Well, Ezra Kline looks dull from everywhere, so I guess that’s appropriate.
I remember talking to a historian shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. I envy your generation, she said. The grip of history is tightening around you, even if you don’t know it yet.
She was right. In short succession, the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan, then Iraq. It began to torture captives from those conflicts and stepped up surveillance of its citizens. The financial system temporarily collapsed — and it almost took the economy with it. The nation’s first black president was inaugurated. The U.S. government found itself in charge of American International Group and General Motors. Congress passed the largest stimulus bill in history followed, at long last, by health-care reform. The Tea Party rose, and what was left of the old-line Republican establishment fell. The world’s most wanted terrorist was assassinated in a nighttime raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Routine items of governance — passing budgets, raising the debt ceiling — became battlegrounds for high-stakes partisan showdowns, with the fate of the global economy hanging by handfuls of votes.
Note how ‘history’ begins and ends with how much America sucks. NOTHING ELSE WAS HAPPENING ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD but American screwing stuff up.
These events were all either initiated in Washington or managed there. The result was an extraordinarily consequential decade in U.S. politics. The federal government mattered more than at any time since at least the 1960s — perhaps the 1930s.
And it was run by people who, by and large, read (and agree with) Ezra Kline. A person of ordinary intelligence would start connecting some dots. Ezra, however, has better things to do.
But the grip of history is slackening, at least in the nation’s capital. The wars are ending. Some of our economic wounds are healing, and others, sadly, we’re choosing to live with. Raising the debt ceiling has become routine again. We’ve gone from Congress passing legislation that our children will read about to Congress passing almost nothing at all. For at least the next few years, governmental paralysis appears unyielding. An unusually interesting era in U.S. politics is giving way to an unusually dull one.
Which, of course, would be bad news for people like Ezra Kline, the literary vultures who make their living from hand-wringing over the various ways in which America sucks — never mind that the generality of the population would like to take a break every now and then. (I miss Calvin Coolidge, I really do.)
I don’t want to take this too far. A major foreign crisis could always erupt. Immigration reform could unexpectedly slip through the logjam into law. The 2014 election could be a shocker. Anyone in 1999 projecting then-current trends forward into the first decade of the new millennium would have gotten the landscape very, very wrong. (Just ask the Congressional Budget Office, which projected budget surpluses as far as the eye could see.)
That was before the Democrats got their hands on the purse strings again. The first thing the Obamassiah did was triple the national debt in his first term — one wonders what he has left to accomplish in the second, although he’s trying his hardest to root up some ‘major foreign crisis’, although I don’t think it’s just to make things more interesting for the likes of Ezra Kline. Again, a person of ordinary intelligence would start connecting a few dots at this point. But Ezra Kline….
But absent an event that upends the country, Washington seems likely to be a lot less important over the next few years than it was over the past few years. The capital just isn’t where the action is.
Would that that were true. But that’s like saying that the water flowing out doesn’t make as much noise as it did when the hole was put in the boat.
Remember, they pay him good money to write this.