For the past 40 years, Republicans have been winning most of our political battles over economic issues, while social issues polarize the country. Ronald Reagan swept into office in 1980 and eliminated the progressive tax system that was the legacy of the New Deal. Deregulation began and has continued through Republican and Democratic administrations alike. Bill Clinton did put through one tax increase, but he also signed a very unfortunate crime bill, cut back welfare, and put Glass-Steagall to rest. George W. Bush immediately undid Clinton's tax cuts, and then some. Barack Obama's one major triumph, the ACA, looks set to expire over the next few weeks.
The election of Donald Trump, as I have said several times, must be viewed from at least two different perspectives. On the one hand, the election of an often-bankrupt businessman and TV star with little or no real knowledge of public affairs shows up the bankruptcy of our political system and threatens us with unprecedented dangers. On the other hand, because Trump is a Republican, it gives Congressional Republicans--who in turn are bound hand in foot to extreme conservative contributors led by the Koch brothers--the chance to undo what remains of the New Deal and the Great Society, if not the Progressive Era. In the Fourth Turning that began sometime in the last decade (in my opinion, in November 2000), the Republicans have generally been able to keep the initiative precisely because they were committed to the death of the old order, while the Democrats felt the country could continue to go in a more liberal direction. Both sides believe their stances are morally right and their opponents are evil, but the Democrats, it seems to me, have tended even more to believe that LGBT rights, affirmative action, and even safety for illegal immigrants must prevail simply because they are such just causes. If young men and women still learned any real history in schools and colleges, they would know that justice has never guaranteed victory.
Thus, the mainstream liberal media has been unable to face the scale of the impending Republican triumph. It remains fixated on the very serious scandals implicating Trump and people around him and the controversies over the investigation of them. I think those investigations will eventually turn up evidence of long-term financial and political connections between Trump and the Russian government and/or Russian oligarchs, but I do not know that thta could force him out of office. The media has also pushed the line, from the beginning, that the repeal of the ACA could not go through. They eagerly seized upon the GOP's problems in the House, only to see Paul Ryan overcome them. Then they assumed that the Senate could not possibly pass the House bill--but the conservative Republicans who drafted the Senate alternative in secret made it, in some respects, even worse. Equally significant, the four Republican Senators who immediately announced that they would oppose the draft in its current form were conservatives, not moderates. Their stance will probably keep the final draft from veering leftward, and I predict most of the moderates will be bullied into going along. If Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins refuse to vote aye, Mike Pence will break the tie and Republicans will break into a huge July 4 celebration.
Yes, the Republicans are making a mockery of the legislative process, holding no hearings, allowing almost no debate, and ignoring (presumably) the warnings of the Congressional Budget office. Yes, they are passing bills that the bulk of the American people oppose. But they can do it--and they don't care. They have won all the special House elections that have been held this year, and the Democrats do not appear to have much real traction in red states. The Democrats are deeply divided among themselves, both between centrists and progressives and between the old and the young.
About 25 years ago Bill Strauss and Neil Howe predicted that their (and my) Boom generation would reshape America during the coming crisis. What they did not see was that major Boomer politicians are almost all Republicans. Although the Boom has now given us three Presidents--Clinton, Bush II, and Trump, all born in 1946--the most influential Boomer in American politics, I would argue, is Newt Gingrich, who has fought for more than 30 years for a new vision of America, one that is now coming to pass. And the Boom did not produce a single Congressional leader of any note within the Democratic Party. Chuck Schumer, a tool of Wall Street, is the first Boomer to lead the Democrats in either House of Congress. Nancy Pelosi, a Silent, faced her leadership challenge from Tim Ryan of Ohio, who is from the second half of Generation X. Another Silent, Bernie Sanders, is now the only real link to the New Deal, and he will be too old to run an effective campaign in 2020. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama left the Democratic Party much weaker in Congress than they found it, and both built their careers around contacts with wealthy donors, not strength in the grass roots.
The ACA is only one key Republican initiative. As Steve Bannon just admitted, many of Trump's cabinet selections were put in place to destroy the agencies they lead--starting with the EPA. The Trump budget aims to take government money away from key Democratic constituencies. And I expect some major initiative on immigration designed to remove much larger numbers of illegal immigrants from the US.
A number of my younger friends are convinced that Millennials will not only stop, but reverse, the Republican tide within the next ten years. For reasons I cannot develop today, I am doubtful. The Millennials have been infected during their education by the Boomer idea that right must inevitably prevail. Few of them have been taught the kind of systematic thinking necessary not to only to figure out what the country needs, but how to achieve it. They also face difficult economic conditions which will keep them focused on their private lives. Eventually things will swing the other way, but it may take a very long time.