America Gripped by Crises

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-10-5-16
V. Pechatnov (,
Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (MGIMO University), 76, Vernadskogo Prosp., Moscow, 119454, Russian Federation

Abstract. The article presents an analysis of the critical state of the U.S. on the eve of 2020 elections. The current American predicament is described as a combination of several crises that have been accumulated over the years – social, political and the crisis of identity. The social crisis is rooted in a glaring income inequality and downward social mobility, changing racial-ethnic composition of American society that raises the prospect of white minority, and a growing value gap between traditional and “progressive” post-materialist morale. These cleavages result in political polarization in which increasingly secular/liberal, racially diverse, young and urbane Democratic Party confronts increasingly conservative, traditionalist, rural and white-nativist Republicans. The U. S. political system designed for bipartisan consensus and compromise gets stalled in this polarized environment with the two-party configuration itself becoming a built-in destabilizer. The political crisis was coupled with the crisis of traditional American identity based upon its WASP core. This combustive combination created a fertile ground for a white nationalist revival attempt expressed in Donald Trump phenomenon. Trump’s formula of success as a president became a mix of traditional economic conservatism and right populist stance on social and cultural issues to cultivate his electoral base. His policies aggravated social and political polarization: inoculated by right wing populism, the Republican party became more nativist and protectionist while the Democrats turned left. Yet this formula worked out politically until the double crisis of 2020 – the Coronavirus pandemi and mass protests over George Floyd’s murder – struck the country. Trump administration’s inept response to the former and brutal treatment of the latter turned the bulk of the country against him. The incipient left turn was accelerated while Trump exaggerated the threat of disorders positioning himself as a law-and-order president. The Democratic party incorporated some of the protests’ demands and worked out left-of-the-center election platform. As a result, both sides diverged further to the point where neither would be likely to reconcile itself to its electoral defeat. Though in the long run the prevalence of the liberal multiracial majority seems inevitable, the current polarization is likely to endure for a fairly long time.

Keywords: political polarization, American identity, right wing populism, Donald Trump, 2020 presidential election


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For citation:
Pechatnov V. America Gripped by Crises. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2020, vol. 64, no. 10, pp. 5-16.

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