Monday, May 6, 2024

Fixing America’s broken political system | eKathimerini.com

Dread and Division Plague the United States on the Eve of a Contentious Election

A sense of dread looms over the United States as the country hurtles towards its next tempestuous election. According to a New York Times poll published on August 1, only 23% of Americans believe the country is on the right track, while a staggering 65% feel it is headed in the wrong direction. President Joe Biden’s approval rating stands at approximately 40%, and even within his own Democratic Party, half of the voters do not want him to seek re-election next year. In a parallel development, former President Donald Trump, who has been impeached twice before, faces yet another indictment, this time for allegations of attempting to steal the 2020 election. Notably, his national approval ratings are even lower than Biden’s.

A Biden-Trump Rematch Looms Large

Despite the prevailing sense of dissatisfaction and disillusionment, a rematch between Biden and Trump in the next election seems increasingly inevitable, primarily due to the absence of credible alternative candidates within their respective parties. In fact, the same New York Times survey found that national support for both candidates is deadlocked at 43% each.

A Dysfunctional State of Politics

This state of affairs is just the latest testament to the dysfunctionality of American politics over the past 25 years, surpassing that of any other wealthy democracy. The nation has become deeply divided, with urban and rural voters, those with traditional social values versus progressives, and globalists versus populists, finding themselves at odds and lacking common ground.

Political Polarization and the Decay of Collaboration

These perceptual disparities have led to deep polarization among elected officials in Washington. The highly polarized nature of the political debate has eroded ideological overlaps between even the most liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. As a result, politicians are largely deprived of the political incentives necessary for engaging in cross-party compromise or collaboration.

Pessimism and Partisan Fury Unfounded

The nation’s prevailing pessimism and partisan divisions do not align with the state of the economy or genuine threats to national security. Despite fears of an economic slowdown, the US economy currently boasts the highest growth rate and lowest annual inflation rate among the G7 group of industrialized nations. Official unemployment numbers are at their lowest point since the 1960s, and while economic inequality remains a concern, it is narrowing. Additionally, US consumer sentiment recently reached a two-year high. In terms of security, major terrorist attacks have been absent from US soil for years, and the immigration crisis at the southern border has subsided. Most Americans lend their support to Ukraine in its conflict with Russian forces, although the dangers of the conflict and its worst economic repercussions may feel distant.

The Spread of Misinformation and Disinformation

In contrast to economic and security indicators, misinformation and disinformation have flooded American society. Media outlets inject partisan political propaganda into their reporting, while deliberately false information aims to confuse and incite anger among voters. This onslaught of distorted information has created echo chambers, reinforcing existing biases and limiting exposure to alternative perspectives.

“US allies and partners know they cannot trust the next US president to follow the path created by the current chief executive.”

The Role of Media Platforms in Polarization

This troubling trend has been propelled by various media platforms over the years, from political talk radio in the 1980s to cable news in the 1990s, and most recently, social media algorithms. These platforms have adopted a business model that maximizes profit by promoting content designed to elicit strong emotional reactions, often utilizing bots and trolls. Extremism and false information are encouraged, and the tech companies and politicians benefiting from this polarization have little incentive to mitigate its detrimental impact on American society.

Erosion of Public Trust

This pervasive polarization has significantly eroded public confidence in various institutions within the United States. Recent surveys indicate that less than half of Americans express confidence in key institutions such as the police, doctors, religious leaders, education system, trade unions, banks, judges, technology companies, and the media itself. Moreover, political divisions have spilled over into personal lives, as Americans are less likely to form friendships or enter relationships with individuals who identify with a different political party. In 1960, only 4% of Americans opposed their child marrying someone from another party, but in 2021, that number has risen to 40%. Marriages between Republicans and Democrats have dwindled to just 4%. Politics has given rise to tribalism like never before.

The Global Ramifications of Polarization

The polarization within the United States is not confined to domestic consequences alone. US allies and partners now question whether they can rely on the next president to maintain the path forged by his predecessor. Throughout history, power in Washington has swung between the nation’s two major parties, yet they have always agreed on the importance of alliances, cross-border trade, and safeguarding the integrity of political institutions. However, these certainties no longer hold true. The differences between Biden, Trump, and their respective supporters pertaining to America’s identity and global role are becoming increasingly pronounced.

An Ominous Future

A University of Chicago survey published in June revealed alarming statistics: 12 million Americans expressed support for violence to reinstate Donald Trump in power, with an additional 22 million endorsing violence to restore limited abortion rights as curbed by recent Supreme Court decisions. Consequently, the year 2024 poses great danger for American politics and its international relationships. Regardless of the election outcome, the toxic influence of polarized media ensures that these problems will persist.


Ian Bremmer is the president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, as well as the author of “The Power of Crisis.”

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About Nick Dunn

Meet Nick Dunn, an exceptional author on our blog with a focus on news and politics. With an expertise in covering current affairs, international news, opinion and analysis, as well as politics and government, Nick delivers insightful and thought-provoking posts that are both informative and engaging. With his in-depth knowledge and sharp analysis, he keeps you informed and up-to-date on the latest news and developments around the world!

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