America can’t last. Anyone with eyes to see can see that. It won’t take God sending a hurricane to express his wrath — it’s just a natural consequence of our tolerance of insane leadership that continues to gut our social bond and productive capacity from the inside out. Fordism, along with the New Deal and the Great Society, was the best we could do: certainly not a utopia, still a stunningly amoral society, but at bottom a rational management of the empire. As that model faltered under the weight of an unwinnable war and out of control fuel prices, a motivated fringe element was able to shift the model of government from one of rational management to one of sustained looting.
There’s no question: we deserve to fall. What comes after — Chinese hegemony? a de-globalized world made up of regional power centers? total environmental collapse? — could be better or could be worse, but the immediate fallout is certain to be catastrophic. Within the US, a police state characterized by ever-greater brutality is a much more likely outcome of “increased contradictions” than a “new New Deal.” Elsewhere, financial systems are so rigged to the US economy that the results are unpredictable. Even China and India don’t seem to be developing domestic demand quickly enough to make up for lost access to the credit-card accounts of American consumers. Meanwhile, we’ve been happily selling weapons to literally everyone who can afford to pay and giving loans to those who can’t. Europe is obviously great in some ways but prone to extreme xenophobia and in any case heavily dependent on the US for defense. Latin America seems to be a mild beacon of hope and perhaps a good option for waiting out the apocalypse.
The best we can hope for in the US at this point is prudent management of our decline. A full-fledged welfare state, a rational system of transportation, a rebuilding of our manufacturing base and a resurgence of unionization, a turn away from militarism — barring a miracle, none of these things are seriously in the cards at this point, no matter what the speakers at the DNC said. The situation reminds me of the reign of Hezekiah, one of the “good kings” of Judah who narrowly avoided being conquered by the same Assyrians who decimated the Northern Kingdom:
At that time, when Merodachbaladan, son of Baladan, king of Babylon, heard that Hezekiah had been ill, he sent letters and gifts to him. Hezekiah was pleased at this, and therefore showed the messengers his whole treasury, his silver, gold, spices and fine oil, his armory, and all that was in his storerooms; there was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and asked him: “What did these men say to you? Where did they come from?” “They came from a distant land, from Babylon,” replied Hezekiah. “What did they see in your house?” the prophet asked. “They saw everything in my house,” answered Hezekiah. “There is nothing in my storerooms that I did not show them.” Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah: “Hear the word of the LORD: The time is coming when all that is in your house, and everything that your fathers have stored up until this day, shall be carried off to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the LORD. Some of your own bodily descendants shall be taken and made servants in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Hezekiah replied to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is favorable.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” (2 Kings 20:12-19)
We’ve shown our cards — the end is a foregone conclusion. The best we can hope for is “peace and security in our lifetime,” and for me, that’s ultimately what Obama represents. He may not be our last chance. A Democratic congress could restrain a president McCain sufficiently to give us another shot in four years, though they would likely be extremely demoralized by a McCain victory. Whatever the Democrats do, it may well be the case that we can afford “four more years of failed leadership” — the US started out so strong when the onslaught of the Reagan Revolution began that we might even have a few decades left in us.
I don’t want to take the chance, though. The US is going to fall, but I don’t want to be around to see it. That very fact may illustrate how irrevocably American I am — someone has to take the hit, but why should it be me? — and, more broadly, why we can’t depend on those living at the heart of the empire to “be the ones we’ve been waiting for.” We’re corrupted, co-opted, hopeless. We’re so powerful that we can’t seem to do anything, except perhaps to write earnest diaries on Daily Kos and donate to the candidate who will try to bring about a slow decline rather than a catastrophic one. To expect anything else from us is to expect a miracle.