After the crushing defeat suffered by Barack Obama’s Democrats in the midterm elections, political experts have been poring over the statistics. The Republicans are attributing their success to their technology-based mobilization of the electorate and the Democrats are looking into exactly why their segmentation of many subgroups in society — from young, single women to the Hispanic and Asian communities — did not prove quite as fruitful for them this time.
Yet, with this abundance of detail, a fundamental discovery — that, in a downright un-American way, Americans are becoming depressed — is hard to miss. With two-thirds believing that their country is on the wrong path, hope for the future is lower than it’s been for decades.
More than three-quarters of Americans believe that the economy will not improve in coming years and more or less half think that the next generation will be worse off compared to theirs. New books about the downfall of the United States are constantly being published. In America, traditionally a hopeful nation, so much skepticism towards the future is rare.
The populace’s frustration about the state of their country has been taken out above all on the Democrats. In fact, the cause of this world-weariness, atypical of Americans, goes a lot deeper and is not solely the result of Obama’s term in office. The new world order and the unfulfilled expectations of the 1990s also play a part in it. After the collapse of the Iron Curtain, America’s future before the turn of the millennium appeared to be rosy.
American values such as democracy and freedom spread across the planet and the United States was in a unique position to take a leading role in shaping the new world order. Americans were, therefore, optimistic about being able to manage globalization, which was progressing rapidly, for the benefit of everyone. This was because, as world leaders in technology, the United States was well positioned to master the challenges associated with it.
One major terrorist attack, two wars, an economic crisis and a financial crisis later, the world looks so much different. Global democracy and freedom have been declining for years. America is challenged by authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China, as well as by a new wave of jihad. The middle classes have been mocking globalization.
Since the mid-1990s, the average household income has not risen. Neither of the parties has presented convincing ideas for changing this. Cracks are beginning to show in the unwritten social contract widely accepted by Americans, according to which you should work hard and abide by the rules in order to succeed.
The cluelessness where American foreign policy is concerned is particularly palpable. The Bush regime’s over-the-top reaction to 9/11, which had great promise for improving the world, failed. Then came the backlash. In order to reduce America’s global commitment, the world-weary electorate chose Barack Obama as their next president — and that didn’t work out any better.
Botch-Obama became a Symbol
The impression that America lacks resolve and leadership skills served to encourage the world’s villains, such as the widely neo-imperial Russia and the jihadi terror groups, which have freely beheaded Americans, into action. Then came the flood of refugees from Central America and the outbreak of Ebola on U.S. soil. Americans are beginning to view their country more and more as a threatened and beleaguered fortress.
Two-thirds have the feeling that something has gotten out of control and the country’s economic and political élite have no real idea how to regain a handle on the situation. The voters vicariously gave the Democrats a beating at the midterms because Botch-Obama has become a symbol of mismanagement and weak leadership.
Reaching for the stars and desiring the impossible has always been an American strength. American history is a triumph of will over matter. Until today, the belief that you can release unforeseen energies with outstanding accomplishments and through self-conviction has been drummed into every new generation.
The numerous defeats and dashed hopes of the last 15 years have, however, caused the American stockpile of optimistic energy and their belief that they can control the outside world to diminish. This is precisely what those who voted for Obama resent the most — that he has dragged this series of disappointments out.