I usually don’t write blogs based on political commentaries I read in the newspaper. But this time is an exception. In the January 8, 2024 edition of our local daily, The Boulder [Colorado] Camera, Fareed Zakaria had an opinion piece called “Americans Are Far Too Pessimistic about the Future of the Country.” Now I’ll admit out front that I’m a Fareed Zakaria fan, and not just because he is a fellow Yalie, although that helps. The truth is, he both thinks and writes like a highly successful graduate of an Ivy League school. Not only that, but he does something less and less the rule in the public writings of our opinion-makers: He cites data. His point is that American is doing really well in the world today, economically and in the opinion of other nations. Some examples: (1) Our economy grew by 5.2% in the third quarter of 2023, and the World Bank expects an overall 2023 growth rate to come in at 2.1%, which Fareed says is “substantially better” than “other advanced Western economies.” (2) Not only that, but real wages are up for American workers, and manufacturing jobs are exploding. (3) Fareed then cites the Financial Times to the effect that the U.S. has been outperforming Britain and the euro zone for 20 years in per-capita income growth. (4) Our technology sector, he continues, “dominates the world in a way that no other country ever has.” (5) According to a Pew Research Center survey, whom he cites, 22 of 24 countries have a (much) more favorable impression of the U.S. versus China in terms of contributing to international peace and stability...
He concludes by quoting a recent reference Republican Presidential contender Nikki Haley made about the good old days when she was young and “how simple life was, how easy it felt.” Okay, Fareed responds. Let’s go back 50 years in our country’s history and check. He names such then-current issues as the lost Vietnamese War, political troubles in Europe and Israel, OPEC’s oil embargo and the resulting Stagflation, race riots in our cities, Watergate, and the first and only resignation in August 1974 of a U.S. President. “Ah yes, the good old days, when life was simpler” is Fareed’s sarcastic conclusion.
There is of course nothing new about the out party painting the current national situation under the leadership of their rival party as going to hell in a handbasket. From there they assert how if only they are returned to office, they will turn things around and make our country great again. By contrast, Fareed argues that, despite public dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the U.S. today, the reality is just the opposite. The country is in a good way and getting better on a whole variety of indices. In effect, he argues that we as a nation have always had difficulties, both domestically and internationally, but have somehow inevitably managed to live through them and do well. As the refrain of a 1,000+-year-old Anglo-Saxon poem puts it, “That passed over and so will this.” In short, forget about MAGA. The more accurate slogan for our country today might be KAPA, “Keep America Great Again,” which sounds a bit like the last word in the name of the society that honors America’s best and brightest college graduates: Phi Beta Kappa.