I have just come in from a vigorous forty-five minutes clearing ice and snow off my Camry and my wife's Yaris. So it is perhaps appropriate, in an odd way, that I, the eternal optimist, should see a few shoots of Spring peeping up after this long winter of our discontent. Bill de Blasio is elected Mayor of New York on an unabashedly progressive platform. An odd outlier of a poll reveals that among Americans under thirty, socialism is favored over capitalism. [The pollsters tactfully refrained from inquiring whether the respondents had any idea at all what socialism might be.] A South African friend sends me e-mail congratulations on drawing a large crowd in California to a talk on Marx [he had me confused with my former UMass colleague Richard Wolff, a leading Marxist theoretician, but his heart was in the right place, which is to say with Marx.]
In the old days, Marxists were prone to say "It has to get worse before it can get better." In 1972, I was momentarily beguiled by this Hegelian tag-line into deciding to vote for Nixon against Humphrey on the theory that he would make things enough worse to bring on The Revolution, but when I entered the voting booth on Amsterdam Avenue just north of the Columbia Campus my body rejected this interpretation of Das Kapital and my right arm refused to pull the lever marked "Republican." Well, Nixon won without my vote and it did indeed get worse, and then it got worse again, and then it got even worse. But maybe we have finally hit bottom. There does seem to be a genuine groundswell of anger at the banana republic inequality to which America has sunk. Can it be that despite the obsession with Chris Christie and the coronation rites for Hillary Clinton there is something resembling a genuine upswelling of leftwing populist sentiment, a readiness once again to speak the language of unashamed class warfare?
Sigh. One can but hope.