Decline. It’s a word that hasn’t been much in the American vocabulary, though, as retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, historian, and TomDispatch regular William Astore suggests today, it certainly should have been. In fact, you could argue that we’re talking about 30-plus years of all-American decline, during much of which, after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, American politicians continued to hail this country as the planet’s “last” or “sole superpower.” That it, like the Soviet Union, was headed for the imperial exit ramp, even if ever so slowly, seemed inconceivable.
That pace, of course, would only speed up with the launching of the war on terror and the disastrous conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. And yet, even then, triumphalism remained the note of the day in Washington, as this country poured ever more tax dollars into the Pentagon budget (a phenomenon that even the debt-ceiling dispute has hardly affected).
But don’t think that nobody noticed. To my mind, the most striking thing about Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign was the slogan that’s become such an acronym (MAGA) that no one even thinks about what it stands for anymore. Trump, I suspect, won that year in large part because of that slogan, Make America Great Again! (yes, with that very exclamation point attached!), which caught the mood of all too many Americans, even if no other politician would then admit that America was no longer “great.”
As I wrote in April 2016 in a piece I headlined “Has the American Age of Decline Begun?”:
“With that ‘again,’ Donald Trump crossed a line in American politics that… represented a kind of psychological taboo for politicians of any stripe, of either party, including presidents and potential candidates for that position. He is the first American leader or potential leader of recent times not to feel the need or obligation to insist that the United States, the ‘sole’ superpower of Planet Earth, is an ‘exceptional’ nation, an ‘indispensable’ country… Donald Trump, in other words, is the first person to run openly and without apology on a platform of American decline.”
Now, after his own decline, he’s once again running for president, this time under the unspoken slogan MTGA! (Make Trump Great Again!). With that in mind, let Astore bring us up to date on just where on the downhill slope this increasingly chaotic country now finds itself. Tom
Clinging Bitterly to Guns and Religion
The End Stage of American Empire
All around us things are falling apart. Collectively, Americans are experiencing national and imperial decline. Can America save itself? Is this country, as presently constituted, even worth saving?
For me, that last question is radical indeed. From my early years, I believed deeply in the idea of America. I knew this country wasn't perfect, of course, not even close. Long before the 1619 Project, I was aware of the “original sin” of slavery and how central it was to our history. I also knew about the genocide of Native Americans. (As a teenager, my favorite movie -- and so it remains -- was Little Big Man, which pulled no punches when it came to the white man and his insatiably murderous greed.)Read More