The Great Regression

History may look back at the period in which we are living and call it The Great Regression. It is a time in which on issue after issue, we are seeing decades and sometimes centuries of progress reversed. We have never seen anything like this before in our history.

Thanks to a concerted campaign by America’s right wing, often with the help of centrists from both US political parties, we have watched as a long list of the signature milestones of American social advancement in the post WWII era are being reversed, undone or blunted.

The Supreme Court, now one of the most active, pernicious agents of this period of anti-progress, demonstrated this again yesterday by, for the first time in history, stripping away a right that had been granted to our people, the right of a woman to control her own body.

They even framed this giant step backwards in language that made clear that all their clocks stopped in the late 18th or early 19th Centuries, that they saw their twisted memories of that time as the only legitimate parameters for establishing our social standards and parameters.

For many of us, Roe and recognizing a woman’s right to choose was a sign that activism plus education plus conscience and decency could drive America forward, make it a better place. Roe was a symbol to several generations that our system worked.

That is why they sought to tear it down. But the regression has been going on for years, even as they sought to dismantle Roe. The greatest step forward of the 1960s was the Voting Rights Act and our strides toward greater racial justice.

Please consider supporting our work by becoming a member. Members receive exclusive bonus content, the DSR Daily Newsletter, Ad free listening, and more.

Support Our Work

In Shelby County, the Roberts court perversely ruled we had outgrown the need for such protections even as the sponsors of that court worked to limit and strip away voting rights, especially for people of color, throughout America.

Progress toward social equity and equal opportunity sustained other blows. Since the 1980s, the “leave it to the markets” politics of Reaganonmics (and the GOP and Dem Center) have resulted in inequality skyrocketing in the US. It is now less likely that someone born in the bottom fifth of our society will move up than it was half a century ago. The rich are richer. The rich have benefited from laws that reduce their share of the tax burden (capital gains taxes) and empower their companies to act without regulation.

They have also gained political clout when the Court ruled in Citizens United that “money is speech” thus giving those with more money, more influence in choosing our leaders. They have used this power to increase the hold of the minority in America over the majority. (Make no mistake, that too reverses centuries of progress toward inclusion and fairness in American life.) The right has pushed back on the full inclusion and protection of gay and trans people in our communities. And yesterday, Justice Thomas indicated that next on the agenda should be further regression, stripping away the right granted in Obergefell for gay Americans to marry. Their gun policies are taking us back to the murderous free-for-all of the American West. Thomas even sought to revisit whether American women should have access to contraception, another way to diminish them and put them at the mercy of a patriarchy that, in several states now, says that a woman who is raped must turn over control of her body to her rapist by having to bear his child.

These are major steps backward for American society. You can no doubt think of others not cited here. But it is important for us to recognize the level of success the right, a movement dedicated to reversing social progress and stripping away people’s rights, is having.

They must be stopped. The damage they have done must be reversed. Because right now the arc of history is not, as we often assert, bending toward justice in the United States. And absent that and the momentum of progress, we will surely decline and fail as a nation. (Since I wrote this, I have thought of other areas the Great Regression has taken its toll–like on separation of church abd state (an innovation of…1789). And on some where setbacks are looming, like the likely ruling next week reducing government’s ability to fight climate change.)

For more on the issue of the end of the separation of church and state, see this piece I did two days ago for @thedailybeast.

Please consider supporting our work by becoming a member. Members receive exclusive bonus content, the DSR Daily Newsletter, Ad free listening, and more.

Support Our Work

Related Articles

Back to top button