Summary: The sands on the hourglass slowly run out for America’s Second Republic. Anyone who cares to look can see this in a thousand ways, large and small. Today we review one especially obvious indicator: Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions Poll and the dark trends it records. It’s time to bring the Republic to DEFCON 2.
And therefore never ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee — and thy nation.
— from Meditation XVII of John Donne’s Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624), slightly tweaked.
One constant during the ten years I’ve written is readers’ impatience with my warnings about the weakening of the Republic. Some say things get better then worse, a cyclical evolution as certain as the tides. Others say that things are always this bad, or this good — believing, like Zeno, that motion is impossible. Both are denials of history and display an unwillingness to listen to the winds howling around us.
Fortunately not all indicators of the Republic’s health are subjective. Gallup has run its Confidence in Institutions polls since 1973. They show two clear trends. First, our decreased confidence in the Republic’s democratic institutions and in the non-governmental institutions that are the ribs of the social fabric. Second, they show increased confidence in the authoritarian institutions of society. One need not be John Locke or Thomas Jefferson to see the likely consequences of this. Stand by for fascism or some other form by which the few use force and guile to rule the many who lack the confidence to stand together.
This one graph shows perhaps better than any the difference between the America-that-once-was and the New America. Confidence in churches down; confidence in the military up.
— John 11:35
Here’s the big picture
Note that “small business” and “big business” are not institutions or systems in the same sense as your church, or local school and criminal justice systems.
Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each institution.
Now for the bad news: look at the trends
These show a slow-motion collapse in our confidence in the institutions of the Republic.
Average percent of people saying they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in each institution:
|Years||Military||Supreme Court||Congress||President||Police||Medical||Criminal Justice System|
|2000 – 2009||74%||43%||22%||43%||59%||39%||26%|
|1990 – 1999||68%||46%||23%||46%||57%||39%||20%|
|1980 – 1989||58%||50%||33%|
|1973 – 1979||56%||46%||39%|
Nothing shows our fecklessness, our disinterest in the work of self-government, than graph of confidence in Congress.. Everybody knows the problem. Many laugh. Many bitch. Few work to fix this, although elections are held every two years. Nobody puts a gun to our heads in the polling booth. We are directly responsible for the people sitting in Congress. An inability to assume collective responsibility, to act together makes democratic government impossible.
Of course these trends did not fall like rain from Heaven. Many are the result of wealth applied intelligently over decades to the remold society. Or rather, erode of confidence in the Republic’s institutions, in ourselves, in order to break our society so that it can be remolded.
The long campaign against our schools shows the effectiveness of their work. It also shows that, despite conservative dogma, local control need not produce either accountability or efficiency.
A broken observation-orientation-decision-action loops is one one of our greatest ills, as it hampers our ability to see and understand — prerequisites for effective action. Here we see both a cause and effect of that broken OODA loop. The internet makes possible new and superior means of collection, analysis, and dissemination of information. Unfortunately the internet has developed in ways not necessarily to our advantage
There were those with great hopes for TV news. It seems to have provided employment for pretty guys and gals, but done little else for America.
See the Gallup reports
- Confidence in Institutions data
- Americans’ Confidence in Congress Falls to Lowest on Record — data by political party.
- Confidence in U.S. Public Schools at New Low — data by political party.
- U.S. Confidence in Organized Religion at Low Point — data by Catholics vs Protestants.
- Americans’ Confidence in Newspapers Continues to Erode — Data by political ideology.
- Americans Confidence in TV News by political party
For More Information about the New America
For updates see the Twitter Feed FabiusMaximus01 (see the follow button on the top of the right side menu). Post your sightings of the New America with the hashtag #NewAmerica.
Some posts about New America:
- America is the new Rome. Late Republican Rome (not the best of times), 13 October 2011
- What will replace the Constitution in Americans’ hearts? Let’s check for Fascism., 29 March 2012
- A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, 14 May 2012
- A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, not the ones we need (part 2), 15 May 2012
- Undercutting people’s trust in the Republic: another step to destroying the Republic, 27 August 2012
- Under the cloak of liberalism America slides to Fascism, 20 October 2012
- A third try at describing The First Step to reforming America, 28 May 2013
- Compare our New America to the America-that-once-was (a great nation), 12 June 2013
- Glimpses of the New America being born now, 18 June 2013
- The bad news about reforming America: time is our enemy, 27 June 2013