(1) Legislators block the political system in order to stop Presidential actions but he overrules them by constitutional powers, risking a government shutdown.
(2) An elitist female relative of a powerful former president runs for office, after he left amid scandals and unleashed widely hailed yet ultimately harmful economic policies.
(3) A macho bullies his way to power by bluntly insulting political opponents and women, decries international alliances and points to crime and drugs as scapegoats for the countries’ problems with poverty.
(4) A populist movement dissatisfied with the direction of their country unites through rage and disillusion against a corrupt elite, bringing to power one of the richest businessmen in the country.
Although this sounds suspiciously like the man and country that have dominated headlines for weeks now, these statements concern other events from across the globe. They describe countries in deep crises – the explanations are below:
(1) is Venezuela, where President Maduro tries vehemently to block his impeachment by Congress, causing a constitutional crisis while the economy is in a free-falling downwards spiral and the capital Caracas records the highest crime rates in the world.
(2) is Thailand, where the election of Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of exiled former populist President Thaksin, led to a political crisis and a military coup that has terminated political rights in the Southeast Asian nation.
(3) is The Philippines, whose President Rodrigo Duterte called Obama a ‘Son of a Whore’, gave up sovereignty powers to China and unleashed a catastrophic drug war that leaves corpses on the street of the nation every day.
(4) is Ukraine, where the election of oligarch Petro Poroshenko after the Euromaidan revolution rushing Pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych out of office initiated civil war and Putin’s annexation of Crimea, leaving the country in tatters.
Despite the striking similarities, the United States will not end up in any of these situations. Its institutions have endured long periods of stability and will not fall apart because of one election. Nevertheless, these comparisons cast doubt on the functioning of the system of government and political culture in this country. America has a well-established democracy that has worked towards the prosperity of a majority of its citizens for a long time but, starts to show signs of fatigue and structural failure. All systems need renewal to stay healthy. America needs to admit its problems and address them.
American politics have hit a wall. The two parties who as institutions have carried, led, and shaped the nation’s politics and democracy since the Civil War have ceased to support the nation or their own political bases. The elites use party politics to divide and extort the nation until they have amassed all power. After all, Clinton and Trump come from the same class: they have led a privileged life in the echelons of power away from the struggle of the masses. They are part of the nation’s economic and political elites spending their lives contemplating about leadership in Washington and the penthouse suites of the country’s finance and innovation hubs. While they waste their money and efforts on vengeful partisan fights, the America below them has changed dramatically.
Traditional divisions between the left and right, between industry workers and countryside farmers, liberals and conservatives are starting to loosen and disappear. The very concept of freedom, so basic to America’s democratic republic, is a topic of debate. One side defines this freedom as the right to freely wield guns and throw around insults. It sees this freedom as their right to economic prosperity and a subjective definition of equal chance in the world: the long-established superiority of American workers over other countries’ laborers.
In the eyes of this protest group the recent election was a blow to the elites. They believe defying perceived over-regulation and globalization’s dynamic progress, economically and socially, is their path back to prosperity. They hail a New York real estate mogul as the protector of their rights. They could be correct. He might give them back their privileges and possibly even parts of their economic status. The loser of this, however, is America’s unity and power in the world.
This election, the elites lost. Much of Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the Washington establishment backed Hillary Clinton or other candidates in the primaries. At the same time, the defenders of an equal and multi-cultural society lost. The defenders of an open and collaborative world order lost. The defenders of scientific truth, environmental protection, and technological progress lost. These three areas are part of the foundation of America’s special status and power in the world: its ability to attract talent from across the globe with its unique immigration culture, the ability to lead an open market world order, and its pioneering status in business and technology which emerges from the former two. Trump’s presidency threatens these concepts.
The angry, the upset, must therefore realize that their enemy is not outside of America. It sits on top. Like the British in India, the elites have divided the nation to the extent that the people cannot rise against them, too caught up in hating each other. Polarization mostly benefits those who rummage the spoils: politicians in their campaigns and media moguls with their partisan information. Since neoliberalism has taken hold in the American economy, all new wealth ends up in what we now call the 1%. Obama could not fix this problem. Hillary would not have fixed this problem. Trump’s tax plans will exacerbate this problem. Republicans used the growing inequality to attract voters by blaming it on Democratic economic programs and government overreach. Meanwhile, Democrats like Bernie Sanders blame it on free trade. Both are wrong. What is broken is the distribution of wealth and power in the United States itself. No outside power, no foreign policy or trade deal renegotiation can fix this. Only the people can.
The people of the United States of America cannot allow themselves to be led to fight each other anymore. They should not accept hate against immigrants or Muslims, they cannot allow ethnic or religious divisions to foster sectarian conflict. They cannot allow a highly militarized state to deny them the education and infrastructure to succeed and social welfare networks to protect them. They cannot allow industries like arms manufacturers or the banking sector to exert power over their government and bend the rules to consolidate wealth and power in the hand of the few.
The current system of American party politics must end to ensure the survival of democracy. The people need to join together and overcome hate imposed by elites and media. They need to elect representatives who strive for their best against imposed party politics or hidden interests. They need to kick money out of politics and change the economic laws of this nation. Finally, they need to take control of Congress and the proceedings in the halls of power. This calls for renewal, transparency, and accountability. It starts in the city councils and town halls, goes through statehouses and governorships and ends with a less corrupt, more flexible and accountable Congress and President. The people need to rule over the institutions. They can.
From this day onwards, there are clear steps to pursue these goals. Protest decisions until policymakers respond. Defend rights in the independent court houses of the nation. Work to end the electoral college and support the President-elect in imposing term limits on Congress. Mostly importantly, talk about the problems. Hold open discussions and identify what is really lacking to ensure the prosperity of yourself and your fellow citizens. Engage in your local issues. Engage in national issues. Elect representatives who promise direct and real improvements for the people, regardless of party affiliation . If you have the strength, stand for election. Now that the institutions look more broken than ever, it is time to take them into the hands of the people. For alternatives, return to the start of this article.