It reflects how far we have traveled down the GOP elephant hole that an evocation of “normal” is even a political argument at all. But it’s so late now that even when delivered by a former president of the United States, it no longer does any good.
None of us remember what normal is anymore, and to the extent we do, we can’t agree on what it was. The hole President Trump has been digging has been as enlightening as a coal mine in terms of what he apparently thinks of as normal. Dirty energy, compromised business practices and dirty politics. No worker safety and black lung disease with inadequate health insurance. Normal I guess, if you like that sort of thing and desire more of it.
But that normal, regardless of what Trump says, won’t be coming back. Virtually no one wants it. And truth be told, no version of old normal will be coming back. None of us really want any of those either. And even if we did, technology is relentlessly eradicating the preconditions of all the old normals.
But nobody truly wants the new normal either. The rich getting ever richer and essentially seceding and living on a planet of their own isn’t what this country was created to produce. The Founding Fathers did not “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” in order to foster a new aristocracy of wealth acting to enrich itself while leaving a broken climate for the rest of us. No, these new economic and environmental realities cannot be described as normal either. And when you start thinking about the future, you realize that what’s coming next won’t be even a little bit normal. The galloping artificial intelligence revolution is going to redefine normal all over again, right down to the fundamentals of what it means to be human.
But at the end of the day, Americans don’t want to hate each other. Or argue all the time. Our neglect of healthy politics has got us at each other’s throats and fighting when we need to be working together. And yes, that includes you, rich people and insulated elites. Americans want a shared project that delivers for everyone without rigging: some material stability, some environmental stability and, above all, a sense of personal dignity and purpose. These things don’t need to be rationed. Politicians opposed to the Trump dyspeptic dystopia need to start talking about these goals in a way that sounds as though they mean to deliver on their promise.
We need to start building a new, far better normal.