Goodbye to All That

A decade is an arbitrary unit of time, but there’s usually a story you can tell about it, at least through the 20th century and into the 21st. And had Hillary Clinton won the Electoral College, perhaps we could have coherent thoughts about the 2010s as well.

Instead, Donald Trump descended the Escalator to Hell on June 16, 2015, pretty neatly cleaving the story in half.

If you ignore Death Panels, anyway.

That was 2009, to be fair, as was the Tea Party that birthed them. And Sarah Palin, whose confident stupidity was a sign of things to come, was 2008. So was birtherism, originally, years before Trump merged with it.

Oh, that was 2011. How tidy! So was that White House Correspondents Dinner when Obama took Trump down a peg!

Narrative engaged!

What else happened in those first five years? Democrats were “shellacked” in the 2010 midterms — see Tea Party, above — setting the stage for the gerrymandering and voter suppression to come. Citizens United? January 21, 2010 — it doesn’t get tidier than that.

Newtown? 2012. That’s when we learned the value of life in the United States is basically nothing.

Because Barack Obama was president for seven years of the decade, we want to make the narrative about him, or at least inspired by him, a steady hand navigating us through the chaos until we ran aground without him. We want to make the decade like all other decades, a story of progress, or at least hope, or — if you were around for the 80s — fun distractions from dismal politics in popular culture. But the Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t up to that task. Pokemon Go seems forever ago.

The narrative, alas, is this: The 2010s started bad and got worse. Much, much worse. There was a moment it looked like we might not even make it to 2020, at least in any recognizable form. The 2018 midterms put a brake on that — we’re still barreling toward that cliff, but not quite as fast.

Speaking of cliffs: atmospheric carbon dioxide was measured beyond 410 parts per million this week. Until the 1950s, it had held below 300 ppm — for 800,000 years.

What’s the magic number? Well, uh, 400 — which we passed in 2016. The seven hottest years on record are from the 2010s. 2019 will make it eight.

In the last week of 2009, as that horrid decade was coming to a close, the Zombie Survival Guide broke into the Amazon Top 100, a fitting commentary on the times, we observed. We can’t find anything quite as apt ten years on, but considering the mood this decade leaves us in and begins the next, we need look no further than Grumpy Monkey, “The hilarious New York Times bestselling picture book about dealing with unexplained feelings… and the danger in suppressing them.”

Yeah, we’re gonna have a lot of those in the years ahead.


I don’t think it truly dawned on a lot of people that a decade was ending until we reached maybe 2 weeks ago. Every day since the inauguration of Mango Mussolini has felt like a century.

Their goal is to wear everyone out until we submit and they’re coming closer and closer to that objective.

@rptrcub: I noticed it early December, and it felt weird treating this decade like any other, as if anything mattered besides the determined destruction of our democracy and environment.

Bullshitico recently asked two dozen historians to sum up the Teens, and while most of them are quite grim, I prefer the more positive entries. It’s critical to remember that Americans that lived through every other ordeal in our nation’s history had no idea how things would turn out either, and that there’s still hope.

A pathway to a new beginning
Jeremi Suri is a professor of public affairs and history at the LBJ School at the University of Texas Austin.

The decade began with the nation’s worst recession since the Great Depression and it ended with the worst political divisions since the close of the 19th century. The inherited institutions and practices of democracy in the United States took a repeated beating. In the last weeks of the decade, the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump while his supporters defended near-monarchical powers for the commander-in-chief. Nonetheless, the crises that dominated the decade were transitional. They marked the demise of a still white, post-industrial, baby-boomer society filled with men and women resisting their decline. The decade opened a new America that was more racially and ethnically diverse, more feminine, led by millennials, and organized around artificial intelligence technologies. 2020 was a powerful new beginning built on the destruction of the previous years. The United States renewed its democracy through a messy, prolonged and ultimately productive generational change in leadership at all levels— from local businesses and schools to the White House. It was an ugly time that generated bright reforms thereafter.

This one is downright ridiculous, but sometimes even false hope can give us the courage to go on:

Groundwork for a Constitutional revision
Jack Rakove is a professor of history and political science, emeritus, at Stanford University.

The decade of the 2010s placed the American constitutional system under the greatest stress it had known since the New Deal crisis of the 1930s. President Donald Trump demonstrated that he felt none of the “veneration” (to quote James Madison’s 49th Federalist paper) required to sustain the norms of constitutional governance. Worse still, however, was the behavior of the Senate and the Supreme Court. Under Republican control, the Senate blithely ignored the well-documented charges under which the House of Representatives had impeached Trump. For its part, the conservative-dominated Supreme Court fulfilled its long-frustrated agenda: In two leading decisions in June 2020, it gutted the Affordable Care Act and authorized individual states to impose severe limits on the right to choice secured in the 1974 decision in Roe v. Wade.

