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U.S. seems unable to stop societal breakdown

By  Zhan Shifu (People's Daily)    13:16, December 15, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is like a mirror, and what do the American people see when they look at it? According to a survey report from American think tank Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans said the country was more divided than before the outbreak.

Analysts in the U.S. pointed out that political polarization and societal breakdown in the country are at their worst since the end of the Civil War and the U.S. is facing “the darkest moment” in its modern political history.

Due to the presidential election and pandemic, political polarization, an inherent structural problem in the U.S., has dramatically magnified its adverse effects, directly causing serious dilemmas in social governance.

The American political system as a “vetocracy”, or “rule by veto”, is obvious. The term coined by American political scientist Francis Fukuyama describes a situation in which veto players “use their power to veto things not in their interest” and block the government from serving the public interest, which will finally lead to political paralysis.

The long-standing polarized conflicts between the Democratic and Republican political parties in the U.S. have become an obstacle in solving many major issues such as job creation, tax law system, medical reform, and immigration policy, causing political disorder and public policy uncertainties and affecting the effectiveness of national governance.

Practice has indicated that the system of checks and balances designed by American pioneers who drew up the constitution of the U.S. upon its founding is not a panacea.

Before leaving office, George Washington, the first president of the U.S., warned of the dangers of partisan divisions, which split politics and tore society apart.

Although more than 200 years have passed, the U.S. has not yet found a countermeasure. Due to the rise of social media, the phenomenon of polarization in U.S. politics has spread from the country’s political circle to the bottom of society, and party conflicts have increasingly been manifested in the divide among people.

A recent article published on a Spanish news website pointed out that in recent years, the dichotomy between winning and losing, friends and foes, and “supporting me” and “opposing me” has always dominated American politics.

Polarization has touched every aspect of American social life, and is affecting family, friendship, love, marriage, communities, workplaces, schools and even the medical field, said Stephen Stathis, a history expert with the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress in the U.S.

However, if the problem of societal breakdown remains unresolved, a small leak will sink a great ship as the U.S.

The New York Times published an article titled “Will the Coronavirus Kill What’s Left of Americans’ Faith in Washington?” several months ago. Survey data indicated that the number of Americans who trust the federal government reached one of the lowest points since the measure (anti-coronavirus measure) began and the pandemic appears to be eroding their faith even more, according to the article.

There is an old saying: “The water that keeps a ship afloat can also upset it.” The U.S. failed to pool strong synergy in the fight against the pandemic and more than 290,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, which leads to rising public anger.

Some U.S. politicians viewed the pandemic as an opportunity to seize power and partisan interests, instead of making the health and safety of Americans their primary task, which only aggravated deep-rooted contradictions.

American groups with different political stances resorted to protests to take their frustration out, which even turned into violent conflicts.

The current U.S. is like a gunpowder keg, said an article published on the website of L’Express, a weekly French newspaper.

The pandemic would have been an occasion for Americans to put aside their differences and rally around the flag, but it has served to deepen polarization, said Francis Fukuyama in an article titled “The Wages of American Political Decay”.

The U.S. has fallen into a vicious circle of obvious escalation of partisan conflicts and societal breakdown.

Why is it difficult for the U.S. system to address inadequacies concerning governance? Will the American society’s ability to correct itself suffice to reverse the trend of parochialism, xenophobia and hatred? These questions are worth thinking of.

It will be difficult for the U.S. society to stop worsening societal breakdown without a clear understanding of reality and correct solution to the issue. Obviously, the U.S. is still on the way to finding answers.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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