The End of the American Dream

1. It’s over. Se acabó. With the election of Donald Trump, faith in neoliberal democracy lowers its banners of red and white stripes and stars against a blue sky.

An ideology that proclaimed itself as “the end of history,” and, with greater restraint, as “the American century”—yet it barely lasted 30 years.

2. In an about-face, the old-fashioned idea that a system can’t endure if it excludes the majority of the people from prosperity has come back to occupy a central place in people’s minds.

3. This is an ethical shift that the traditional Left and Right are not prepared to make. The Left and the Right of democracies have let themselves be swallowed up by neoliberal ideology. The need for new political alternatives is now emerging out of this morass.

Podemos, in Spain. The National Front, in France. The independents, in Mexico and in other countries. Options of various kinds, that have in common only their newness, and the fact that they each have upset the previous balance in their country.

Until now, only the English Left has understood that in order to live through the tidal wave we’re in, it has to cleanse its soul of neoliberalism. Likewise, in the United States, Bernie Sanders is trying to purge the Democratic Party, and he will do it if they let him. In Mexico, the land of delayed reactions, the Left is still dreaming a dream the last chord of which sounded a month ago.

4. The election of Trump also marks the end of faith in U.S.-style globalization. In practice, transnational corporations controlled from the United States have used globalization as a mechanism to lower the cost of labor. Today, a CEO of a transnational makes 452 times as much as one of his U.S. workers, and about 4,845 times as much as one of his workers abroad.

For better or worse, it is the giant, the inventor of globalization, the United States, that is retreating inside its borders, which, in addition, it is going to seal off. We will have to see if the number two economic power, China, will occupy the spaces that are being abandoned, as appears to be its intention.

5. This is also the end of television journalism as we know it. The television networks have ended up ruined by their own betrayals of journalism. They have come to pursue ratings over the search for truth through investigation and analysis. They have lost sight of universal notions like the common good, honesty and fairness, thereby making common cause with the cynics. And they have mistaken opinion and influence for communication.

In the United States, as in many countries, television has become the voice and face of the billionaire minority; now, unmasked, it has lost most of its viewers, who have migrated to social networks for their information. This migration is disastrous. There is no one controlling the social networks, and, up to now, they haven’t made much use of journalists: they are pure opinion, not rooted in the solid bedrock of the truth.

6. That same democracy has lost its redemptive aura. A billionaire demagogue told the masses what they wanted to hear—“we’ll throw the billionaires out of Washington”—and, even before taking the oath of office as president, he has betrayed his words.

There has never been a cabinet with so many billionaires like that Trump has chosen for his administration. As Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate in economics, put it, this is not a cabinet, it’s the crew of a pirate ship.

In one of the first scenes in “Julius Caesar,” the people cheer the emperor. In one of the last scenes, they cheer his assassins. The people are portrayed like this, as foolish figures, in the works of Shakespeare, who was a confirmed monarchist. The election of Trump shows that the Bard was right.

Ladies and gentlemen, the American century is folding its wings. Folding its wings. In the uncertain light of its decline, a different world starts to take shape: its outline is barely discernible there, flickering.

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