Sara Robinson reports some very interesting research into the causes of revolutions. Some sociologists have study revolution, and they have established a set of conditions that, when they occur, result in revolution. The seven criteria are
- Economic conditions for most people soar, then crash
- The upper classes no longer consider the condition of the lower classes to be important to what happens to them. There ceases to be a general consensus across all the society that everyone is in it together.
- The career and social expectations of the professional and upper military classes cease to be tied to those of the very wealthy. Instead of the best qualified being able to reach the top jobs through talent and hard work, they find that those top jobs are filled by the well-born and wealthy but less competent - like George Bush.
- Conservatives who do not believe that government should exist run the government. The result is invariably incompetent government and a great deal of corruption. This is the natural result of putting conservatives in charge of government.
- The world is changing rapidly, yet the top government leaders do not react and lead.
- The economy is mismanaged to the point of indebtedness, bankruptcy, and currency collapse. Whether through ineptness or corruption is unimportant, although I can identify a great deal of both in the present situation.
- The use of force is irrational and unproductive.
- Domestically criminal punishments are widely seen to be unfair and inappropriate, with clear criminals getting no punishment ("Scooter" Libby) or alternatively, punishments wildly excessive to the crimes are handed out (see the mandatory drug sentencing laws.)
- Outside the U.S. The military is used in wars that offer no benefit to the nation (Iraq is, of course, a classic example.) "These misadventures not only reduce the country's international prestige and contribute to economic declines; they often create a class of displaced soldiers who return home with both the skills and the motivation to turn political unrest into a full-fledged shooting war." Timothy McVeigh would be a classic example of this latter case.
[If I have not adequately summarized the seven items then the error is mine, not Sara Robinson's.]
The Vietnam war was a beginning of a lot of it. It was clearly a war we did not need to fight, but our conservatives held every other progressive action the government could take hostage until LBJ was forced to send half-a-million soldiers to that country. His goal was to pass Medicare, the Civil Rights Bill, and the Voting Rights Bill. As bad as the Vietnam War was, LBJ was leading America to the solution of the social problems of lack of health care for the elderly and was resolving the problems of Racism and segregation that have plagued America since European settlers arrived. There has not been an example of national leadership since then, unless you want to count the totally negative attacks on modernity that Ronald Reagan represented. Conservatives don't solve social problems. They shoot the messengers who describe real problems and move into gated communities while siphoning as much money off the middle and lower classes as they can. The predator lending that is represented by payday loans, subprime loans, and increased credit card interest with hidden and surprise fees are just the tip of the iceberg. The bankruptcy bill was another step in the same system of predatory lending. All of that sucks money from the middle and lower classes and hands if over to the wealthy and extremely wealthy, who, unsurprisingly, have been purchasing tax breaks from their Congressmen.
If you want to know why the crowds are surrounding Obama as they are, he is the person who is promising the leadership out of this morass. Hillary, for all her technical skills, simply has not demonstrated the awareness or the leadership to make the changes needed to break up the disaster America has become under the Reagan Revolution and the Bush administration.
The conditions for a real revolution are ripe. Obama has tapped into the feelings the conditions have created, and he is stoking them. Will he be able to provide the real leadership that is going to be required at this time of change?
That is always the question. In Obama we seem to have a man who recognizes the nature of the times and who is offering his leadership to deal with them. The question always remains whether he has the abilities. But one thing is becoming more and more clear - there is no one else on the horizon even willing to try.