Panem et circenses. Bread and circuses. That was the ancient Roman Empire's way of keeping the people--or, as they more likely thought of them, the "rabble"--at bay, so that they could go on and play in splendid and seemingly indefinite isolation. Except that history--the very thing that modern conservatism has attempted to stop dead in its tracks--long ago decreed that nothing in the affairs of humans was ever intended to be indefinite. People die. Empires die. And political movements die--all the more quickly, if they have nothing more to offer the people than bread and circuses.
Sometimes, it takes an avatar of a movement to publicly face the fact that it has not only run its course, but that it was never anything more in the first place than a grand distraction for the benefit of the privileged. In this regard, meet Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman from the age of Newt and current MSNBC host. After decades of fealty to the grand cause of Ronald Reagan, he effectively admits that Reaganomics was a cruel hoax, a gambit to distract the middle class so that Wall Street could effectively loot it of its post-New Deal gains.
Even more impressive, he explains the role that "social issues" play in this process. Republican attention to "social issues" is merely dog-whistle politics, designed to get the middle class to look the other way while they are being looted. Scarborough mentions abortion, guns, and gay marriage, although he doesn't mention what I would call the ultimate social issue. But I'll save that for a future post.
Scarborough's surprising admission should be seen that the nation, like California ahead of it, is finding its future on the left side of politics. And the right has no business griping about it. It has pushed the nation every step of the way in that direction, with policies that offer plenty of bread for the 1% and little more than circuses for the rest of us. Its moment has come--to gracefully step off the stage for a time, or to be thrown off by the people whom it has betrayed. I've got a pretty good idea of what the choice is going to be.