You know who’s enjoying the mess that’s currently known as America’s Congress? Donald Trump. The GOP can’t even seem to choose…a Speaker of the House…they control. Chaos, paralysis, shoddy spectacle, pick your poison. And that only underscores the power of strongman “I alone can save you” demagoguery. Meanwhile, America’s careening through crisis after crisis like a dumpster on fire, and the world’s crashing and burning.
Welcome to the “Painful Stupidity” Phase of American Collapse.
What really happened to America? I’ll come back to that for a moment. For now, consider a striking if grim finding. More Americans are beginning to…blame…the GOP for the mess politics are in, especially the state of not being able to have a functioning Congress. But the numbers are barely higher than those who blame Democrats. Democrats may be many things, and we’ll come to that, but they’re not responsible for this pathetic saga. Worse, precisely the same number of Americans say they’d vote for Republicans today as they would Democrats…even while…the GOP…self-evidently…in the most egregious possible way…can’t…won’t…governing…let alone even function.
What the $@! Is going on here, exactly?
Let me give it to you straight. You might have been getting the sinking feeling lately that America’s ungovernable, and…you’re right. I used to speak of American collapse, and it turns out that while you might have thought I was kidding…I wasn’t.
America is now a failing state. Not my opinion, really. What else do you call a country where governance is broken? From the inside? Thanks to crackpots, lunatics, and fanatics? Not even out of anything like everyday differences of opinion, but…out of negligence, malice, folly, rage, incompetence, and…sheer…stupidity?
This is textbook failing state level stuff. Sure, America still has some of the superficial features of a functioning society. Or does it? There’s a long, long list by now of stuff that you can’t really get in America, or at least not in a modern way, as in, universally, affordably, reliably, because it doesn’t exist that way. Healthcare. Retirement. Higher education. Upward mobility. A stable career. Savings and investment and financial stability. Two thirds of Americans live at the perpetual edge, and over a third struggle to just pay the bills.
Let me put the above more formally. A badly broken economy, where you can’t make ends meet on a median income. Endemic crises, from debt to loneliness to depression, anxiety, suicide. Deaths of despair. Corroded social norms. The sense that life is zero-sum, me against you, in a perpetual battle for existence. Institutions that don’t function, in their proper sense, as in, the basic provision of goods and services, whether they’re healthcare systems or Wall St. Widespread pessimism, as generation after generation finds itself worse off than the last. All of this is failing state level stuff.
How did America get here? You see, there’s a strange thing that happens in American Discourse. There can be involved, abstruse discussions of, for example, the Founding Fathers, and their theories of politics and morality, right down to how many James Madisons can dance on the head of a pin. Pointless, really, because while it might intellectually satisfying for a Certain Kind of Guy…it doesn’t explain a whole lot.
The way America got here is much simpler than Americans imagine. Republicans have lost most of the last few elections, in terms of the popular vote, and meanwhile, the archaic institution known as the electoral college allows them outsized power. That’s at a national level. Meanwhile, at a state level, tactics like gerrymandering effectively keep Republicans in power for life. Facing no accountability, no incentive to not just change, but grasp reality, Republicans have gone from conservative to delusional to fanatical to at this point…blindsided by their own fanatics and lunatics, which is the hallmark of Category Five Stupidity.
What’s stupidity, anyways? What do I mean by it? There’s that famous Einstein quote. Along the lines of: doing a thing that isn’t working, banging your head against the wall, and keeping on doing it anyways.
This is where America is right now.
You see, the combination of institutional stagnation above creates a certain kind of fatal outcome. America’s destiny is now in the hands of 30% of its population…who happens to be fanatical. I don’t mean that as an insult, I mean it…objectively. Fanatical, as in, ideologically extreme, brooking no relationship with reality, and desiring of an authoritarian society, not a democratic one. By now, of course, they’re vocal about it.
They’ve put American into a Stupidity Trap, perhaps modernity’s hardest version of one.
Because…well…think about it this way. Remember the Einstein quote? By now, surely, something should have been learned here. Along this bleak trajectory, from Reagan to Gingrich to Trump to…LOL…Jim Jordan. For international readers, he’s been at the center of a…scandal…shall we say.
Something should have been learned here. Namely, that this form of thinking, ideas, theories, mindsets…doesn’t work. Maybe, once upon a time, you could have said, “well, here all these theories. And we don’t know the results yet. So isn’t it fair to want to try them?” Hence, America had its Grand Social Experiment with Reaganomics, with Gingrich style politics, with Trumpism, and so forth. And what happened? The wealth didn’t “trickle down.” No, people didn’t ascend to a whole new level of prosperity. Nope, society didn’t come together in some kind of grand liberation. People didn’t even turn nicer, smarter, more trusting, and happier, like somebody like poor old David Brooks trumpeted once upon a time.
