This is the age of American pessimism, says Bret Stephens in The New York Times. There is progressive pessimism that the country is tilting towards Make-America-Great-Again “fascism”. There is conservative pessimism that institutions “from primary schools to the Pentagon” have been captured by wokeness. There is “Afro-pessimism” that black people are being held back by “systemic, ineradicable racism”. And there is the pessimism of the white working class that their country is being hijacked by “smug, self-dealing elites” who view them with contempt.
So why am I still an optimist about America? Because although we may be bent, “our adversaries are brittle”. As his war stutters on, Vladimir Putin is discovering that the powers to “humiliate, subvert and destroy” are far weaker than the powers to “attract, inspire and build”. In Shanghai, more than 25 million people are trapped under strict lockdown, a “real-world dystopia” in which drones haunt the streets warning residents through loudspeakers to “control your soul’s desire for freedom”. But just as these dictatorships boast of their strengths and hide their weaknesses, democracies do the opposite. “We obsess over our weaknesses even as we forget our formidable strengths.” But we should remember our long record of “defanging right-wing demagogues, debunking left-wing ideologues, promoting racial justice… and reinvigorating the American ideal”. Those in less free societies are not so lucky.