The seeming chaos that characterized this election is the predictable consequence of massive wealth inequity, a deadlocked and corrupt political system, fifteen years of hyping the terrorism threat, twenty years of the most recent decline narrative, and twenty-five years of not knowing what to do next after winning the Cold War. Despite their unchallenged superiority on the world stage, the American people have become confused and scared. Their long-sought status and power have not brought a society-wide sense of security. Yet, like all who have power, we are afraid to lose it, and our resultant choices are unfathomable to those who do not understand this dynamic.
When at least a significant part of a population
shares these feelings, the stress reduces their cognitive functioning
and makes them susceptible to simplistic explanations (such as
xenophobia and class warfare). They look for the reassurance of a
strongman figure who places blame in convenient places and promises
simple, sweeping solutions that restore the old, preferred status quo,
even if that status quo didn't really exist and it's clear the policies
can't either be implemented or, if somehow implemented, successful.
(This explains why Russians like Putin so much.)
States is throwing everything it has (and borrowing heavily) to try to
uphold an international system that daily grows more divorced from
modern reality and an increasing percentage of the world views as
unfairly benefiting a heavily American global elite. External adversaries try to
undermine us (justly, in their view) and our country becomes
increasingly divided as these efforts predictably fail to produce
Exacerbating matters, a subdivided media now owned by corporate
interests (and corporations themselves) gradually abandoned objective journalism to pursue its owners'
political interests and follow titillating but inconsequential stories that serve as profit sources, but hardly pass muster as true news items. As a result, the population is unprepared to apply meaningful perspective to life's harsher, come complicated realities. By 2016, we had a perfect
opportunity for the ignorant bully, the corrupt palace courtier, and a
few well-meaning but unqualified others to make a play for power. No
matter who wins that kind of contest, we lose.
This is not to say all is lost. Wielding
real power within our entrenched and antagonistic bureaucratic system is expensive and frustrating for a reason. Like all things, this ill-favored episode in our history
will pass. With luck, foresight, and perseverance, it will happen sooner rather than later, shortening the dark age between stable, generally beneficial international systems in which we find ourselves so ineffectively floundering at present.