None of it worked out. The way it was supposed to. Now, here, you can be a good leftist cynic and say: “it was only to make the 1% richer, anyways!” Maybe, sure. But the point is that way back then, the Grand Experiment hadn’t been run, and I suppose, at least giving people the benefit of the doubt, you could say, the results weren’t in yet. But now we know the results of America’s Grand Experiment. None of it…worked out. Not the economics—trickle downism and “free markets.” Not the politics—take a look at Congress. Not the social angles—see how miserable, lonely, angry, stressed, and depressed Americans are today.
When I say none of it worked, I’m not kidding.
Einstein. The wall. Beating your fists—or banging your head—against it. Learning something. If what you’re doing isn’t working, stop. You’d think Americans would have learned something through this fatal trajectory of decline.
And some did. Young people in America these days are about as likely to put capitalism as the same category as “the devil.” Portions of society have “moved left,” as American pundits say, but an actual social scientist would just say: they learned something about reality and political economy. Even among older generations, that’s true. Minorities, who were the least likely to have gone along with the Grand Social Experiment, have become more vocal in their objections. So Americans did learn.
But not the 30%. The fanatics. And what makes them fanatics is that they…don’t learn. Because they won’t. Not because they can’t, crucially—here I am, and here are a lot of other people, explaining to them, patiently, time and again, what a modern society is, why America fell apart, what to do differently. They’re not interested in hearing any of that, because their blinders are already on. They’ve turned ideas into hardened, immovable ideology—which can never be wrong.
And so their adherence to this failed set of ideas isn’t just as strong as it ever was, it’s only grown stronger. Trickle down economics didn’t work? Great, let’s give billionaires even more money. Endless work and not enough pay only made people stressed, depressed, and took households apart at the seams? Great, let’s have even less pay and more work. Not having decent healthcare and retirement didn’t work out? Awesome, let’s take a knife to it entirely. The endgame, as we all know by now, is a neofascist authoritarian society, based on blood and faith and soil and all the rest of the tired old cliches of what a “real” person is. The fanatics have grown even more extreme about America’s failed set of choices and ideas, in an attempt to…
Never to have to learn anything.
And so America’s in a Stupidity Trap. Decades of GOP politics, growing more and more fanatical, extreme, rigid, senseless, pointless…didn’t work out? Great, let’s go from Reagan to Gingrich to Trump to…Jim Jordan. Scratch that, let’s not even elect a Speaker, because who need a functioning anyways? In the current chaos gripping Congress, you can see the Stupidity Cycle etched out in such stark relief it’d make a Roman stonemason cry.
So what’s America to do about all this. How does a nation get out of a Stupidity Trap, anyways? Well, I have some good news, and some bad news. The good news is for the world, not America. See America? Now you can learn what not do. Don’t step over the edge of such an abyss, because the roaring cyclone of Stupidity has a force stronger than gravity on Jupiter. Don’t mess with the ideas that America’s failed Grand Experiment proves don’t work—like Britain, which has, astonishingly, in an even great act of Stupidity, decided to repeat America’s experiment, and so…have you ever seen an actual time-warp? It’s in one, turning Dickensian all over again.
For America, though? The bad news is that you can’t usually get out of a Stupidity Trap. Remember: it’s when a nation’s held hostage by a minority of extremists, but the definition of “extremist” is “I’m not going to learn a damned thing, and I’m not going to let you, either, and that means if I have to burn the house down, I will, even if I’m sleeping in it, too.” More often than not? Nations don’t really escape Stupidity Traps. They…have to…kind of…outgrow them. By way of generations which can finally let all those failed paradigms go, once and for all. Think of the Soviet Union, for example.
When you’re in a Stupidity Trap? The point isn’t just to escape, because…that’s almost impossible. It’s just to stop digging, because that’s what a Stupidity Trap really is. Not just falling into the Pit of Collapse, but falling in, and then digging yourself even deeper. Sane Americans despair in frustration and disbelief, because that’s what the 30-40% of extremists keep on doing to them, day after day. Pulling yourself, out though? That’s…it doesn’t happen often. Because when you’re being pulled down, time and again, every time you place a damned foot outside the lip of the abyss…not easy, is it?
That’s where America is. Welcome to the Painful Stupidity Phase of American Collapse. You know why I used to warn about that very phrase, idea, occurrence, “American Collapse”? Because this is sort of place social collapses tend to go. And because the greatest force in human history, the mightiest of all, before which even the tallest empires crumble? Stupidity itself. Stupidity can lay to waste in days what’s taken centuries to build. Humankind knows no greater power. And so, as ever, it should’ve been something to always have been on guard against.