This, by Jebediah Purdy, may be the most important thing you read this year:
The structural buttresses of that world have been crumbling since 1989, but it took a long time to fall. The year 2016 brought the first genuinely post–Cold War election: the perennial carnage of American capitalism, intensified by forty years of growing inequality, prepared the ground for Bernie Sanders’s socialism, while the nativism and racism that had slunk just outside respectable politics returned full-throated. What unifies the crisis-of-democracy genre is the failure to understand this, that the present moment is not an anomalous departure but rather a return to the baseline—to the historical norm, one might say.
The result of this error is a response to the present crisis that is at once too dramatic and too sanguine. These books all claim that Trump is unprecedented—which is not at all true. (Rather, “unprecedented” was code for “terrible” in the language of American political consensus. And, of course, he is terrible.) But these authors are also rather modest in their suggestions. None of the proposals from this genre come close to the kinds of sweeping changes that made the New Deal or even the civil-rights revolution. What might that sort of transformation look like today? For one, we need substantial redistribution, starting with marginal tax rates at the 70 percent levels that lasted until the Reagan-era cuts of the 1980s. For another, we need entirely new institutions of planning and social provision, such as universal family leave and child care to help make the economy more humane, family life less exhausting, and get closer to gender equity. We might also have to do much more to strengthen labor unions, to the point of considering radical measures such as mandatory unionization, which is often the only way to break management’s hold on labor in large firms. It could also mean a new dispensation of basic legal rights, such as granting residents, rather than only citizens, the right to vote.
Read the whole thing.