By Hamilton Nolan, In These Times
The crypto market’s inevitable crash will pull America’s politics in an even scarier direction.
Making predictions about looming social and political catastrophes is a dicey business, because most of the exciting things in history did not happen predictably. You can try to draw historic parallels based on broad economic or cultural trends. In America, in 2022, we have a vicious and spiraling culture war combined with an enormous asset price bubble fueled by two years of stimulus money, all resting atop an incredibly tenuous pandemic-wracked real economy. If you think the Angry White Men were scary during the Trump years, just wait until the crypto bubble pops.
Let’s think this through. The foundation of everything happening now is a sort of late capitalist nihilistic politics fueled purely by culture wars — an almost primitive flight from rationality driven by a half century of rising inequality and crumbling faith in ineffective public institutions. The American dream is dead: Children no longer do reliably better than their parents. The dream of a one-income supported household is over. In its place have sprouted the gig economy, crushing student debt, the death of unions and generalized precarity. The rich are unimaginably richer, and everyone else is spinning their wheels. The Republican response has been the culture wars, in lieu of actually redistributing wealth. This has been effective, ironically, because the sort of healthy institutions that would prevent culture war politics from being so powerful are the very institutions that are withering away. Technological changes and the atomization of mainstream media have intensified our division into warring political camps, identity-based tribes that further radicalize electoral politics, and are in turn radicalized by it in a non-virtuous cycle.