US is moving from being small government to anti-government
Published: Jul 06, 2022 07:22 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

When a New York Times op-ed called Donald Trump an "American monster" (by Maureen Dowd, June 11, 2022), those of us across the Pacific who still have some interest in US politics have actually looked beyond Trump and have begun to examine with more interest why American politics has produced such a "monster."

The US, which created this "monster," seems to be gradually exhausting the resources that made it strong - the administrative capacity of the government and the trust of the people in it.

This is the painful reality that US President Joe Biden must face in Washington after his grand speech at the NATO summit in Madrid on NATO expansion.

Biden's trouble is not just to remove Trump's influence and prevent him from being able to reassert himself as a challenger in the next election. Biden also has to face the fact that the US Supreme Court this summer launched a historic assault on liberty rights with such impact that many feel the White House is so powerless that it could not possibly be able to lead this country to greatness again.

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had protected abortion rights since 1973, struck down restrictions on gun ownership, and restricted Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate carbon emissions.

In modern times, the Supreme Court has often acted as a brake or corrective to the White House, but now the court has begun to go on the offensive in the direction set by the right. It is certainly not just the Biden administration or the Democratic administration that is being shaken, but the "foundation" of the White House.

Some of the commentary on the Supreme Court speaks of a broad shift to the right in the US, but the shift to the left is just as broad, and the divisions are growing and spreading, and no one believes that the government is capable of bridging such vast and deep divisions.

The congressional investigation into the attack on the Capitol has brought to light the facts about who is running the US government. Not only were Donald Trump's closest associates involved in the planned attack on the Capitol, but many in the Republican leadership were involved. Dozens of top Republicans knew about the plans for a violent coup, but said nothing.

Democrats want to use such hearings to completely kill Trump's political career and deal a crushing blow to the Republican Party as well, but the upshot of things could be that confidence in the US government has been greatly eroded, regardless of whether it is led by a donkey or an elephant.

Public trust in government has plummeted over the past half century. In the early 1960s, more than 7 in 10 Americans said they trusted the government to do the right thing all or most of the time. In 2019, a Pew Research survey found that only 17 percent of Americans expressed this view.

"The competency of government to serve as an instrument of policy delivery has been weakened substantially. One of our long-term tasks is to rebuild that capacity," said William Galston, a scholar from the Washington-based Brookings Institution, the Washington Post reported.

Biden is not unaware of the problem, as the huge investment bills he has proposed since entering the White House have been government-led and even seem to be taking a page from China. But the implementation of these bills faces a political ecology that will continually weaken its implementation capacity. His dream of becoming the second great Roosevelt president in American history is still far away.

Public opinion has been changing, and it used to be along the lines of the tradition of small government and big society, that is, what the government ought or ought not to do. What is happening now has become a question of whether the government is able to do. The recent Supreme Court rulings are another crushing blow to the ability of US government.

As we see the US taking a leading role on the world stage, directing the Western world against Russia and besieging China, we should also pay more attention to the "foundation" of the White House and its leadership.

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina