The latest sociological survey from the Pew Research Center has shown that Americans' level of trust in their own government has fallen by 19 percent. This is a record-breaking level of negativity. Around six months ago, American sociologists said that 25-30 percent of U.S. citizens trusted their leaders, and these were already dauntingly low numbers.
Back then, if memory serves, the main complaint about Congress and the government was their total disregard for the interests of their own citizens. The silent majority of Americans believe, in great numbers, that the American power structure is primarily concerned with reaching agreements with large corporations and serving the interests of these multinationals, rather than those of humble redneck John from the middle of nowhere in Texas.
Negative tendencies in America's collective consciousness have been around for a while. As far back as the summer of 2014, it was reported that fewer American citizens believe that they live in a free country.
The Gallup Institute for Personal Freedom, one of the most famous American sociological research organizations, conducted a study in which it was revealed that from 2006 to 2014, the number of people who considered their country free decreased by 12 points, from 91 percent to 79 percent.
But the number of those dissatisfied with their right to vote increased twofold, from 9 percent to 21 percent. In 2006, the U.S. was rated as having the most free elections in the world. Now its rank has fallen to 36th place.
In September of this year, the same Gallup Institute reported even more discouraging data: only 38 percent believe in Washington politicians' ability to solve domestic problems in the country. Americans trust the government slightly more on international issues: 45 percent.
From 1972 to 2004, Americans' level of trust in the government was significantly higher. The highest registered maximum falls within this period – 83 percent (foreign policy) and 77 percent (domestic). This was the level of trust in October 2001, just after Sept. 11.
According to a CNN survey, in September of this year, 52 percent of respondents were disappointed with the performance of Barack Obama as president of the United States.
The current drop is in many ways related to the financial scandals of several high profile politicians. The issue was with “unannounced candidates,” several politicians who, having started work on their campaigns in every sense of the term, still don't declare their candidacy officially. This practice lightens the load of following the legislation that regulates their campaigns, since they are still technically not campaigns.
The last major scandal was the case of Hillary Clinton changing positions with the wind. The Associated Press was able to uncover that the Clinton family had received $35 million for a series of talks it gave for employees at various corporations.
Before this financial arrangement was made, many of these companies were subject to harsh criticism from Hillary Clinton, but once the "donations" and "speaker fees" reached her family bank account and pre-election fund, the presidential hopeful did a full 180-degree turn in her rhetoric regarding these corporations, and she's not only stopped criticizing them, now she's supporting them in every possible way.
There's another, fresher story. The long list of the Clintons' foreign contributors, which includes Arab sheikhs and Eastern European oligarchs, was found to contain North Korea, together with one of the poorest countries in the world: the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The American public's reaction to this news wasn't hard to predict. These revelations burst into another grandiose scandal.
It's clear that all these lobbying games and collusion between big business and politicians is news to no one in the States. And earlier, none of this kept many citizens from believing in their country's government or from believing in a better life and the rest of the American dream. But in the past few years the ratings have broken straight through the bottom and continue to plummet. Why?
It seems the problem here is the fabled American exceptionalism, which is playing a cruel joke on the American people. The thing is that an exceptional nation is supposed to win. It's supposed to be victorious always and on every level: in foreign policy, domestic policy, private business, the record-breaking corn harvests brought in by Redneck John from that Texas nowhereland.
But what's happened to the States since 2008? On the domestic side: a financial crisis. The bankruptcy of entire cities, like Detroit. The collapse of an entire social stratum, the middle class. There's no more easy credit or mortgages. There's no more preferential advantage for this group of people.
Now there's more work to be done, but less money to do it with. The crisis is putting painful pressure on American public sector employees. The police, for example, have gone on strike in several states. What's a police strike? It's first of all a holiday for criminals in the street, and second of all a public filled with fear, panic and hatred toward the government.
That this problem has been growing for the past seven years isn't that awful in and of itself for a country like America. What's really scary is that there's no solution in sight. That is, America's consciousness also has this idea of heroic victory.
An exceptional nation has exceptional problems, but it surmounts them no matter what. At the very least it has to be so according to general ideals and attitudes. But something isn't right, and nothing's being surmounted at all. What's more, the problems are only growing, both in quality and quantity.
But as if that wasn't enough, there's still foreign policy. For the past few years, every time America has stepped out onto the arena of foreign affairs, it has made a move and lost. Ukraine, the Middle East, the breakdown of plans to pressure Iran – and now Russia, via BRICS, is starting to lead Pakistan away from the U.S.'s stewardship and reconcile it with India. And we needn't even mention the current operation against the Islamic State.
And at the end of the day, when a member of the middle class, ground down by office work and an endless mortgage, comes home late in the evening and, taking a beer from the fridge he hasn't even paid off yet, turns on the television only to see news reports of foreign defeat after foreign defeat, it's clear that he won't have any kind of faith in the government, in Congress, in the president, or in any of the representatives of the Washington elite. But that's the price of exceptionalism and imperial ambition.
All empires collapse sooner or later; sooner or later any notion of exceptionalism brings on depression and an inferiority complex. It is, by and large, a perfectly predictable historical process.