by ANDREI AKULOV
US patriotism is declining. Americans are concerned about economic and homeland security, weary of endless wars, and distrustful of business and government elites. Before the Independence Day, 52 % of US adults say they were «extremely proud» to be Americans, a new low in Gallup’s 16-year trend. Americans’ patriotism spiked after 9/11, peaking at 70% in 2003, but has declined since, including an eight-percentage-point drop in early 2005 and a five-point drop since 2013.
According to the July 1 Gallup survey, the declining patriotism is «likely related to broader dissatisfaction with the way things are going in the US».
«Americans’ continued frustration with national conditions – likely tied to their concern about the economy and lack of faith in public institutions – is probably one reason patriotism is at a recent low point», said the poll. Although every age group saw declines from 2003, the group witnessing the largest slide was the 18-29-year-old cohort, an indication that patriotism levels may continue to decline as the millennial generation grows older.
Seventy percent of Americans say they feel frustrated about this year’s presidential election, including roughly equal proportions of Democrats and Republicans, according to a recent national poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
More than half feel helpless and a similar percent are angry. Nine in 10 Americans lack confidence in the country’s political system, and among a normally polarized electorate, there are few partisan differences in the public’s lack of faith in the political parties, the nominating process, and the branches of government.
Summing it all up, it leads to the conclusion that vast swathes of America are not just annoyed with the situation in the country – they are at boiling point. The bubbling discontent covers a myriad of issues including poverty, border protection and immigration, the mistreatment of military veterans, and spiralling health care costs. At its heart is a fundamental breakdown of trust in government. Voters are deeply disillusioned with the elite that runs America but fails to understand it. Many voters now see America as a plutocracy rather than a democracy. According to a CNN/ORC poll in December 2015, an astonishingly high 85 percent of them disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, and 75 percent say they are dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed.
Riding voters’ frustration made Donald Trump become a frontrunner for the GOP nomination. For presidential candidates of either party, the greatest insult is being labelled «part of the Washington establishment». It’s so bad that even Hillary Clinton has tried to claim she is «not part of the establishment»!
Sounds extremely strange from a former first lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.
At that neither of the candidates enjoys wide popular support. The above mentioned Gallup survey says Trump and Clinton are currently among the worst-rated presidential candidates of the last seven decades according to Gallup’s long-term «scalometer» trend. In the race to the bottom, however, Trump’s 42% highly unfavorable score easily outpaces Clinton’s 33%. The wild card in this year’s ratings is that more Americans view Clinton and Trump highly unfavorably than highly favorably, and to an unprecedented degree.
Whoever wins, there will be no president to unite the nation and stir patriotic feelings. Neither isolationism, nor exceptionalism and the nation’s greatness based on military might seem to be attractive slogans for an average American. It brings us back to the Shakespeare’s tragedy «Romeo and Juliet» and the Mercutio’s famous line «A plague o’ both your houses!»
With the rise of populism, the United States is waking up to a dividing line that is becoming sharper by the day but there is no third political force looming. This is a major drawback of the political system. The «revolutionaries» – Socialist Bernie Sanders and right wing populist Donald Trump – have to seek nominations from the mainstream parties dominating the political landscape while challenging the basic assumptions on which decades of US foreign and domestic policy have been built.
The domestic conditions that Trump and Sanders have exposed, such as a sense of increasing economic insecurity, and anger over wage stagnation and widening inequality – carry serious implications for foreign policy. According to a poll from the Pew Research Center, most Americans say that it would be better if the United States simply dealt with its own problems and let other countries deal with theirs as best they can.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans want the US to deal with its own problems. Just 37 percent say the US should help other countries deal with their problems. Americans are skeptical of US international involvement, many also view the United States as a less powerful and important world power than it was a decade ago. Currently, 80 percent say Islamic State is a major threat to the well-being of the United States, while 72 percent view cyber-attacks from other countries as a major threat and 67 percent say the same about global economic instability. In the election year, Americans view Russia less negatively, as less of a threat.
These sentiments do influence the presidential candidates’ stances on foreign policy. Sanders and Trump have both criticized the war in Iraq and the 2011 Libya’s intervention, as well as the very notion of regime change to allegedly «foster democracy» abroad. Ted Cruz, a former Republican candidate, warned that the US should not attempt to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Even Hillary Clinton has been on the defensive for her Senate vote to authorize the war in Iraq and for her support for the intervention in Libya.
American people want their government to address burning domestic issues and try to put their house in order. They want drastic foreign policy changes. The public opinion runs against military involvement abroad, including increased military presence in Europe to confront Russia. Americans see no reason in being the world policeman. The trend has already made 2016 unique in the annals of US politics. These sentiments will have to be taken into account, whoever is elected president. It makes unavoidable a dramatic break with current US foreign policy.