In his 1992 book Future Edge, Joel Arthur Barker presents an interesting graphic depiction of the concept of a paradigm shift. A paradigm, according to dictionaries, is essentially “the way things work” — the pattern, the model, the system, the set of rules, the modus operandi. Barker expresses a paradigm shift as a decline in the current paradigm’s capacity to solve problems and create new things, and a concomitant rise in the ability of a new paradigm to do so. His graphic representation of this definition is a perfect picture of what has been going on in America for at least the past few years — possibly a decade or more. It doesn’t take much imagination to place years on the horizontal axis of Barker’s graphic representation of a paradigm shift in a way that shows clearly that the shift underway now is accelerating exponentially during this 2016 election campaign cycle.
President John Adams, in expressing his hope that the paradigm in America would not become what it is today, actually defined the current paradigm very succinctly: “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” President John Adams.
Several examples during this election cycle point to the presence of a paradigm shift well underway in America:
- The defeat of Senator Eric Cantor of Virginia in his 2014 primary. Senator Cantor was the Senate Majority Whip, and generally regarded as a key player among rising new leaders within the Republican Party — even as a significant contender to succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House [second in the presidential succession line behind the Vice President]. He was defeated by a relative unknown who spent less than 10% on his campaign than Cantor did [Cantor had millions at his disposal, but hardly even campaigned at all until the last week because he — and his party — thought he was a shoo-in (current paradigm thinking)].
- Government gridlock. Our government has become extremely polarized over at least the past decade, maybe longer, but the resulting dysfunction has been accelerating exponentially during the Obama administration.
- What could be labeled “The Trump/Sanders Phenomenon“. These men rose to the highest tiers of their parties despite overwhelming odds [under the current paradigm] against their doing so, and although the constituents who catapulted them to those levels were almost diametrical opposites, the underlying force for both of them was the paradigm shift — widespread dissatisfaction with the current situation [i.e., with the inability for either set of constituents to see their vision for the country being realized under the current paradigm].
Also worth noting in this context is the fact that, in the early stages of the primaries, practically all political experts and media analysts literally wrote both of these candidates off as “flashes in the pan”, saying they would never be serious contenders [we can see clearly now that these pundits were victims of current-paradigm thinking]. The only difference between the outcomes in the two major parties is that Trump actually won the Republican Party nomination [receiving, incidentally, more popular votes than any other Republican candidate in American history]. And, when you consider the Super Delegate component in the Democrat Party nomination process [a system clearly designed to prevent what, absent this component, might have happened — the nomination being won by a non-establishment candidate like Sanders], this could very well have been a Trump-Sanders race.
Five conclusions can clearly be drawn from what we can see now:
- A paradigm shift is clearly underway, and it is accelerating exponentially during this election cycle.
- As we approach this election, neither polls nor the opinions of political experts and media analysts mean as much as they have in the past. Any predictions about the outcome of this election should be viewed from this perspective.
- Money is no longer the sole determinant of the outcome of an election. It is certainly still a major factor, but as Senator Cantor’s defeat clearly shows, it is no longer axiomatic that the candidate who has the best-financed campaign will win.
- It is quite possible that we may see one of the highest voter turnouts in American history, and that alone would make almost all historical statistics useless as predictors of the outcome on Election Day. The probability that the Trump/Sanders Phenomenon will bring millions of new voters to the polls is at least as high as the probability that disillusionment over the available choices will cause millions to either vote out of desperation for candidates with no chance of winning [Green Party, Libertarian Party, write-ins, etc.] or just stay home and not vote.
- Another factor that must be taken into account is the current-paradigm axiom that “alternative” candidates pull votes from the challenging major party and therefore increase the chances of an incumbent major-party win. For reasons already mentioned above, this “axiom” is clearly in question. It is impossible for anybody to predict, or for any poll to show, who will actually do on Election Day what they tell a pollster sixty, thirty, ten, even one day before the election they will do when they actually enter the voting booth — unfortunately, millions of people will not make that decision until that moment.
This is a time, perhaps more so than at any other time in American history, when every person who is eligible to vote should do so — because the outcome of this election will either solidify the trend of the past seven and a half years and accelerate our path in the current direction, or at least potentially produce directional changes that can avoid what lies ahead if we continue on our current trajectory.
What lies ahead? Lord Thomas Macaulay, English Historian, Essayist and Statesman [1800-1859], wrote a letter to an American friend on May 23, 1857. In that letter, he expressed very succinctly what would ultimately get us into the mess we’re in [and what would be the end result] … “A democracy cannot survive as a permanent form of government. It can last only until its citizens discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority (who vote) will vote for the candidates promising the greatest benefits from the public purse, with the result that a democracy will always collapse from loose fiscal policies, always followed by a dictatorship”.
Anyone who thinks a dictatorship [or any autocratic form of government] could not possibly be in America’s future should pay more attention to what has been going on during the current administration. Going into that in more depth here is beyond the scope of this particular page, but other pages on this site, coupled with blogs that will be posted, will provide additional depth.