The Silent Coup
If you are a fan of the maxim “no news is good news” then you are probably having a delightful summer. Compared to the screeching vitriol of the summer of 2012 that preceded the presidential election, this summer is one of the quietest I can remember. So far we have had Morsi’s ouster in Egypt which, lets admit it, is little more than a summer sequel to Egypt Spring: Bye-bye Hosni. Zimmerman’s acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin is the only thing people have been truly vexed about, and that is because journalists (both accredited and faux) twisted the story in so many directions that everyone was able to be furious about something. Then there was NBC’s recent lead news item: “‘Rip Van Roker’: Al oversleeps, misses a show for first time in 39 years.” Yawn. Pun intended. The lack of exciting news may, however, be an illusion. More, much more, may be going on than the newsers know (or are capable of discerning). A coup—albeit bloodless and silent—may be underway.
What is newsworthy and largely unnoticed by those who continue to masquerade as journalists, is what is not happening in Washington DC. Here I pick up on the themes and observations in my posts “American Empire (?): The Way Forward” (December 27, 2011) and “The Re-emergence of Personal Sovereignty” (June 25, 2012). Evidence of what I described as big “workarounds” that, I argued, were the key to the successful reinvention of America and Americans, is now everywhere, except Washington DC. The 113th Congress is no better than the 112th, today’s Supreme Court has proven a parody of judgment, and the Obama administration is largely wandering about with a map that has no roads, no contours, nor even a compass rose. The three branches of our Federal government are gnarled and withered—unable to bear even the lightest load. And yet, the rest of America is rising, slowly but steadily, from the peril that George Packer so brilliantly illustrated in The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013).
Most families, many communities, some cities, and a few states have figured out their futures without the prospect of relying on the Federal government. The Feds aren’t even a part of the conversation (which should scare them to death if they had even a modicum of awareness). On the fiscal front, Americans (but not America) have cleansed their balance sheets of debt and are re-establishing principles of self-restraint and prudence. The days of avarice are fading in the rearview mirror. Self-reliance, generosity, and community are verbs again. Bloomberg reports “Americans … have more readily available funds to cover what they owe. Household liquid assets—financial assets excluding pension and insurance reserves—rose by $10 trillion in the past four years, and the ratio of coverage for liabilities is 2.43, the highest since 2000.” In another comprehensive study by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley of the Brookings Institution, they find that
A revolution is stirring. In the face of supersized economic and social challenges, American cities and metros are stepping up and doing the hard work to grow jobs and make their economies more prosperous. With Washington and many states mired in partisan gridlock, networks of metropolitan heads – elected officials for sure but also corporate, civic and university leaders – are reaching across partisan and jurisdictional divisions to reshape their economies, remake their places and prepare their workers for a more competitive world.
Further evidence is found in communities all across America where “Community Supported Agriculture” and “Community Supported Arts” are generating even more “Community Supported _____” organizations that promote the production and consumption of local goods and services.
Unbeknownst to our national leaders and the media that manically follow them, the same type of individuals Tocqueville celebrated in Democracy in America in the early 19th century are in the process of reinventing America from the bottom up—at the local level. They are the real and viable alternative to the concoction of platitudes and vicissitudes our national leaders spew to convince us of their indispensability. Those national leaders, who believe they are the technocrats and plutocrats in whom we should trust our welfare, might want to look beyond the Beltway. When they do, they will realize they are being quietly subverted by a once, and now again, powerful people. People who march forward every day beyond the sightline of the everywhere-yet-nowhere media.