Beneath the allegedly young idealism are very cobwebbed assumptions about societal permanence. The agitators for “American Autumn” think that such demands are reasonable for no other reason than that they happen to have been born in America, and expectations that no other society in human history has ever expected are just part of their birthright. But a society can live on the accumulated capital of a glorious inheritance only for so long. And in that sense this bloodless, insipid revolution is just a somewhat smellier front for the sclerotic status quo.
Middle-class America is dying before our eyes: The job market is flatlined, the college fees soar ever upward, the property market is underwater, and Obamacare is already making medical provision both more expensive and more restrictive. That doesn’t leave much else — although no doubt, as soon as they find something else, the statists will fix that, too. As more and more middle Americans are beginning to notice, they lead more precarious and vulnerable lives than did their blue-collar parents and grandparents without the benefit of college “education” and health “benefits.” For poorer Americans, the prospects are even glummer, augmented by ever grimmer statistics on obesity, childhood diabetes, and much else. Potentially, this is not decline, but a swift devastating downward slide, far beyond what post-war Britain and Europe saw and closer to Peronist Argentina on a Roman scale.
It would be heartening if more presidential candidates understood the urgency. But there is a strange lack of boldness in most of their proposals. They, too, seem victims of that 1950 moment, and assumptions of its permanence.