End of Appeasement

     I talk to my aunt on Fridays after work, as I’m walking home. She is well into her 80s and the last of my dad’s generation.
     And while the ailments grow greater, her commentary on politics is as clear as ever.
     She has been an erstwhile supporter of the president. A pacifist in large measure, she did not necessarily approve but understood and defended his return to the theatre of war in Iraq, his mass deportations, his prosecution of journalists, his support of our spies spying on us, his compromises great and small.
     So it was with a slight smile of surprise that I heard her say on Friday, “I think our president gives in a little too much.”
     It was the banks that did it.
     As usual, she was ahead of me on the news.
     After a day of e-mails and meetings about e-filing transitions in Iowa, Missouri, Massachusetts and Oklahoma where press access is being limited, it was as though I had been in a news blackout.
     She said the banks were getting a break, a loosening of their ability to gamble with our money. “They get to keep it if they win and we pay for it if they lose,” is how she put it.
     I admit I thought she might be confused. The economy is only just now, this holiday season, coming back to full force, after the meltdown brought on by big bank practices.
     We could not be that memoryless.
     She also said something about increasing the amounts wealthy individuals can give to politicians.
     So, when I got home and turned on the news, I saw that she had it dead on.
     Her generation lived through the great depression, and has not forgotten the harm unrestricted banks can cause. But there is something else there, a clear, straight-ahead brand of populism.
     It is different from the Republican populism that opposes taxes while favoring guns and war.
     It is one that has seen the hard times in great swathes of America while the guys in tophats lived the high life and messed up the economy so bad that only the forced spending of a world war could bring us out of it.
     The tophats are gone but the same guys are there in fine dress watching the politicians give them breaks as part of the grand round of horse trading that comes in a budget bill.
     And she sees it.
     In such clear terms that it has dented her faith in the president.
     In the same conversation, my aunt was complimentary towards Elizabeth Warren in her battle against the banks. But also figured she would lose.
     So if one were to see whisps of the future in the words from the past, in that slow and reluctant loss of faith in the president, in the guarded embrace of a new politician, it would be that the Democrats need to start fighting if they want to survive.
     And in a way, I look forward to seeing the political battle re-engage in the New Year. With the Republicans controlling both houses, they will set the agenda and they will be under great pressure to sound moderate, show that they can govern. But I don’t think they can do it, they will not be able to restrain the horses of the right.
     At the point the Democrats will need to put up a fight or be ground under.
     There truly is a cycle in life, something that becomes more and more clear as you get further into the cycle. And just as clearly, the economic life and political life of a nation also have a cycle.
     A new cycle is about to begin in our nation’s political life, and I suspect it will be really ugly. But something great might come out of it, because the strategy of appeasement from the forces of the left will have to be abandoned.

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