In politics, as in life, luck plays a larger role than we sophisticated social theorists like to admit. To give a personal example of luck in life, the particular half century during which my career played out happened to coincide with a post-war boom in American higher education helped along by a Cold War that led the US Congress to pump billions into universities, some of which even slopped over into the Humanities. As a consequence, those of us who got in at the beginning of the boom were flooded with jobs and had to beat off eager commercial house book editors scrounging for publishable material. To revise an old joke, we were born with Ph. Ds and thought we were prodigies.
Those of my father’s generation were not so lucky. In high school, I had a number of teachers with Ph. Ds who never did find a university job. These days, young men and women quite as talented as we were are forced to get by on part time gigs while struggling to pay off student loans I never had to take out.
These reflections are prompted by the events of the past several weeks, which seem to show that Donald Trump’s luck has run out. After three weeks or more spent escalating his racist White Supremacist rhetoric, he was hit with El Paso and Dayton in less than twelve hours. Whatever we may say about the deep rooted connections between Trump’s embrace of White Racist Nationalism and a rise in xenophobic violence, there is obviously no direct nexus between Trump’s speeches and the Texas/Ohio violence. But the violence coming on the heels of the speeches has materially changed the political landscape. It was just bad luck for him. The same attacks, spread out over a space of several months, would have had a totally different political effect.
It is enough to give an atheist like me pause.
By the way, I am saddened to say that Joe Biden’s speech in response to the killings was a totally successful political moment for him. Sanders and Warren are going to have to up their game.