The United ‘Sick Man’ of America (Part 3)

Here are the Four Horsemen Threatening to End America’s Superpower Status

Could the United States collapse like the USSR did in 1991? The USA, the country that defined the 20th century, has shirked responsibility for global leadership, mishandled a global pandemic, and now is experiencing mass unemployment and social instability along racial fault lines. This is Part 3 of a five part series that examines the Four Horseman threatening to take down American hegemony and what we can do to reverse course before it is too late. Part 1 can be found here, and Part 2 here.

This may seem an odd question to pose, but this question illustrates a great deal of ideological divide in America. Do you believe in evolution? Currently, about 40% of Americans believe in “creationism,” an alternative theory to the well-established scientific consensus of Darwinian evolution. Proponents of creationism have actively sought to limit or prohibit the teaching of evolution in American schools because they feel its teaching violates their religious beliefs.

There is another country where a vocal minority sought to prohibit the teaching of scientific consensus because it violated ideological beliefs: Stalin’s Communist Russia.

Yes, the USSR, banned the teaching of Darwinian evolution because their political ideology favored an alternative (but also disproven) theory called Lamarckism. Stalin went as far as to imprison biologists who did not toe the party line. After decades of scientific persecution, the USSR relented, but only after completely decimating is biology/genetics industry and setting it years behind the rest of the world.

In the USA, the politicization of science (which I discussed in Part 2) is equally as concerning as the politicization of words, phrases, and ideas. When the Obama administration, for example, sought to create a government-run “public option” in healthcare, the talking heads, political pundits labeled this move as “socialism.” The ideological/politicized label, thereby signaled to their supporters that such ideas are ‘off limits’ to rational discussion and debate. The ‘public option’ never came to be.

The same happens on the other end of the political of the spectrum as well. Any person that might question the validity of transgender activists’ assertions of the fluidity of biological sex, for example, is immediately labeled as “trans-phobic,” ending any further discussion of the topic. In a rational world, we could question and disagree with others without garnering an ideological/political label.

The stark reality is this: we are no longer listening to each other. Instead of engaging in rational debate, learning from each other, and compromising/changing our beliefs, our first reaction is to slap a label on the opposing viewpoint to de-legitimize it. Once neutralized, there is no reason to further engage in discussion. What results are ideologies whose adherents both don’t learn from each other and simultaneously feel that they are not listened to, hence ever greater polarization in American politics.

After the fall of the USSR researchers studying its collapse identified ideological rigidity as one of the key causes for economic and political stagnation in the Soviet Union. Soviet officials were too fixated on whether a particular policy or idea would be seen a “rightist” or “capitalist-leaning” or whether it was “politically correct,” that they failed to adopt ideas that could have solved their country’s problems and moved their country forward. (Even the term “politically correct,” used to describe the kind of speech is acceptable in the USA today, has its origins in the Soviet Union.)

Instead of debating the merits of new ideas or policies, the labels imposed upon those ideas (by critics) sealed their fate. Ultimately, the Soviet Union collapsed as its economy creaked and its ability to innovate waned under a political system that was far too rigid to adapt to a changing world. Americas political polarization and gaping ideological divide among partisan lines threatens to do the same.

Pragmatism is the way forward. If America is to retain its position in the world, it needs to drop its cancel culture that only results in polarization and division. The “right” and “left” need to start listening to each other again. There is more common ground among Americans than they collectively acknowledge. While we don’t have always have to agree with each other, there is always value in listening and learning from each other.