America is more divided today than at any time since the end of the Civil War. But why?
In reaction to neoliberalism, the “War on Terror,” increasing immigration, and the Great Recession in 2008, a new era of populism has arisen in America which has increasingly cast doubt on the wealth and power of American elites. American neopopulism since the 1990s is marked by an increasing skepticism of the intentions of the federal government, big corporations, technology giants, the news media, and in some cases even distrust of other groups of Americans.
On the political Left there was the rise of the Green Party in the late 1990s, the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, and the “Democratic Socialism” of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020. They each demanded accountability for the recklessness of American financial institutions and their complicity in shaping the policies of both the Republican and Democratic parties to serve corporate interests rather than those of ordinary Americans. Also on the Left was the rise of identity politics, and the Black Lives Matter movement which demanded social justice for police brutality and the unequal treatment of black Americans in the justice system.
On the political right, there was the militia movement in the 1990s; the rise of conservative cable news, right-wing radio, social media, and Internet discussion forums; the folksy demeanor of Alaska governor Sarah Palin (John McCain’s running mate in 2008); the Tea Party movement and their attacks on Barack Obama, the first black president; the various groups who supported Donald Trump in 2016, those who denied the 2020 election results, and led a violent siege at the US Capitol Building on 6 January 2021.
So, for the third paper, please answer the following question: What caused the rise of neopopulism in America since 2008?
Here are some possible questions to think about:
Is neopopulism a fear of the loss of an American identity? And if so, what is the nature of that identity?
Is neopopulism a realization that “American exceptionalism”—the idea of the uniqueness of American values such as freedom, democracy, equality, or justice—has lost its meaning?
Is it a growing sense of disillusionment in the idea of the “American dream” of prosperity, home-ownership, or economic success?
Is it the seemingly irreducible forms of social, economic, or racial inequalities which have permeated the American experience in one form or another for centuries?
Is it that Henry Luce’s idea of the “American Century,” of American global leadership has come to an end?