Megalomania & Small-Mindedness: How America Lost Its Identity: Reporter Holger Stark spent the past four years as DER SPIEGEL's Washington correspondent ... What led this once mighty nation into decline?
On a frigid January evening one year ago, I was standing in a line of around 1,000 people in Burlington, Vermont, to see Donald Trump. At the entrance, security personnel patted us down and asked if we were planning on voting for Trump. Only those who said yes were allowed to proceed.
In the fatherland of capitalism, anger with the elite is so vast that even leftists would rather vote for a narcissist billionaire than a veteran of the political establishment. In a country that values freedom of opinion higher than almost any other country in the world, there were now attitude tests prior to admission to political rallies. And many Americans, who are otherwise so polite, lose all restraint when confronted by those who think differently.
Everything that I associated with America seemed no longer to apply on that evening in Burlington. What had happened to this once-proud country? This self-confident country that has spent decades exporting its values with imperialist hubris has lost its identity. Democratic capitalism no longer works well enough to keep together a country of 325 million people and to guarantee domestic peace.
The secret to the country's success was not just that societal cohesion was anchored by one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, but also by the promise of advancement inherent in the American Dream. The result was an extremely powerful country that seemed unlimited in its possibilities. It wasn't always attractive, and sometimes it was downright ugly, but the U.S. was always the country that the rest of the world looked to. America proudly led the way.
The America of today has lost faith in its own superiority. It has become a regressive country that is turning its back on the world.
Former NSA head Michael Hayden explained to me why I was unable to get an appointment at the White House. Many American journalists can be influenced by applying pressure, he said, but it's more difficult to do so with foreign journalists.
Among Trump's most popular tirades is the one about how American airports are "like from a Third World country." And he's right. American streets are full of holes, its airports exude 1970s charm and every couple of weeks, a tree falls onto the overhead power lines resulting in hourslong outages.
People expect a minimum of functionality from a modern state. But over the last 30 years, the conservatives and neoliberals have worked tirelessly to destroy the state, which they see as a form of imposed socialist administration. They have made America weak.