It’s hard to see history through the lens of the present. So it’s easy to see last week’s election results and the preceding years of national political bickering as a continuation of more of the same-old, same-old. Washington Post writer and blogger Ezra Klein, however, sees it differently, and his observations are eye-opening.
In the last few years we’ve elected and re-elected the nation’s first black president, elected gay Americans at increasing levels and have begun extending civil rights to gay Americans. Two epic, unprecedented wars have been waged and ended. We’ve passed a form of universal health care that will now certainly take effect in 2014. We’ve faced down the biggest economic crisis since the Depression and now face the biggest debt in the nation’s history, a crisis likely to be addressed in the next two years with a large bargain between Republicans and Democrats. And more. Much more. Really, Klein makes some amazing observations here.
Whether we intended to or not, whether it was sufficient or not, whether we liked it or not, we have been living through a remarkable period of political change in these last few years. We have bored through so many hard boards that we’re no longer surprised when we reach the other side, and we mainly wonder why we haven’t gotten through more of them, or why we didn’t choose different ones. But viewed against most other eras in American life, the pace of policy change in these last few years has been incredibly fast. Historians, looking back from more quiescent periods, will marvel at all that we have lived through. Activists, frustrated at their inability to shake their countrymen out of their tranquility, will wish they’d been born in a moment when things were actually getting done, a moment like this one. ~Ezra Klein, Nov. 11, 2012
So, too, can we see the change in northern Minnesota, where demographic shifts have left a new political landscape, where the mining industry has shrunk but stabilized, where Duluth has become something more than a blue-collar industrial town. I bet every region in the country can point to remarkable change in this last decade — good and bad. Our response to this change is how our places and people will judge our generation for the foreseeable future.