James Fallows wrote a really good article about declinist thought in America, coming up with the thesis (and documentation) that Americans are something like genetically prone to believing that their country is in decline. And he also mentions the many wonderful things we Americans have to be proud of. The problem here, of course, is that America actually is in decline and actually does have really serious problems. And as they say in the mutual fund commercials, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
By the end of the article, Fallows wisely fixes upon our government as the source of the problems and specifically hones in on the Senate. Because that’s where the problems are, natch. And obviously he couldn’t have known this while writing the article, but the Scott Brown election is a probable extension of the trend. Since Brown will likely act like every other Republican—that is, filibustering and holding to no end—then the Senate’s pace will slow from constipated to epically backed up. Seeing as people probably voted for Brown and against Coakley (at least partially) because of the constipated pace in the first place, it’s hard to see how electing Brown will clear things up much. In fact, it will probably exacerbate the trend: more and more Republicans will get elected; as the upper chamber reaches rough parity, less and less will get done, barring a radical change in the political dynamics of the Senate specifically and the country generally.
And the problems we’re facing had the gall to be long-term, conceptual, abstract ones: that is, the health care cost problem, the fiscal problem, the environmental problem, the education problem, the financial system problem and the infrastructure problem. While there’s an unemployment problem right now, it will dodder its way into something resembling full employment sometime in the nearish to medium-term future (ah, the confidence). That problem is temporary, cyclical and recurring; the other problems listed above are hard, durable ones that strike against the old foundations of the system.
If there’s anything that’s hard to get people to concentrate on, it’s problems that will bite us in the ass not now, but ten years from now. So it will be hard to do anything about them, and the system will slump into do-nothingism. And because most people (I assume) will not realize what rules (e.g. filibusters and holds) cause the system to have slumped into do-nothingism, they will be unable to organize against it…which will further entrench do-nothingism. In essence, we have a combination of problems almost uniquely suited to defeat our system.
Unless, of course, we strike against the rules. Some have proposed getting together with Republicans and banning filibusters at some agreed-upon date in the future, to prevent accusations that the rules change will benefit one party specifically. That’s one method. But waiting say four or five years won’t solve the problems; for the climate change problem, specifically, it will intensify the problem. In fact, it will likely make that particular problem unsolvable (according to what I’ve read). So it really has to be solved right now. Sadly, the only way that gets solved is coup-like activity. And that’s unacceptable. So really, we’re in an unacceptable situation with no good solutions. Yay.