Which will it be?
Veterans of campaign work know that the slowest day of the year is, ironically, Election Day with its long wait for the results. For those of you counting the hours to poll closure, standing at a polling place waiting for voters to show up, or simply trying to find someone with exit-poll results or the latest turn-out rumors, here’s some reading material to while away the time. My last pre-election piece ran Friday in US News, and, in it, I pulled together my thinking over the past year on the future of government, the Trump phenomenon, Brexit, my visits to six countries and meeting political leaders from several more, and evolving technologies. If you want to know what happens starting tonight when the polls close, here’s my best guess:
Looking back at the turn of the 22nd century, the collapse of the nation-state system, which had existed for roughly 400 years, now seems obvious and long-overdue. But historians agree that the critical point, when the outcome went from unimaginable to unstoppable, was the disputed United State election of 2016, which ignited what has come to be known as the “Disunited States” Period.
Rumblings had been coming for decades: The collapse of empires throughout the 20th century. The increasing frequency and severity of global financial crises. The rise of nonstate challengers to the major states. And the geometric growth of technologies that simultaneously undermined the two defining elements of the “modern” nation-state – control over (1) the monopoly of force, and (2) a defined geographic territory.
Together, these changes had opened up a wide cleavage between two broad classes globally, cutting across traditional national borders: the so-called “Globopolitans” – sometimes denounced in the ensuing wars as the “elites,” but really people of all economic backgrounds in the interconnected global metropolitan centers, where incomes generally were rising – and “Remnants” of the less globally integrated regions of every continent, whether within single countries (like the interior of the former United States) or across multiple countries (like the Middle East or Horn of Africa). Differences in income levels between countries had narrowed – but incomes within them severely diverged worldwide. Globopolitans, regardless of location, saw a world of opportunity growing ever wealthier and more equitable; the Remnants saw a world of stagnation, widening unfairness and, perhaps as importantly, “cultural extermination” due to post-modern global change.
Remnants believed their salvation lay in eradication of this globalist threat through a return to earlier cultural, economic and national structures. They failed to recognize, at least initially, the twin ironies of their anti-globalist grievances: This actually connected them with similarly aggrieved peoples globally – the gods they worshiped and cultures they defended may have differed, but the worldviews were much the same. And it triggered the ultimate destruction of the traditional “nations” on which their traditionalist ideological agenda became increasingly fixated.
Working class revolt, fueling populist politics of both left- and right-wing varieties, simmered across Europe and other regions to a lesser extent in the wake of the global financial crisis that struck in 2008, but the first clear flare was the surprise “Brexit” vote in Britain to leave the European Union in mid-2016. This was hailed as the triumph of traditionalist, nationalist values over a condescending globalist elite – but it led in quick succession to the break-up of first the United Kingdom, then of England itself: Globopolitan London jettisoned the anti-globalist regions holding it back, pegged its currency to the American dollar and reunited informally with Scotland, Wales and Ireland to rejoin the European economy. In many ways, this presaged the (typically) larger and more violent developments in America.
The 2016 U.S. presidential election was widely perceived to be the nastiest in well over a century, with underlying themes of fraying racial, sexual, religious and national identity. But most historians today ascribe the uprising, and ensuing crack-up, to the tectonic economic forces described above.
The actual winner of that election was lost to the historical record in the disorder that followed. But we do know that the results were so close that they triggered months of unrest, refusal to accept defeat by the losing side and bitter paralysis of the government. In a notable departure from the country’s long-standing norms, both presidential contenders were subjected to post-election prosecution and ended up jailed. A deep, worldwide recession resulted, exacerbating the underlying tensions even further.
If you want to know what “happened” after that … click here to read the rest of the piece. Whatever you do, exercise your right as an American: Get out and vote! And as for the results, register your prediction below: Which tie will I being wearing on Wednesday?
Depressing, but certainly within the realm of possibility.