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Ezra Klein

The Future Looks Dull From Here

The U.S. has just passed through a tumultuous era. The future looks calmer, and even less susceptible to U.S. influence.

I remember talking to a historian shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. I envy your generation, she said. The grip of history is tightening around you, even if you don't know it yet.

She was right. In short succession, the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan, then Iraq. It began to torture captives from those conflicts and stepped up surveillance of its citizens. The financial system temporarily collapsed -- and it almost took the economy with it. The nation's first black president was inaugurated. The U.S. government found itself in charge of American International Group and General Motors. Congress passed the largest stimulus bill in history followed, at long last, by health-care reform. The Tea Party rose, and what was left of the old-line Republican establishment fell. The world's most wanted terrorist was assassinated in a nighttime raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Routine items of governance -- passing budgets, raising the debt ceiling -- became battlegrounds for high-stakes partisan showdowns, with the fate of the global economy hanging by handfuls of votes.