With the elections in 2020 and 2022 in the USA, we see the Republicans saying if they do not win its because of fraud (though evidence is absent) and if they win it is because the people choose them. This conflicting position and the many contradictions promoted is something that people of so-called Third World countries are accustomed to. The USA’s decline began long before 2016 and Trump saying he will only accept the results if he wins. Subsequent assaults on electoral institutions have only reinforced the idea that the USA is now a failed political state. Its institutions and political governance no longer carry the authority they once did (internally and externally). Being the only country to be laughed at the UN General Assembly when Gaddafi and others had shared the same stage is a bar that few limbo dancers can achieve.
A failed state is one where the government is unable to govern its people and economy. A two-party country is a recipe for failure. Most countries that have a two-party system generally suffer from political stasis. Some may argue the USA is a fragile state. The judicial system is compromised. The institutions are weak. There is little getting done by the government. Voter turnouts need to reflect the populace. With just over 66% voter turnout split nearly evenly means that one-third of the country has a say over two-thirds.
Decorum and acceptance of the other side’s point of view is a mark of maturity and a functioning democracy. However, as seen especially since 2016 that has gone. At GHW Bush’s funeral, some semblance was shown but at many official events such as the presidential handover, civility was not shown. US politicians openly contradict themselves and seem not to mind, defending their contradictions. Principles do not matter much anymore. Accepting responsibility for one’s action by political leaders, is no longer a desired quality by American politicians.
Questioning a country’s electoral and judicial institutions is one thing but not providing evidence is another. There are cries of vote rigging, miscounting and so on with several cases put forward after the 2020 elections yet, nothing showed any evidence that the results were not fair. The institutions held but the battering that they received severely weakened their foundations. Workers are threatened for doing their jobs, being honest and carrying on. These workers have been forced to leave their roles and replaced by a concerted effort of selective placement.
Changing the rules is another. The example of Zimbabwe comes to mind looking at the USA. There is no (limited perhaps) violence and torture as such (though January 6th came close) but the systematicdisenfranchisement is there. Voting laws are being changed to make it harder for Americans to vote in the name of transparency. Contradictions again.
The Republicans have clearly stated their objectives as hampering the Democrats over the next two years thus another contradiction. If party A prevents party B from doing anything, then party A cannot say party B is ineffective. Simple as it may seem, American politicians are playing children’s games with a country and their supporters are allowing if not encouraging such behaviour. Working with others, even those we do not like, is a sign of maturity. When personality overtakes policies and even parties, then the country is heading downward. American independence was from a king, but that freedom is gladly given up for another king in the name of independence. So many contradictions.
The Democrats are an ineffective political party. Despite knowing the opposition and its tactics the Democrats have not produced convincing countermeasures. The inertia is what makes the Republicans so effective in polarization. A failed state occurs when both parties are playing by two distinct sets of rules. Trying to drag the other to the high road is not working nor has it been for the past 10 years. Concentrating their modest energy into getting things done is better than worrying about bipartisanship, despite the laudable aspirations.
It is time that Americans realize the polarization they are experiencing is what many in the developing world experienced and what America fought to prevent in other countries during the cold war. There is a need for a third or fourth political party to bring some sense to the USA and regain its standing in the world. The USA is like a prizefighter with dementia, still powerful and potentially a winner but does not know how to fight its inner demons. America politics still influences the world (Hungary, Brazil), but this influence is waning with the alternatives (China, Russia) not attractive. An authoritarianism trend is possible in the world. Not the consultative type of Oman and UAE but a selfish partisan type. American exceptionalism may have been based on some truth, but times have changed, and the world is no longer separated as before.
What can be done? World leaders need to be addressing the USA as what it has become (becoming), a fallen (falling) country that either gets up, accepts help, or causes the world to go through a new dark age. Many countries would be affected by America’s demise, but we have been through this before. The Vandals may have sacked Rome but other great empires rose afterward. Preparation for the impact and rebuilding is what other countries can do. Decoupling may be difficult but strengthening one’s safety net is doable.
The USA’s exemplary status is no more. How far has it fallen is the question.
Dr. Mariano Carrera, Business Lecturer, Dhonburi Rajabhat University, International College, Thonburi Campus, Bangkok, Thailand