“Winners never quit, and quitters never win,” spoken by the great Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, was stenciled on the wall of our High School locker room. At the time I thought it was just something the coaches had painted on the walls to make us feel guilty about our abysmal win/loss records. We were pretty bad. We never quit, but we seemed to win rarely.
Once I became a middle-aged man with a family, and owner of a business, I realized the true meaning of those words. America has always been a highly competitive place. Look whom we idolize, we revere the person who can throw a ball best, or run the fastest.
We hold the successful in high esteem, and we tend to ignore mediocrity. Those who have not “won” we tend to ignore. That is a downside of being an American. We say we reward those who make an effort, but that is not entirely honest. We demand success.
That is the American character. Is that changing?
America is changing greatly. The change has been going on for awhile. The partisans are quick to say, “Oh, it is because of Trump.” Partisan arguments often are based on narrow situation analyses, constructed not to illuminate, but to take a jab.
The exact day that America started to change was November 9, 1989. That is the day the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet house of cards began to collapse. With a crumbling empire and economy, two years later on December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. America found itself without an enemy.
There are many parallels between the post-Soviet era and the world in the wake of World War II. The world was in the grips of radical changes. The freedom Americans had fought to spread took root, and suddenly the world canvass changed. Economies needed rebuilding, new alliances formed. Wars and civil war erupted as power vacuums filled. The focus of America on The Evil Empire shifted. Our enemies became our friends, and some of our friends whom we had used in the cold war became our enemies.
American leadership thought it would be business as usual. It was not business as usual, and now America is changing. Is that change in our best interests, and does the new dynamic indicate a fundamental change in our character as a nation?
Is a cold war superpower an anachronism in today’s world? Whether they asked it consciously or not, the Republican Party posed the question and seemed to have answered yes, it is a dinosaur. My flag-waving nationalist fellow countrymen and women will take umbrage to that statement. Their policies, actions, and behaviors bolster my claim.
However, this goes deeper than politics; it cuts through to the very fabric of America.
The 20th Century has been dubbed, “The American Century,” marking the domination of America in politics, foreign policy, trade, and industry. What about the 21st Century, what has it meant so far to America?
So far the American 21st Century is notable for our decline in global influence. Our twin wars for revenge Iraq, and Afghanistan has produced a less stable, more radical Middle East. The attacks on September 11, 2001, exposed our weaknesses to the world. A handful of men armed with box cutters brought profound change to the world’s remaining superpower. Our military might was no challenge for their cunning.
America went from Reagan’s shining city on the hill, to a bully in the eyes of many. Barack Obama saw the transformation and tried to make amends with the Cairo speech early in his Presidency. The Obama Administration was different from that combative Bush Administration. Mr. Obama’s speech won admiration, and a Nobel Prize, but the world had moved on, and increasingly it moved on without America.
Mr. Obama did not have much of an appetite for foreign policy. For the first time in 100 years, America led from behind. Barack Obama was interested in domestic issues and put the bulk of his Presidental focus there.
The Wall Street Journal reports that America is losing our dominance in technology investment. In the 1990s, well over 90% of global high technology investment funding came from Americans and invested in Silicone Valley. This year, Americans account for 40% of high tech funding, with a new rival, China, who is matching us. China, combined with Japan and other Asian countries account for the majority of high-tech investment.
Technology has driven the U.S. Economy for the past 30+ years. Is this investment decline indicative that America now is not up to meeting the challenges of our new rivals? Along with the new distaste for globalism that has emerged in the GOP in the past decade, are we saying that we just are not up to the job?
I would hate to think so. However, I did not expect the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan to turn to protectionism. I used to skewer retired Missouri Congressman Dick Gephart (D) for his protectionism. Congressman Gephart is a loyal Democrat and will never admit it in public, but I bet he is enamored with the Donald Trump trade policies. They are right up his alley.
America is changing. The American political class like to use the word “return” quite a bit. There is no returning when it comes to politics. History has shown, there is only forward.
Are we merely catching our breath, and will rise to the challenges of this New World Order? The conspiracy-minded in the ultra-right hate the term New World Order, but whether they like it or not, that is what is happening before our very eyes. The only question is will we be the champions or victims of the change?
One thing is sure; we will not win the day by quitting and becoming isolationists and protectionists.
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Tags: America is changing, American decline in influence, Barack Obama, Berlin Wall, China, declining American investment in high tech, Dick Gephart, Donald Trump, isolationism, nationalism, New World Order, post-Soviet, Protectionism, Republican Party, Ronald Reagan, The American Century, trade, Trade Policy, trade war