(Note: Crossposted at The Aristocrats. Sorry to be a day late.)
Since the end of World War II, presidential candidates have been forced to take positions ever further removed from reality. FDR faced the reality of the Great Depression and war; Truman and Eisenhower faced the reality of an emerging Cold War. Subsequent presidents, as well as candidates for the office, increasingly occupy a fantasy world divorced from historical reality.
One explanation for this is offered by James Petras who points out that at the end of World War II, the United States was the only industrial nation with its industrial plant intact, and “had the greatest surplus public and private capital to invest overseas.”
Petras goes on to say, “This conjunctural ‘world superiority’ generated a plethora of elite ideologies and a mass mind set in which the US was seen to be ‘by nature’, by ‘divine will’, destined by ‘history’ and its ‘values’, by its ‘superior education technology and productivity’ to rule the world. The specific economic and political conditions of the ‘decade’ (1945-1955) were frozen into an unquestioned dogma, which denied the dynamics of changing market, productive and political relations that gradually eroded the original base of the ideology.”
History changed; we didn’t. Fujiyama told us history was over, so why pay attention?
However you delineate the period “The American Century” had some basis in reality, the fact remains that it created a mindset that was once dynamic, but is now little more than a rotting corpse.
Still our candidates cling to two dogmas that are moving further and further away from both economic and historical reality.
Dogma 1: The United States is the richest nation on earth. (We’re insolvent! We have taken a fiat currency of declining worth and used it to leverage ourselves into a pit of indebtedness out of which we will never climb.)
Dogma 2: We are the world’s sole surviving superpower. (Wrong! We have more military hardware than anyone else, but most of it is useless for the type of wars we face. Both Vietnam and Iraq have proved this.)
So presidential campaigns been reduced a process of sprinkling fairy dust and pretending that the halcyon days of the 50s are still with us.
The upside of this dream world is that it has allowed America’s sociopaths to find gainful employment in the Bush administration. At least that keeps our neighborhoods safe.