Will the United States ever grow up?
Clotaire Rapaille, anthropologist and marketing guru, has pointed out that the cultural code of United States is that of adolescence. Some of the typical adolescent traits include being self-centered, going from one extreme to another and taking an aggressive stance towards the world when it seems threatening. The metaphor is that of a boxing match.
The viewpoint of Mr. Rapaille often comes to mind as I follow the presidential debates while here in California. The entire country seems have become a giant boxing ring where the punch of one fighter is always expected to be followed by a knock-out return punch by the opponent. So, as in a boxing match, the presidential contention has become a constant stream of episodes with taped lewd talk, testimonials by mistreated women, accusations regarding lost emails, threats to jail the opponent once in power and so on. The fighting takes place in and around the boxing ring with the crowd eagerly commenting on each of the fighters’ moves.
Recently in a radio interview, a great political critic, Noam Chomsky, made an interesting analysis of how the U.S. political landscape has changed. He pointed out that democrats have moved where conservatives once belonged and that the conservatives have actually moved off the spectrum. In other words, the conservatives have moved so far to the extreme right, defending the position of such a small minority, that they no longer are accessible to any significant portion of the American people. That is why they need someone like Donald Trump to gather the voters they can no longer reach with their declared policies. So the point is that a gigantic shift to the right has taken place in American politics. This is an extremely discomforting fact.
Another very strange aspect of the contention for the presidency, looking at it as a European, has to do with values. Last night on CNN, an evangelical turned politician was explaining how hard it is for a person like him to choose between candidates. While Trump has lost all of his moral credibility, Clinton is totally inconceivable to him because of her view on abortion.
Abortion? What has the abortion to do with the presidential election? Everything, I am afraid. The debate about abortion has caused a great, if not the greatest, political divide here in the United States. The is no denying that a woman’s right to pursue an abortion in the case of an unwanted pregnancy has never been as debated. Trump has said he would like to punish women who choose to abort a pregnancy and that he would push for a reversal of Roe vs. Wade (an old case of US Supreme Court decision on abortion).
In the majority of European countries these kinds of debates were concluded decades ago and in the majority of the countries, a woman’s right to choose is a no-brainer.
So, in order to understand this type of debate in U.S., we need to look at the global value chart of the sociologist Ronald Inglehart. In his chart of world values, you can observe that the United States is far more conservative than most of the European countries. Notably, the U.S. is much less secular than much of Europe. This explains the serious public debate in the U.S. about abortion and where the teaching of evolution should be drawn from science or the Bible? Again, this is something we are far beyond even discussing in Europe (if we ever discussed this in the first place).
But coming back to the point: my wish that this great country would one day grow up, have mature, sensible debates on a national, and yes, presidential level, that are based on facts, science, and truth, seek consensus and consider the greater good. Looking at the current presidential debates we’ve witnessed makes me think there is a long, long way to go.