Recently, I was a guest at my friend’s home, and as we were chatting, my friend sighed, saying American society is trending toward conservatism, making him feel very troubled. He has previously held positions within the U.S. government, has a strong academic and business background, and is a classic example of the American middle class.
The riots in Baltimore, the resignation of the president of the University of Missouri, more than 20 governors openly against taking in refugees, the shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernardino, gun-toting rebels occupying federal land in Oregon … one event after another, each bringing frustration for the Obama administration.
Technically, Obama’s 2015 report card held a passing grade. Domestically, the economy recovered, unemployment rates stabilized at about five percent and consumer confidence rose slowly. Foreign affairs saw the signing of the Iran treaty and the reinstatement of relations with Cuba. All these are considered a part of Obama’s political legacy.
But, the American people just don’t seem to buy it. According to numbers released by the Pew Research Center last November, only 19 percent of those interviewed believe they can count on the government, while 74 percent of people believe elected officials would work for their own interests before they would work for those of the country. Pew Research Center studies, from over the years, show that when the economy fares poorly and foreign policy falls on hard times, the level of support for the government in power usually tends to be lower.
Lately, the economy and foreign policy are beginning to improve, but, paradoxically, support for the government is still declining. Actually, the paradox shows the true ailments of U.S. society. These ailments include obvious racial contradictions, the widening wealth disparity and increasingly polarized politics. It cannot be said that the Obama administration has not been trying its hardest to resolve these old and difficult problems. In March of last year, as the riots in Baltimore continued to escalate, the National Guard used armored vehicles. But in many districts of Baltimore, the conflict between the people and the police remained severe.
Domestic problems have stirred up election politics. Several Republican Party candidates are playing political games. In order to get attention, some candidates have gone so far as to promise people that “you can get everything.” But the people know better—these kinds of promises will follow the candidate as they exit and disappear or will be drowned in the political ecosystem of Washington, D.C.
Historically, in the U.S., there has been a struggle between freedom and conservatism. Today, there are many kinds of different circumstances that embody the people’s lack of trust for the government, the people’s uncertainty toward the future, society’s disappearing safety net, the increasing number of conflicts with the outside world, the appearance of a trend toward conservatism, and especially the increasing anti-immigration sentiment.
If this “country of immigrants” unfurls a flag of anti-immigration, it will be one of the U.S.’s greatest acts of self-mockery. No wonder New York Times columnist Charles Blow came out with an article titled, “Anti-Muslim is Anti-America.”