Who's Going to Win the Cold Civil War?
A kind of slow-motion decoupling has been in progress since the middle of 2016, or whenever what Carl Bernstein called the "Cold Civil War" started. Formerly sacrosanct red lines that maintained the truce are being crossed all the time now. A letter from Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division asks "44 states to provide extensive information on how they keep their voter rolls up-to-date" in a strike at what the administration perceives as ghost voters. State Department layoffs under Tillerson and probes into Post Office use of employee time to campaign for Hillary suggest blows to the heart of the Democratic public sector base. Reports that "Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused" mean the administration is prepared to fight fire with fire.
Have the Trumpians no shame? The short answer is no. With Trump voters fiercely unrepentant, liberals are in for a fight. Each side is increasingly drifting toward "different truths" in Bernstein's phrase, and American politics is bifurcating under separate banners. As with marital divorces, much of the fuel for political estrangement is the lack of money. Government has long lived beyond its means. "Health care is devouring the budget. ... federal health spending has jumped to 5.5 percent of GDP today, on its way to a projected 9.3 percent thirty years from now." Now the money is running out. State funding for higher education dropped in 2016, with Illinois leading the collapse. Pensions are at risk. "According to a 2015 study from the National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA), public pension funds are around $1 trillion in the red," writes Forbes. "They’re facing two major problems: a severe rise in the old-age dependency ratio and dwindling investment returns."
It's every man for himself. In this confrontational atmosphere, ideologues are incentivized to ask for everything they can get. At Evergreen College, campus activists called for voluntary racial resegregation, out-lefting militants at the University of Missouri who earlier threatened student journalists with muscle. The chancellor of the California community college system went the whole hog, arguing that intermediate algebra was "an obstacle to students obtaining their credentials — particularly in fields that require no higher level math skills" and ought not to be required.
But it's not clear whether these leftist initiatives will fare any better than Trump's Buy American executive order. The old structures are a shadow of their former power. Missouri suffered a collapse in enrollment and staff layoffs. Evergreen experienced a "slight decline" in attendance. Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Marc Andreessen as much as conceded that many graduates of higher education "will be wiped out by robotics, artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, globalization and the gig economy." Musk said at the World Government Summit in Dubai in February that “we will have to have some kind of universal basic income, I don’t think we are going to have a choice”.