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American politics

By Peter McMahon - posted Monday, 30 November 2020

Why does American politics matter so much? Why do people around the world hang on the news of US elections and personalities with more interest than they show for those of their own country?

The basic reason is that in the absence of a genuine global governance system (like the UN is supposed to be) global leadership falls by default to the world’s biggest economic and military power. This is, and will remain for a couple of decades at least, the United States.

So it really does matter who the US President is and who the congresspeople and senators are. Recently perhaps the most inept president in US history presided. He was replaced by the oldest incoming president in history who is showing definite signs of dementia. Is this the best the greatest nation on earth can do?


The outgoing president, despite his manifest failure as both an American and global leader – indeed, he did not seem to understand his responsibilities as global leader at all – got over 72 million votes in the 2020 election. What were these people thinking?

I suggest that there are basically two reasons why people voted for Donald Trump. One reason was utterly shameful; the other was quite reasonable.

The bad reason was that Trump allowed Americans to vent their worst sentiments, most notably racism, sexism and militaristic patriotism  These are the knee jerk responses of uneducated people with little life experience who feel aggrieved about how their own lives are going.

With his whole ‘Make America Great Again’ shtick Trump promised he would return America to the 1950s when it clearly dominated the world. In those days racism was quite open, as was sexism. The US military, fresh from winning the greatest war in history (with the unacknowledged help of a few other nations, like Russia, Britain and China) was unquestioned, pursuing a madcap ambition to destroy Communism or the world. The economy was driven by huge military expenditure.The President for much of the decade was an-ex four star general, who warned about the rising  power of the ‘military-industrial complex’ in his final speech.

The corporate sector, meanwhile, bloated on wartime profits and unfettered by any real regulation on things like environmental costs, was taking over the whole country, a process led by mass advertising and abetted by tame unions. The mass media, including movies and television, lauded American power and the American way of life.

The 1950s was a time of unprecedented material wealth – huge cars and glistening white goods – and absolute socio-cultural stagnation. Life lacked all meaning except for reflexive   patriotism, gross materialism and petrified religiosity. All the while everyone lived in terror that World War Three would end it all. No wonder the children of this decade rebelled in the 1960s.


Nostalgia is a powerful thing, but to actually want to go back to those not so good old days is a sign of failure.

The other main reason why so many Americans voted for Trump is the fear that they are losing out. Basically, they were protesting the rise of new global civilisation that has no time for individualism of any kind. It consists of globalisation, big government, corporate control, and runaway technology. No wonder they are afraid of this.

But of course, while Trump sometimes spoke against these things, he was really a part of them and never intended to counter them. He was a multimillionaire, he was a creature of the mass media, and when he ran for president he became a denizen of the Washington swamp.

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About the Author

Dr Peter McMahon has worked in a number of jobs including in politics at local, state and federal level. He has also taught Australian studies, politics and political economy at university level, and until recently he taught sustainable development at Murdoch University. He has been published in various newspapers, journals and magazines in Australia and has written a short history of economic development and sustainability in Western Australia. His book Global Control: Information Technology and Globalisation was published in the UK in 2002. He is now an independent researcher and writer on issues related to global change.

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