American ‘declinism’ is a favourite topic – in the US and everywhere else. So it has been for 80 years, even at the height of American power and the self-belief that comes from bestriding the world with economic and military might and a soft power that sang to everyone and seduced everyone else. A long piece I’ve written on the subject – complete with examples –will soon be published in one of my favourite outlets.
Until then, let me note, with some relief, the dose of common sense that Ed Luce has injected into the doomsday predictions.
The Financial Times’ US editor has written a pithy and insightful column on how “America is overdosing on the apocalypse” (paywall).
He lays out the facts in his trademark fashion – low on hyperbole; high on common sense.
He correctly diagnoses the increasingly despairing tone about Joe Biden, one year into his presidency. He may look embattled, Mr Luce writes, but only because “wildly unrealistic expectations” were set for him and for the Democrats’ surprise catapult into a position they could not have imagined in November 2020 – unified government, with control of the White House, the House and the Senate.
True too, that the US has done remarkably well in the past year – creating more jobs than at any time in its history, vaccinating nearly two-thirds of the population and, surprise, surprise, passing a bipartisan bill to upgrade US infrastructure.
The future of democracy in America is a subject of much caterwauling and justifiable concern. But as Mr Luce points out, the chief problem Democrats may have in 2024 is failing to persuade voters to back them. Redistricting and Republican states passing laws that make it more troublesome to vote is not particularly conducive to feeling hopeful. But it is a patchy picture and lots may yet happen in the three years to the presidential election.
Finally, Mr Luce makes a point that all too few consider when dolefully anticipating fascism in America: The “apathetic majority” greatly outnumbers “the fanatics”.
There is a reason, however strange it may sound, to keep the faith with America.