Is This The End of the American Century?

This site features updates, analysis, discussion and comments related to the theme of my book published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2008 (hardbound) and 2009 (paperbound).

The Book

The End of the American Century documents the interrelated dimensions of American social, economic, political and international decline, marking the end of a period of economic affluence and world dominance that began with World War II. The war on terror and the Iraq War exacerbated American domestic weakness and malaise, and its image and stature in the world community. Dynamic economic and political powers like China and the European Union are steadily challenging and eroding US global influence. This global shift will require substantial adjustments for U.S. citizens and leaders alike.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Letter to Trump Supporters, Reconsidered. Better to mobilize the non-voters

I composed the open letter (below) a few weeks ago, and sent it to my daughters--both smart, professional mothers and admirably part of the #MeToo Movement.  Both thought it would not have much impact on actual Trump supporters, and instead suggested reaching out to the far more numerous NON-voters.  One sent me this pie-chart, which is both funny and sad:

In my state of Indiana, only 28% of the eligible population voted in the 2014 midterm elections--the lowest turnout of any of the 50 states!  So I agree:  no use trying to win over the Trump supporters, who seem unmovable.  Rather, get out the vote among non-voters, and especially young people, women, and minorities.

Below is the unsent letter.
Dear Fellow Americans, who support Donald Trump,

You and I probably have little in common, except for our love for country.  I expect you feel neglected, marginalized, fearsome.  I do not feel any of those sentiments, though I understand them.  I am a retired professor, and I am comfortable, secure, safe, and happy among my family and friends.  You probably worry about your future, your job, your retirement, your kid’s future.  I don’t worry about those things so much for my family, but I do about yours.

What we do not have in common is our support for Donald Trump.  I understand, to an extent, why you voted for him and support him still.  He railed against the political and economic elites, and you supported him in that.  I shared those sentiments too. The rich are too rich, and they have rigged the system for themselves.  Government is dominated by special interests, with unprecedented numbers of lobbies in Washington, and practically unlimited flow of funds from special interests to politicians.

But Trump is not the one to solve these problems.  Indeed, he is a manifestation of them:  a billionaire who has made his money by gaming the system, intimidating his lessers (as he sees them), and feathering his own nest.   Never in his life before the presidency did he promote the public good or support those less advantaged than he is.  His only charitable foundation was meant mostly as a tax dodge, and did almost nothing to support any deserving group or organization.

Most of our politicians and public officials have at least some measure of concern for the public good, and almost all of them exhibit some public virtues.   Trump has none.  It is hard to come up with a single human or American virtue that he exhibits.  He is vane, egocentric, rude, abusive, unfaithful.  He is a bully, an adulterer, an atheist.  He demeans women, minorities, the poor and the weak. He insults our friends and allies, and praises dictators and demagogues.  He belittles education, science, nature.  He even seems dismissive of democracy and the rule of law.

We need someone who will transform the system, both domestic and international, and make it more responsive to ordinary people.  But Trump is not the one to do this.  Indeed, he is a huge threat to the gains this country has already made on behalf of ordinary citizens, including especially working men and women.

Nothing much gets done in a society without power.  The great idea of democracy is that it vests power in the people.  But there are many competing sources of power in society.  For a long time, in human history, it was the church or monarchies that exercised such power.  Since the 18th century, the major sources of power have been governments and corporations.  Governments controlled by the people—democracies—are meant to be the main repository of power and the main counterbalance to corporate power.  If democratic governments are weakened, corporations become more powerful.  And corporations are subject to no democratic control apart from government.

So, when Donald Trump aims to eviscerate government, he is weakening democracy—the power of the people.  Weakening democratic government strengthens corporate power.  This is a tremendous advantage to people like Donald Trump.  It doesn’t much help people like you and me.

The answer is not to weaken government, but to make it more democratic, and more responsive.   It is true, and eminently demonstrable, that American society has recently become more unequal and less democratic.  The answer is not Donald Trump, but a reinvigoration of true American values—of freedom, equality, fairness, community, respect and genuine representative government.

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