The 20th century was the “American century” for a variety of reasons. We played a major role in ending WW I and in WW II (though the USSR’s fighting on the Eastern Front was probably more important). As a nation that hadn’t been bombed (besides Pearl Harbor) or invaded, we emerged from the Second World War in great economic shape. While we did many horrible things during the Cold War (overthrowing multiple democratically elected governments and putting in despots), we also helped relieve ravaged Europe with the Marshall Plan, and organized an airlift to keep Berlin going after East Germany cut off access. We gave the world TV, popular movies, rock-and-roll and put a man on the moon. An immigrant arriving in the country with no money or a kid who’d dropped out of high school could still land a job and become a success, at least to the point of putting a roof over their head and their family’s (if the kid was black, of course, it was a damn sight tougher).
Not so much any more. Eonomic mobility is dying: the poor can’t move up, the rich are protected from falling by the glass floor. Our economy increasingly rewards the people in finance who push papers and move money around than the people actually doing the work (including the supposedly essential grocery workers and such). Our infrastructure is crumbling, our medical system is overpriced with poorer outcomes than many nations and our maternal death rate is the highest in the developed world). We’re turning into a rich failed estate.
Internationally, Trump’s been vigorously shredding our alliances, agreements and treaties and our handling of the Trump Virus is wrecking them further. I wouldn’t mind us backing off being the world’s policeman — we’ve done horrible things as well as good — but I’d rather do it without alienating the rest of the world. And I suspect it’s less about withdrawing than that 21st century Republicans much prefer using brute force to negotiating or working out alliances. Former Veep Dick Cheney, for instance, had his macho posturing moment where he declared (quite untruthfully) that “we don’t negotiate with evil — we destroy it!” As Iraq and Afghanistan proved, that’s a clumsy, ineffective approach.
George MacDonald Fraser has written what a seismic shock the loss of the British Empire was to his generation; I wonder if we’ll see that here. When Japan outperformed us economically 30 years ago, it led to a major freakout portraying good business as an act of war, Pearl Harbor II (Michael Crichton’s racist Rising Sun, for instance). Then again, people who believe in American exceptionalism accept America is “the greatest country in world” regardless of what we actually do. So perhaps they won’t care.
As for the survival of America itself … well we have open calls from Canadian white supremacist Faith Goldy for white America to secede and form its own nation. Goldy is, of course, a chickenhawk — I guarantee she has no intention of putting herself on the front lines to make it happen — and it’s not like most of Trump’s aging base of support are ready to take up arms either. Despite all the tough talk that Virginia passing new gun legislation would trigger civil war, it didn’t happen (instead, look at the results).
But Republicans are doing everything they can to restrict the vote including exploiting the Trump Virus to do it (though in Wisconsin they lost); one bullshit artist proposes (not seriously I think) that the U.S. force all liberals to live in California, then strip them of voting rights. And prioritizing supplies in the crisis based on how thoroughly Trump’s ass is kissed. This is civil war by other means: it doesn’t divide the country into separate states, but divides us between the minority with the right to vote (Trump’s own agenda) and a minority that will impose its white/male/Christian supremacist views on everyone else.
Speaking of which we have California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom declaring that as federal government isn’t providing equipment to deal with the Trump Virus, California, as “a nation state,” will take care of its own and possibly export to other states. As California isn’t a nation, that’s generated a lot of questions about what he meant. The article at the link speculates (I’ve heard similar thoughts before) that some Dems may be ready to pay back Republicans in their own coin: if they’re going to ignore the rules, the rules they make aren’t binding either. If California goes ahead and ignores Trump and the Supreme Republican Court, what will the feds do? Marijuana legalization might be a forerunner: the feds still count it as a dangerous drug but lots of states don’t care.
Either way, I suspect the concept of the United States by mid-century will be very different from what we see today.