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Our bender of political instability shows no signs of stopping

Salena Zito on

Elections are often a study of something in between getting the election results we deserve and politicians misreading why their side won a big race, especially if it is a narrow win.

In times of turmoil, voters often choose with their hearts and not their heads. And in case you haven't noticed, for the past two decades, we have been in a constant state of turmoil, with our election results reflecting that instability.

One could argue that the beginning of the technology revolution 20 years ago began the modern swings in our electoral politics. The impact has become very similar to the economic, cultural, geographic and political upheaval of the Industrial Revolution in the 1880s.

Between 1880 and 1900, the country went through a cultural shock when we went from living and working around the rising and setting of the sun to a schedule set by the ticking of a clock. The transformation meant longer working hours and more people moving into cities and away from small towns and farms. The expansion of electricity led to advances in the mass production of steel, dry goods and chemicals.

People became more mobile as train travel and automobiles freed them from their reliance on animals for transportation. As people, inventions and news traveled faster, great wealth was amassed (and lost) at a rapid pace. Recessions became commonplace in reaction to bank runs and rail strikes, and people moved back and forth between poverty and the middle class with unsettling frequency.

Our politics reflected that cultural upheaval. In those 20 years, the presidency and the majorities in Congress swung back and forth like pendulums on a sugar high. The panic of 1893 led to the Democrats losing more than 100 seats in Congress, the largest single turnover of power in history. The only president to lose his first try at a bid for a second term, Grover Cleveland, came back to win it four years later.

 

We have faced a similar upheaval over the last two decades as technology has both created great wealth and increased economic disparity; fueled partisan elections; and shaped a cultural and economic dislocation between the powerful and the rest of us.

Along the way, we have faced a devastating terrorist attack, seemingly endless wars in faraway places, an economic collapse and a robust economic rebound that was shattered by a pandemic.

We get around faster now but with the internet as our vehicle: a mechanism that many believed in its infancy would draw us together but has instead become a Big Brother, using us for profit. We are not the customer. We're the product. We have given up our privacy and information to corporate America for its profit.

All of this is happening as Big Tech censors ideas, divides us politically and drives news coverage.

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