society may be something better, a nation that sustains its Framers’ visions with a robust new pride or it may be something unspeakably worse.” As Abraham Lincoln said regarding the conflict over slavery, “I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other” – slave or free.

Based on the current views of the two parties, either we will become a nation committed to the Democratic goals of expanded democracy, a good environment, and prosperity and political equality for the many and not just the few—or we will not. Being a Republican today means total allegiance to Donald Trump and “owning the libs.” Their only policy goals seem to be retaining power at all costs, cutting taxes for the rich, and valuing personal freedom above the common good. For example:

  1. The American Rescue Plan of 2021 provided economic aid to families, small businesses, public health and state governments during the pandemic. Not one Republican voted for the bill.
  2. The Democrat sponsored For the People Act is designed to provide election security, expand voter registration, ban gerrymandering, insure two weeks of early voting, and make election day a holiday so everyone can easily vote. Senate Republicans filibustered the bill so it could not even be debated. Conversely, Republicans believe Trump’s Big Lie that voter fraud is rampant causing him to lose and have introduced over 400 bills in state legislatures to suppress voting.
  3. Since Reagan’s time, Republicans have told us the lie that cutting taxes for the rich will result in so much economic growth that the national debt won’t increase. In actuality Reagan cut taxes and the debt almost tripled in eight years, George Bush cut taxes and almost doubled the debt again, and Trump’s tax cuts contributed to his adding $7.8 trillion to the debt. Democrats believe big corporations and the wealthy should pay their fair share.
  4. The bipartisan deal brokered in the House to establish an independent commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol died by a Republican filibuster.
  5. Republicans will not accept the conclusions of scientific research if it interferes with their political ideology. For example climate scientists almost unanimously agree that climate change will have serious negative consequences, but a recent Pew poll showed only 15% of Republicans think it is real and that it is a serious problem. Medical research shows that vaccinations and mask-wearing are effective in slowing the current pandemic and saving lives, but many Republicans say these measures interfere with their personal freedom or are dangerous or ineffective.
  6. This month when Steve Bannon refused to comply with a subpoena issued by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, 202 House Republicans voted not to charge him with contempt of Congress including Reps. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., and Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D..

If Strauss and Howe are right and the crisis is resolved in this decade, I hope Americans decide that the Democratic alternative is preferable to the Trump autocracy.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Roger Haglund lives in Moorhead.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.