What You’re Feeling Isn’t A Vibe Shift. It’s Permanent Change.

On the one hand, there is a deeply cynical and destructive argument that suggests a permanent change in our society. This argument gained a lot of attention and support, despite its existential nature. The good news is that Trump is no longer the president, but the bad news is that his actions before leaving office severely damaged the institutions that our government relies on. He encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” and march on the Capitol, leading to deep disarray and a shaken political landscape. Although the system ultimately held up and rejected Trump’s attempt, the damage has been done. It will take time for the political realm to fully recover from the image of a president tarnishing the entire system. In a democracy built on unwritten norms, introducing a dangerous precedent is one of the most destabilizing things that can occur. This raises concerns about who might be compelled to push the precedent even further in the future.

In the context of American democracy, a more immediate question arises: Why did more people vote for Donald Trump in 2020 than in 2016? It seems unlikely that they were unaware of the news surrounding his presidency or his systematic subversion of governmental institutions. His presidency was marked by undermining the very institutions that our government relies on. Could it be that people bought into the narrative that these institutions were unworthy of redemption? Did his presidency confirm a growing sense of decay in social trust?

The Edelman Trust Barometer provides some insight into this issue. This annual global survey measures public confidence in institutions and has been conducted since 2000. Its 2022 report reveals a trend of collapsing faith in institutions such as government and media, with distrust becoming the default emotion in society.

While it may be easy to dismiss Trump’s nihilistic threats, it is far more challenging to confront the underlying realities that allowed him to succeed. After years of worsening inequality, those in power suddenly took action to distribute thousands of dollars to every American, in an effort to revive the economy during the pandemic. This influx of government funds solved one major problem of people struggling to pay rent and mortgages while unable to work. However, it also raised a new question: Why didn’t the government do this earlier?

It became apparent that the pandemic-induced wealth gains were not evenly distributed. The stock market boom disproportionately benefited the top 20% of income earners, with more than 70% of the increase in household wealth going to them. Higher-income workers saw their financial situation improve due to the economic changes brought about by COVID. On the other hand, temporary pandemic aid programs temporarily reduced child poverty in the US before being scaled back later in 2021.

It is reasonable, and even rational, to conclude that successive American governments have not considered addressing widening income inequality to be a pressing issue. They have seemingly been complacent with overall economic growth without paying sufficient attention to its distribution.

The language and awareness around this issue have been influenced by the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011. While its physical impact may have been short-lived, it had a lasting rhetorical impact by reshaping the public discourse on inequality. We now have the concepts of the “1 percent” and the “99 percent,” and by all measures, the lives of the wealthiest 1 percent have improved, even during a global pandemic. In fact, the richest Americans have become unimaginably richer during this period of great upheaval.

While there may be some comfort in the promises to use the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink society, such as the “Great Reset” or the pledge to “Build Back Better,” that comfort is quickly undermined by the fact that these promises have been co-opted by anti-science, anti-vaccine, anti-lockdown individuals who spread baseless conspiracy theories. These theories even go as far as suggesting that the lockdowns were intentionally designed to expedite economic collapse.

These claims are not limited to the United States. Similar sentiments have arisen in Canada, where a convoy of truckers and their supporters occupied downtown Ottawa demanding the prime minister’s removal. These sentiments have also emerged in the Netherlands, Germany, and France.

Repairing trust in national governments seems like a daunting task. This is not an apocalyptic scenario on the surface, as the essential functions of government continue to operate relatively smoothly. However, civic trust, the foundation of nation-building and the belief that governments can improve people’s lives, appears to have diminished.

In February, the Republican Party declared that the events leading up to the January 6 insurrection were “legitimate political discourse.” At best, this is an attempt to downplay the severity of that day. At worst, it implies that the political institutions of the United States are fraudulent and that any form of protest, including insurrection, is acceptable. This approach may garner votes for the party in the upcoming midterm elections, but it will come at a cost. It will further erode public trust in the political system.

What do you think?

Written by Western Reader

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

Members Of The Royal Family Gathered For The Queen’s Coffin Procession In London

Stop Leaving Marmalade And Paddington Bears For Queen: Officials