Consult any long-term American statistical compilation (say, on the economy or on the crime rate) and one might be forgiven for concluding that the trend lines look quite positive for Americans’ sense of security and prosperity. Yet aggregate numbers mask much deeper worries — among both business and political elites as well the mass of average citizens — about the future of the United States. A palpable sense of insecurity has cast a shadow over American politics, and helps to explain the unprecedented twists and turns of the 2016 U.S. election cycle. Moreover, this sentiment is not easily localized around one or two core issues, such as in the 1980 campaign, when fear that the Soviet Union was gaining ascendancy and concerns about a stagnating economy at home were the two principal concerns. (Moreover, in that election, voters had two very clear policy approaches between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.) Today, the anxiety is much more general — that familiar landmarks denoting American power and prestige are being washed away and the institutions which in previous years safeguarded American strength at home and abroad have been hollowed out or corrupted from within.
Sixteen years ago, the 2000 elections took place in a world where the United States had triumphed in the Cold War and appeared to be the indispensable hub holding the global order together. The U.S. economy was capable of regenerating itself to create a new wave of prosperity that could sustain the middle class aspirations of the bulk of the citizenry. Today, even though Americans might disagree as to the causes and possible solutions, the majority of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, and there is a growing, palpable fear that both the American Dream and the American Century may be headed for a close. – READ MORE