Also, the “cumulative effect” of political and social decay in the United States “has made it increasingly difficult to mobilize the needed political consensus on behalf of sustained, and also occasionally costly, American leadership abroad.” What this translates into is a situation in Washington that is defined by political deadlock and the potential for the collapse of the political system. And as mentioned before, this situation has a deeper cause or impetus, which is that Westerners “have been finding it difficult to cope with the cultural consequences of social hedonism and the dramatic decline in the centrality of religious-based values in society” to borrow from Brzezinski.
Social decay then combines itself with a model of domestic and international politics that is race-based in the United States, even though many people are still in denial of the racist nature of politics in the United States. And as opposed to solving the race issue, some have argued that civil rights legislation in the 1960’s inflamed the issue of race in the United States given that the legal enforcement of equality was void of a socially constructed reconciliation and resolution of the race issue. Legislation was merely a “quick fix” to a problem that had something deeper bubbling underneath the surface. As one author argued:
“In a world which no one was able to say what he really thought, American politics turned into a bizarre tacit bargain, like an embarrassing family secret kept among 300 million people. White people were supposed to console themselves that their superior economic standing somehow ‘compensated’ them for their inferior status as citizens. As their economic standing eroded, though, the consolation rang hollow and the compromise grew unstable.”
Hence, the combination of social decay and the racist nature of politics in the United States has led to a state of polarization in American politics. Polarization amounts to a situation which has “rendered political institutions unable to achieve compromise and adapt to shifting preferences.” Moreover, we find this kind of polarization in both the manner by which the elites interact with one another as well as within the masses as evinced by recent elections. “Global changes” as well as economic and social conditions are perhaps the major contributing factors to polarization in the United States. As one scholar argued: “As economic transitions alter traditional life patterns, accompanying social and cultural changes raise questions about our most fundamental values.”
How the political institutions in the United States have responded to such changes, transformations, and transitions is through brokenness and dysfunction. Although the changes, transformations, and transitions are happening outside of the control of political institutions, politicians “are not merely waifs amid forces.” Politicians “make choices about how to organize and run their institution and how to conduct themselves personally, albeit choices constrained by the external environment and the incentives it creates.” But the main point about politicians in the United States is: “In recent decades, leaders and members of Congress [as well as other political institutions] acted in ways that exacerbated the partisan polarization and intensified the forces leading to institutional decline.”
But even though politicians “are not powerless to take steps that might begin to reverse these disturbing trends” and to rein in on the political and social decay, the reality is that “there is no quick fix for a dysfunctional institution” or set of institutions. American political institutions are very much “captive” of their “political and social environment.” In turn, the forces which have fostered the political and social environment not just in the United States but also around the globe are largely non-anthropomorphic.