“History of men is the history of the continues replacement of certain elites as one ascends another declines, such is the real phenomenon, though to us it may often appear under another form.” (Pareto, 1968, p. 36)Vilfredo Pareto
Throughout the 244-year history of American Democracy, a total of 45 American Presidents have served, many of whom have made significant contributions on both a local and global level. From the likes of George Washington and James Madison, to Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson, and from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Donald Trump, numerous American presidents have wielded influence throughout the world. Notably, the American government’s capacity to impact the global political and financial climate has been contingent upon the American State System. This framework enabled the gradual increase in the political, military, and economic power of the US government.
This passage underscores the crucial role that the Great Depression played in American history, particularly in the context of its superpower hegemony. With 45 American presidents largely following the state tradition, institutionalization and the free market have both played pivotal roles in shaping American politics. However, the impact of the Great Depression, which caused widespread unemployment and affected all aspects of American life, led to Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932 with a mandate to end the economic crisis. This resulted in the adoption of the “New Deal” policies by Congress, which included regulations on the free market and provisions for significant job creation. The influence of this regulatory state model extended beyond the US, shaping government policies in Europe, Asia, and Australia. The rise of the social welfare state further broadened its impact until the late 1960s. This article aims to highlight the interdependence between social events and US presidential elections. Furthermore, the upcoming November 3rd election marks a critical moment in American history as its superpower status comes to a critical conjuncture for a long-time in its unique history.
Environmental Agenda of the 1970s and Reagan-Thatcherism
“The great question of the 1970s is shall we surrender to our surroundings or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air to our land and to our water.” (Nixon, 1970)Richard Nixon
The politicization of climate change and ecology movements, particularly in the media, political organizations, and society, can be traced back to the New Social Movements that emerged in the 1960s. While environmental and women’s activism has a long history, current ecological movements draw heavily from sources published in the 1960s and 1970s. For instance, ecofeminism emerged from the intersection of feminist studies and various struggles for social equality, environmental justice, gender equality, and race (Gaard, 2011). In 1962, Rachel Carson’s publication of “Silent Spring” brought the risks of chemicals to the forefront of public awareness. As evidenced by Richard Nixon’s quote in his 1970 speech, environmental activism gained traction in the 1970s and became an important item on the political agendas of countries. This illustrates how the historical context of the 1960s and 1970s played a crucial role in shaping the politicization of climate change and ecology movements today.
In contrast to Nixon’s environmental activism, Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, implemented an economic-focused political agenda that lacked emphasis on environmental awareness. Despite being members of the same political party and only a few years apart in office, their environmental policies were vastly different. Reagan’s actions included removing solar heaters from the White House roof and appointing EPA director Gorsuch Beauford, whose policies led to a significant decrease in the number of filed toxins. Reagan’s disregard for environmental concerns laid the groundwork for the current Republican political agenda. As a result, the 1980s marked the introduction of the de-regulatory state model by Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which shifted the focus from environmental awareness to economic policies.
Replacement of Power
The 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, adopted the electoral slogan “Make America Great Again!” which echoed the famous words of Ronald Reagan. Like Reagan, Trump sought to take America back to its supposed “golden age.” However, during Reagan’s tenure, the country was plagued by a financial system that saw banking crises erupt every decade. As a result, Reagan’s policies led to a world marked by growing inequalities, where fundamental values were transformed into mere commodities.
Reagan, considered by many as the most influential public figure in recent American history, paradoxically pursued a policy that eroded the nation’s hegemonic status over time. In the wake of China’s recognition by the International Labour Organization (ILO), US corporations flocked to the country, unleashing a torrent of American dollars into its economy. This move, however, bolstered China’s standing as a formidable rival during a pivotal period of American dominance.
It is important to highlight the United States’ disengagement from the Middle East, which was initiated under Obama, as the country’s investments in East Asia have risen. Nevertheless, despite apparent alignment among Democrats and Republicans concerning China, a consensus on the matter has not been reached. For instance, Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, recently addressed voters in Pennsylvania in support of Joe Biden. During the meeting, Obama criticized Trump’s ability to lead the country effectively.
Furthermore, Obama implicated Trump of conducting business with Chinese entrepreneurs and possibly concealing his wealth in China. While Trump and his Republican associates harbor suspicions of the Democrats’ delayed involvement in the Chinese predicament, the Democrats, in turn, accuse Trump of failing to enforce sanctions and causing the shutdown of the American economy.
It is crucial to consider the potential consequences of implementing the policies on the Democrats’ Agenda. Such actions could lead to the devaluation of the American dollar, a loss in market value for American products, and potentially, middle-class white Americans could face unemployment. These factors indicate that the Chinese issue is not only a foreign policy concern but an internal problem for the US as well. In contrast, the Republicans might adopt policies that appear neoliberal but are essentially nationalist, intending to strengthen China while keeping the money inside the states. However, it is necessary to reevaluate America’s economic policies to ensure its continued economic strength and prosperity.
In summary, the majority of American presidents who have served since the War of Independence have exerted a global influence on people and countries. Their policies were shaped by the political, social, and economic climate of their time. Many presidents were able to secure their victories and strengthen the country with the help of US institutions and a free market economy. However, when it comes to competing with China, free market rules may not be favorable to the US economy. Therefore, the upcoming election may be a critical juncture in American history, as the next president must recognize this financial shift towards China and adopt a new approach to economics in order to secure America’s hegemony. In line with Pareto’s theory, it is inevitable that this superpower will eventually relinquish its authority to a stronger “lion.” As such, any leader seeking to maintain its hegemony must understand the economic landscape and adapt accordingly.
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Gaard, G. (2011, November 2). Ecofeminism Revisited: Rejecting Essentialism and Re-Placing Species in a Material Feminist Environmentalism. Feminist Formations(23), 26-53.
Macgregor, S. (2013, October 11). Only Resist: Feminist Ecological Citizenship and the Post‐politics of Climate Change. A Journal of Feminist Philosophy. doi:10.1111/hypa.12065
Nixon, R. (1970). President Richard Nixon on the Environment in 1970. United States of America: Dorst MediaWorks.
Our Changing Climate. (2017, June 23). Why is climate change so political? October 1, 2020 tarihinde https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8MOJAMbzKs adresinden alındı
Pareto, V. (1968). The Rise and Fall of the Elites:. New Jersey: The Bedminister Press.
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