A while ago, your theme was cyclical progressive “great awakenings”, wasn’t it? I think you meant by this that reality eventually catches up to progressive excess every generation or so, to be followed by another awakening.
But lately you seem worried that the progressive victory is permanent.
If I am correctly representing two views you have, do you see them as compatible? I hope so.
I’m not sure reality ever catches up with Progressives. They simply exhaust themselves and go into a dormant phase for a while. The Progressive Movement under Wilson pushed through a massive expansion of Federal power, but eventually ran out of steam in World War I. Some of Wilson’s more egregious polices were rolled back, like the Sedition Act, but much of it remained. The movement went dormant in the 20’s, but came back to life in the 30’s with FDR and the New Deal.
Similarly, some of the New Deal was rolled back. The big programs like Social Security remained, but much of the central planning was slowly peeled back. Still, the paradigm had shifted and there was no going back to the pre-FDR ways. The Federal state would play the dominant role in the lives of Americans.
It is the ratchet effect. The Progressive push begins and we get a series of clicks until finally some push-back and the advance is arrested. The core holds for a while and then the advance begins against. Click, click, click and then another pause.
We’re certainly headed to a period of normalization, but there will be no roll back of anything we have seen over the last decade. I’m not even sure there will be any attempt at roll back. Eisenhower talked about a reigning in the military-industrial complex. Reagan talked about a rollback the welfare state. There’s exactly no one in public life talking about a course correction, much less rollback.
The great question is whether we have reached a point where the traditional American core is so weak and so broken that it cannot stabilize. After the cultural revolution of the 60’s and 70’s, there was still a large stable base of sensible, prosperous Americans able to restore sanity to the country. That base is greatly diminished today and may simply be too weak to rally after the latest onslaught.
That said, it is easy to lose sight of the silent majority. In the 70’s, people really and truly thought the country was lost. Jimmy Carter gave speeches about how it was all downhill and we better get used to it. I recall G. Gordon Liddy talking about how he and his coevals thought they were facing a revolution. That did not happen. Things stabilized and we had a nice run of peace and prosperity. You never know what is over the next hill.