US Has Been Falling Apart for Decades, Analyst Says

US Has Been Falling Apart for Decades, Analyst Says

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – An American political commentator slammed the US’ vaunted democracy as a facade, saying the United States has been falling apart for decades.

In an interview with the Tasnim News Agency, Rick Staggenborg, a political analyst and peace activist from Oregon, said previous US president Donald Trump was a symptom of the underlying rot in the system, not the root of problems with American democracy.

What follows are his responses to Tasnim:

Tasnim: Approximately 4 in 5 Americans said they believe the United States is falling apart, according to a new Axios-Ipsos poll released one week after the deadly pro-Trump riot at the US Capitol. The poll, which included interviews with more than 1,000 adults, found that most respondents either strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement “America is falling apart.” What do you think?

Staggenborg: The United States has been falling apart for decades. We can only hope that the overdue recognition of America's deterioration will lead more Americans to ask what went wrong. If they looked carefully, they would realize that America's vaunted democracy is a facade. Unfortunately, most who do ask will continue to accept simple answers. Now that "democracy has been saved" by the election of a more reliable tool of the imperialists, they will look away without questioning the underlying contradiction of the idea that Americans can exert control over their government by choosing from among candidates selected by a tiny elite whose interests are opposed to those of the rest of them.

The US has been growing steadily less democratic at least since the end of the Civil War, when corporations assumed tremendous power over the government. While there was some progress in balancing human interests with those of the economic elite during the Great Depression, right wing forces have been working ever since to undo the gains achieved under Roosevelt. They have now succeeded. Today, Roosevelt would be regarded as a radical, much as Democratic leadership characterize Bernie Sanders. This explains today's unprecedented wealth inequality in America.  

The vast majority of Americans, whose standard of living is declining, are angry and looking for someone to blame. Typically, their rage is directed at whoever the media tell them to be angry at. The wealthiest and most influential Americans use their control of the media to keep Americans angry at each other instead of fighting the real enemy, those with the wealth and power to buy our politicians in our system of wildly expensive, privately funded elections. Americans pick their media by how it aligns with their beliefs, and both "conservative" and "liberal" media point fingers at the "other side" when in reality, both sides are being manipulated by these powerful individuals.

Tasnim: Americans’ confidence in their democracy has been eroded for years by a system that has, at various junctures, delivered victory to Republican presidents who lost the popular vote, permitted industrial-scale gerrymandering of electoral maps, and is built around a Congress rigged in favor of conservative states. But faith in the conduct of the presidential election itself has collapsed among large numbers of voters amid Donald Trump’s onslaught after he lost November’s presidential election to his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, by a record 7 million ballots. Inequality, racism, and polarization ravaged US democracy. Then came Trump. What are your thoughts on this? What do you think about the fragility and vulnerability of western democracy?

Staggenborg: Despite the rhetoric in the Declaration of Independence, the American system was never designed to be a democracy. How could it have been when slavery existed, women were treated as possessions and only landowning white males could vote? Republicans are quick to point out that it is in fact a Republic, as if that means that it is better than a democracy. They argue that if the People were to govern themselves, the majority would vote for their own interests rather than the interests of Americans as a whole.  They compare democracy to the rule of the mob. What they never consider is that in a system where corporations and the wealthy can and do pay for the campaigns of candidates for national office, the only interests served in our system of "representative democracy" are those of the few Americans who can afford to buy their own members of Congress or purchase undue influence over Presidents.

While there are important differences between the two major parties in the US, they both serve these same interests. Aside from social issues such as abortion and gay rights, most of their differences are simply rhetorical or at most, a matter of degree. As Republicans have transferred wealth and power increasingly to the rich, Democrats have moved steadily in the same direction while posturing as the Party of the People at every step along the way. This has resulted in the situation where a study in 2014 found that there was no correlation between the will of the People as expressed in polls and how Congress voted. It also concluded that there was a very high correlation with the desires of the wealthiest Americans and what they received.

When it comes to the interests of those who put our elected officials in office, there is no debate except on tactics and at times, degree. Republicans have no fear that their supporters will rebel when they grant enormous tax breaks to the rich, while Democrats angrily denounce them for it. However, the tax breaks remain and dwarf any investments in improving the lives of ordinary Americans. It's a very convenient arrangement. While the Republicans are in office, they move the country as far to the right as they can get away with, and the Democrats say there is nothing they can do. Usually, they don't even bother to seriously try. However, when Democrats are in office their promises are often forgotten. For example, Biden promised that as soon as he was elected, Americans would get $2000 checks to help with economic losses from COVID, which is a pittance compared to the relief offered citizens of European countries. When Democrats won the Senate last week, they immediately clarified that the checks would be only $1400 because the Republican Congress had already authorized $600.

Trump was not the root of the problems with American "democracy." He was a symptom of the underlying rot in the system. When a substantial minority of Americans elected a narcissistic psychopath to the most powerful office in the world, liberal Americans finally become as alarmed as they should have been all along about how far our nation has fallen into a pit of ignorance. Unfortunately, Democratic leaders convinced most of them that Russia was responsible for Trump's election. Instead of looking honestly at their party's role in the decline of the middle class and rising poverty, they assumed that the problem was the ignorance of their opponents. Of course, conservatives thought the same of them.

In addition to deepening the ideological divisions among Americans, this cynical ploy sabotaged any efforts that Trump might have made toward improving relations with the only other nation capable of destroying the planet in a nuclear war.  That was one of the goals of this latest effort to demonize Russia in the eyes of Americans. It made it easier to take "retaliatory" actions against Russia that were actually part of the quest for global US dominance, while diverting attention from the fact that they had fielded a candidate so despised that she could not even defeat the most unqualified presidential candidate in US history. It was a win-win for the Democratic establishment and a lose-lose for average Americans and the rest of the world.

Seeing the systematic repetition of lies, unproven allegations and wild exaggerations of Russiagate presented as facts in the "liberal" media throughout Trump's term, Republican voters became ever more resistant to looking at the reality of Trump's madness. Republican politicians, fearful of losing office to more fanatical challengers, meekly allowed him to rampage or actively supported him as he whipped his supporters into a froth. The form that the resulting violence took may have been shocking, but the fact that it occurred should have surprised no one.

If the illusion of democracy is the opiate of the masses throughout the West, America is full of addicts befuddled by the drug of American Exceptionalism. That is the delusion that America is the greatest nation in history, favored by God and the natural and rightful leader of the world. These beliefs are based on the myth that the US is a model of democracy. The intoxicating effect of this belief has dulled their senses, easing the pain of their falling standard of living, and blinding them to the great evil done in their name to other nations in the name of promoting a democracy which has never truly existed and that is approaching impossibility.

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