Purveyors of such plot lines are to be excused, since utopian visions of a peaceful future are hardly the fodder for an exciting story, but it occurs to me that these two "flavors of doomsday" reflect the political fears of the left and the right allowed to metastasize into terrible visions of their respective nightmares for the future. The left fears man's greed and violence insufficiently restrained by governmental intervention will run amok into a virtual destruction of the planet, and a dissolving of societal structures into anarchy. The right dreads the ever advancing intrusion of government control infecting every aspect of life evolving into an authoritarian police state, the destruction of privacy, individual identity and self-determination.
Non-fans will please excuse one more science fiction reference to the future before we move back to the present for the rest of the blog. There is the occasional deviation from the two doomsday scenarios where the whole concept of the destruction of freedom and civilization as we know it, is eschewed in favor of a more hopeful vision of the future where society and freedom have persisted and perhaps even improved (think Star Trek). Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, stressed above all else the concept of "believability" in the development of this popular series. It is interesting to note that he for one found the idea of a hopeful future over a doomsday vision to be the more believable.
In politics, fear is sometimes easier to sell than hope. Demonizing past or future administrations is easier to do than proposing solutions to present problems. Painting pictures of a doomsday ushered in by opponents does not require a candidate to justify why he deserves our vote, only that he is the alternative to certain devastation. To some extent, President Obama's election for his first term was based on a more hopeful vision. Despite a lack of specifics, the success of the bumper sticker slogan "Hope and Change" showed that America was hungry for a more positive concept of the future. His "blank slate" approach to campaigning allowed people from various persuasions to assign their own hopes to his candidacy, seemingly without regard to actual positions or political realities. The second time around this is a tougher trick to pull off, and he seems to have joined his republican counterparts in pursuing the low road of the politics of doom. Somewhere along the line "Yes we can!" became "No, I guess we can't". Of course there are innumerable excuses as to why unemployment remains high, the economy sluggish, and gas prices have sky-rocketed. In the end, excuses can always be found, and there are several million people we could elect to that office who would be unable to fix our problems; we are looking for one person who can, despite the obstacles, despite the opposition.
Political science points less to straight line progressions of global political systems that would bring about the apocalyptic visions of the sci-fi writers, so much as a cyclical or pendulum concept whereby government tends to authoritarianism then eventually to revolt and freedom sometimes bordering on anarchy, back and forth between the two, often punctuated by bloody coups or revolutions. What America has succeeded in doing is to develop a system whereby that process can be sped up, the blood removed, and the extremes avoided. It is a great system that provides great men the path to do great things. It also recognizes that our elected officials may not always be great men, and limits the damage that they can do.
We have always been a mixture of greatness and human weakness, but the can-do American spirit has ever looked beyond the weakness to hope. We grow tired of the doom and fear painted by our enemies within and without. We know we are far from perfect, but we reject the notion that the future holds only decline and decay. We reclaim our heritage and stand with hope and confidence even against the giants that threaten our destiny and greatness. There have been more perilous times than these, but we have always found a way forward. "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."
IMHO: Doomsday politicking is the weapon of choice for candidates who have no ideas of their own. "This is the most important election of our lifetime!" Yes, we know... it always is. In reality the greatness of this nation, and our destiny is grander than what one man in four years can manage to screw up. Electing the wrong guy may set us back a bit... but it's not the end of the world!