The bitter defeat of the Biden Administration’s signature initiative, the Build Back Better plan to reset the terms of American capitalism, has black-pilled me about the near-term prospects of a progressive shift in course in our national politics to deal with the coming century of climate disruption and growing political polarization, based in the steady forty-year decline in living standards and the loss of a shared national project. We need a global Green New Deal.
The competing factions in the American ruling class are demarcated by their sources of wealth and power. The conservative coalition, lined up under the Republican Party, is based in extractive industries like gas, oil, and coal, allied with real estate magnates and regional land-based wealth, and the petit bourgeoisie class of small business owners and regional commercial and home property rentiers. The international finance and tech venture capital class, aligned with the culture creators in education, entertainment, and the arts, and the highly educated professional-managerial class fund the broad liberal coalition, represented politically by the Democratic Party.
These broad structures of power are locked in a political and cultural stasis that has made the U.S. increasingly ungovernable. The heel turn of the Republican Party towards open contempt for democracy and the systemic dismantling and privatization of the public sector has ratcheted political tensions to a high pitch.
This state of political deadlock is a function of national decline and heightened political polarization that has made it nearly impossible for any major public infrastructure upgrade and adequate social support network to get built out. No consensus can be manufactured. This chronic political gridlock has weakened our confidence in the capacity of the state to take decisive action.
Politics are becoming irrelevant. Most of what passes for politics in the U.S. is a shadow play of dueling culture war fixations that serve as a proxy for the underlying economic anxieties. A Republican sweep in 2024 would likely be the end of our nominal democracy.
At the national level, the multiplicity of political veto points, like the archaic filibuster rule in the Senate, widespread partisan gerrymandering, and the judicial activism of an increasingly aggressive 6-3 conservative Supreme Court stands ready to thwart any progressive initiative.
At the state level, the California CEQA regime, whatever its original intent, has created an endless array of legal tactics to block or blunt any proposed public or private development.
In Sonoma County, this dynamic of political gridlock is reflected in the recent collapse of the decade-long public review on the disposition of the state property at the shuttered SDC. Last month, I gently mocked the consultants for the state charged with developing a tasting flight of plans for this valuable asset, who then promptly lost control of the public review process.
Realistically, the prospects of the state agency charged with executing the sale taking up the re-wilding option seem about nil, unless the advocates have some very deep-pocketed donors who can afford to buy this 900+ acres of prime real estate at market rate. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.