America – A Very Young Country

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a foreigner about American history. He asked how long America had been independent.

That’s a complicated question. There are a lot of years that could be used to answer the question. 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed? Perhaps 1783, when Great Britain admitted defeat? 1787, when the Constitution was written? Or perhaps 1789, when George Washington was inaugurated as president?

In any case, I said, America is a very young country. It’s only been independent for around three hundred years.

I decided to actually double-check that figure. 2012 minus 1776, which seems to be the year most people use for American independence.

It turns out that America has been an independent nation for only 236 years! That is not a lot of time. Think about it this way: one really really old person theoretically could have lived for more than half of the history of this nation. That’s pretty amazing.

There’s an interesting bit of historical context that goes along with this. Most great powers throughout history tend to last for a remarkably uniform amount of time: around 200 years. There are empires, of course, which fall apart the moment their founder dies. Other powers last for milllenia. But even with these powers one can see the two-century cycle: two centuries of dominance and hegemony, followed by a time of decay and chaos, followed by another two centuries of strength, followed by another time of decline, and so on.

The United States has been a great power roughly since 1898, when it won the Spanish-American War. That’s 114 years. Following the simple logic above, America has roughly 86 years of greatness left before it falls into chaos. (Of course, good leadership and strong institutions can shorten or lengthen that period of time.)

 

What Democrats Have Done Past Two Years: Make History

If you want to know what President Obama and the Democratic Party has done in the past two years — while making history — these two videos are a MUST watch:  Rachel Maddow

Analyzing Polish Elections

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The country Poland is comprised of two main political parties; the first is Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS) – “Law and Justice” in English. This party is a populist group which runs upon anti-corruption and anti-Communist credentials. The second party is the Platforma Obywatelska (PO) – in English the “Civic Platform” – a group espousing support for free market capitalism.

On October 2007, Poland held parliamentary elections between the two parties. Most of the Western media backed the Civic Platform (PO), disliking the unpredictability of the Kaczyński twins (leaders of Law and Justice). Here is a map of the results:

Link to Map of 2007 Polish Parliamentary Elections

As it turns out, the Civic Platform (PO) won the election, taking 41.5% of the vote. Law and Justice polled 32.1%, with the rest of the vote going to third parties.

A clear regional split is apparent in these results. Poland’s southeast – with the exception of Warsaw – generally voted for Law and Justice (PiS). On the other hand, support for the Civic Platform (PO) took a sickle-like shape along Poland’s northern and western borders.

These patterns are not random. Take a look at pre-WWI Imperial Germany superimposed upon this map:

Link to Map of 2007 Polish Parliamentary Election Vs. Imperial Germany

As the map above indicates, there is a powerful correlation between the borders of Imperial Germany and support for the free-market, pro-Western Civic Platform (PO) Party. In contrast, areas that voted strongest for Law and Justice (PiS) used to belong to the Austrian-Hungarian and Russian empires.

An exact map of Poland’s pre-WWI boundaries looks as so:

Link to Map of Pre-WWI Poland

These voting patterns have very little to do with any actual German presence in pro-Civic Platform regions. Few Germans live in the regions that used to belong to Imperial Germany; after WWII the process of ethnic cleansing effectively expelled them all from modern-day Poland.

The reason, rather, involves economics. The German Empire was far more economically developed than the Russian and Austria-Hungarian empires. This legacy is still present today, as Poland’s 2007 parliamentary elections showed quite starkly.

An interesting instance of Poland’s “German” divide occurred during the 1989 parliamentary elections. One may recognize this date: it was the year that communism fell in Poland. In these elections the Polish communists actually competed directly with the anti-communist Solidarity movement.

Here are the results:

Link to Map of 1989 Polish Legislative Elections

Solidarity, of course, won in a landslide victory – which is why communism fell in Poland. Yet even in these elections one can make out the regional, east-west divide in Poland. Surprisingly, the more “Western” and economically developed regions actually gave stronger support to the Communists.

All in all, Poland’s electoral divide provides a powerful example of how long-past history can influence even the most modern events. Whatever the political parties of Poland’s future, and whatever their political positions, one can be fairly sure that Polish elections will continue to replicate the boundaries of pre-WWI Germany for a long, long time.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Independence Day Open Thread

In spite of our historical cruelties, imperial tendencies, and wealth gap, I do believe that this is the greatest country in the history of the world. It's not because of any sort of manifest destiny, Providence, or exceptionalism. It's because natural resources and ocean borders gave us a unique history, because we are young and thus in a better position to learn from history's mistakes; and because oppressed people tend to do amazing things. It is those oppressed people we remember today, on the Fourth of July.

When King George went a bit too far, a group of impressive men rebelled with one of the greatest visions the world has ever known. "All men are created equal" may be a cliche today, but it was radical at the time. Yes, they were all men, but while the history of America may well be one of sexism and militance, it is also one of righting wrongs and of spreading freedom. We ended slavery before Britain ended its colonialism. We forgave our enemies after WWII and rebuilt Europe out of our own pockets. We elected a minority individual as President only forty years after Jim Crow, and at a time when most other places could certainly not do so. We've got a long, long way to go, but we've already come farther than any other country, and that gives me hope.

We can say anything we want in print and at public meetings, legally worship however we choose, and visit millions of acres of public land. We are the freest people on earth. Happy Fourth.

Presidential Legacies

Saturday night I watched HBO’s new film about Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, “The Special Relationship.” It was for the most part a good film, focusing on the relationships between the two men and the countries, using the Irish peace process, Yugoslavia, and Clinton’s sex scandals as the focal points. Michael Sheen did a great job playing Blair, adding a little more depth than he did in The Queen. It was weirder seeing Dennis Quaid as Clinton, though, given that I’d already seen him play George W. Bush in “American Dreamz.” His mannerisms were pretty good, but his voice work was horrendous, worse than John Travolta’s. I also thought the writers were a bit tough on Clinton – I don’t know the full details of the Clinton-Blair relationship, but I doubt Clinton was that petty towards the end.

But I’m not making this post as a movie review. I’m making it to play a little game. In the film, Clinton tells Blair that, even though he’s only been in office for a month, he needs to start thinking about his legacy. Blair scoffs, but Hillary backs Bill up and says you will only be remembered for one thing, so you have to pay close attention to what that one thing is. I think there’s some truth to that, so I’m wondering, what do you think our recent presidents’ legacies will be?

George W. Bush
A) Iraq
B) General incompetence
C) 9/11 and terrorism
D) Other

Bill Clinton
A) Health care failures
B) Economic prosperity
C) Sex and impeachment
D) Other

George H.W. Bush
A) Desert Storm
B) “Read My Lips”/new taxes
C) Latin American politics
D) Other

Ronald Reagan
A) “Ending” the Cold War
B) Tax cuts and/or deficits
C) Iran-Contra
D) Other

Diaries

Advertise Blogads