The divisions within the ruling circles of the US are sharper than they have been since, I would suggest, the early 1930s. The singular event then that precipitated the split was the onset of the Great Depression and the contending and contentious views within elite circles as to how to surmount the implosion of the economy.
Today, the divisions are traceable, not to one event, but, in my mind, to four, occurring more or less coterminously. One was the near total meltdown of the global economy followed by a slow, uneven recovery; another was the historic, and to many unexpected, election of the first African American, Barack Obama, to the presidency. A third was the surge of struggles possessing a progressive, radical, and anti-racist nature and on a scale not seen for some time, in ever. And, finally, the reality and consequences of climate change.
Broadly speaking, two different approaches within ruling circles to this confluence of events (or social processes) have taken shape. One section of the ruling class supports an approach to this tangle of events (or social processes) along white nationalist, plutocratic authoritarian lines. The other favors – and not without contradictions – its antipode, that is, a renovated capitalism, that is more egalitarian, democratic, ecologically sustainable, and responsive to popular democratic pressures. It embraces reforms that only a year or two ago it would consider anathema.
This split is (or should be) of more than academic interest to any individual, movement, coalition, and parties that have an interest in a more just, egalitarian, and ecologically sustainable world. Ignoring it would be folly and self destructive. The movements in the 1930s didn’t make such a mistake. They rightly adjusted their strategy and tactics to take into account these differences that are fundamental. Class against class was replaced by coalition politics that stretched from FDR to the Communist Party. And it made all the difference in the world. Let’s hope that today’s movement has such wisdom!