Progressive political change in American history is rarely incremental. With important exceptions, most of the reforms that have advanced our nation’s status as a modern, liberalizing social democracy were pushed through during narrow windows of progressive opportunity — which subsequently slammed shut with the work not yet complete. The post-Civil War reconstruction of the apartheid South, the Progressive Era remaking of the institutions of democratic deliberation, the New Deal, the Great Society: They were all blunt shocks. Then, before reformers knew what had happened, the seemingly sturdy reform mandate faded and Washington returned to its habits of stasis and reaction.
From The American Prospect