The events of the 2010s thus set the stage for the Great Constitutional Revision of 2024. Although Joe Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 election, Republicans held on to the Senate and the Supreme Court retained its conservative majority. With the national government in a state of near paralysis, a coalition of blue states coalesced to demand a constitutional convention. A phalanx of 18 solidly red states, representing less than a fifth of the nation’s population, quickly rejected this proposal, keeping it two states shy of the two-thirds margin that Article V of the Constitution required. Invoking the precedent set in 1787, when the first Constitutional Convention threw out the amendment rules laid down in the Articles of Confederation, the blue states insisted that the meeting must be held. Rather than side with the smaller bloc of solidly red states, the now hotly contested states of Texas and Florida sent delegations to the Chicago convention. The dominant theme of the Convention was to make constitutional decision-making directly responsive to the one person, one vote standard. That was also how votes were allocated in the Convention itself. The resulting deliberations led to a radically revised Constitution. Among other changes, the president would now be elected by a single nation-wide popular vote. The House of Representatives was enlarged to 600 members, with all its districts designed by an AI process to be as competitive as possible. The Senate became an advisory body that could no longer vote down legislation enacted by the House, and senators were now elected on a regional basis, rather than by individual states. The Supreme Court was enlarged to 15 justices, who would serve 18-year terms on a staggered basis. When the bloc of small red states balked at ratifying the results, they were told they could form their own separate confederacy. A few months of considering how costly it would be to sustain their states government without the financial support of the far more economically productive blue states quickly led them to abandon their position. [Andrew: Ha ha ha, yeah, sure. They’d go full suicide bomber.]

Trump’s one inadvertent contribution to American history was to make these changes possible.

A democracy grapples with its success
Tom Nichols is a professor at the U.S. Naval War College.

Historians have struggled to explain the paradox of the 2010s. On the one hand, it was a decade of economic and military recovery that was by any standard peaceful and prosperous, even under two very different American presidents. And yet, it was characterized by a poisonous anger and extreme polarization that is normally the hallmark of defeated and bankrupted states on the verge of collapse. In retrospect, the 2010s represented an unexpected and politically destructive synergy between peace, affluence and technology.


@Ed: Not watching a 58-minute video, not without a better pitch why I should bother.

@nojo: I clicked. It’s Molyneux. Govern yourself accordingly.

@bob: Who?

“Stefan Basil Molyneux is a far-right, white nationalist Canadian podcaster and YouTuber who is known for his promotion of scientific racism and white supremacist views.”

Ah. My head only has room for one Bad Canuck at a time, and right now it’s the Incel dude.

I wish everyone a Happy New Years even if we don’t feel it right now.

@rptrcub: I’m so exhausted. Happy New Years, stinquers.

2020 is gonna be the year that we turn this living nightmare around.*

Happy new year!!!

*Yes, I’m telling myself this because I have to believe it.

I find myself hoping for an epidemic that wipes out humanity before we can do any more damage. Give the dolphins a chance to run things.

I sent my 2019 calendar through the shredder–that was quite cathartic for such a small act.

Aaaaaaannnnd we’re off to war against Iran!

Wag the Dog – I saw that in 1997! Impeachment? What impeachment?

Also – did Eric Doofus Son & Daddy Vlav know about the hit beforehand? Because Congress sure as fuck wasn’t consulted:

@Mistress Cynica: I look forward to my dolphin and feline overlords. Can’t happen soon enough.

@SanFranLefty: So much for my New Year’s resolution to cut hard alcohol out of my diet & stick to wine.

Sure, watch a couple eps of I, Claudius and all hell breaks loose.

Dear Iran,

Please, please, please, whatever you do, don’t blow up America’s Worst Family: Mar-a-Lardass; Melanoma; Dumbfuck, Jr.; Fembot; and The Ugly One.

Also, puhleeeeez don’t blast the US Senate, the Supreme KKKourt, our cruel, sadistic Evilungelical ChrISIStian fascists, the corporate media, and the governments Israel, Russia, and Saudi Arabia back to the hellfire inferno that they came from.

Actually, I’ll email a list of who definitely NOT to put out of our misery. Kthnxbi.

@¡Andrew!: Covert ops. Cyberwarfare. Chaos. We’re a big, powerful country, and you can’t come at us directly. But as Russia has shown the world, plenty of other options available.

@nojo: Also, I suspect the Iranian leaders have patience and will wait.

But given the idiocy from the top here, I suspect it’s a matter of weeks before Homeland Security is rounding up the stars of “Shahs of Sunset” plus every other member of the Iranian diaspora in L.A. (nevermind the vast majority of them are Jewish or secular Muslims who abhor the revolutionary guard in Iran).

@SanFranLefty: I’m praying to the FSM that my liver makes it to 2021.

Welp. Beat Citizens United as earliest significant event of the decade.

@nojo: After my first three dates with 2020, I’m ready to kick it to the curb & change my cell number & email so it doesn’t get all Stalky McStalky on me. Next new year, it’s a burner phone.

@SanFranLefty: It’s gonna take forever to get to November. Usually presidents visibly age in office; this time it’s the rest of us.

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