America, more than any other nation, was founded on an ideal of exceptionalism. Limits were for the "Old World." Here in the New World, as the saying went, "the sky is the limit." For nearly 300 years--from Jamestown in 1607, until the disappearance of the frontier at the end of the 19th century--the country expanded physically.
The Civil War of the 1860's made the nation an industrial power. The expansion of railroads across all of North American, in conjunction with the defeat of the South's agrarian economy, gave the nation a continental scale economy. By the 1880's the US had become the largest industrial power on the planet.
For the next hundred years its industrial economy continued to expand. By the middle of the 20th century the "American Dream" of mass middle class prosperity, centered upon suburban home and car ownership, an endless supply of consumer goods, along with plentiful, cheap food, had arrived.
However by late in the century--the 1970's and "80's--the American economic engine began to falter. This was due to foreign competition from the skilled and disciplined workforces of nations such as Germany and Japan, producing quality goods from ultra modern new factories built upon the bombed out rubble of WWII. It was also due to the ever accelerating outsourcing of American industry and jobs overseas where through labor arbitrage, goods could be produced more profitably. And so America's once vast manufacturing economy hollowed out into a "McJobs" service economy.
Energy prices soared in the 1970's before declining, temporarily, again in the 1980's and "90's. Mounting environmental damage became ever more apparent during these late century decades. However, people's economic angst became incendiary during this period. Energy and environmental concerns were perceived to be of secondary importance.
Government was increasingly captured by globalized corporations, whose sole interest was wealth maximization for their elite owners and controllers. With the rise to power of Bill Clinton and his corporatist "New Democrats" in 1992, the capture of the American government by multinational corporations and financial interests was effectively complete.
Throughout this period, from Reagan's "Morning in America" theme onwards, as threats to the American Dream mounted, the American people--most of them anyway--made it clear that they wanted their American Dream maintained at any cost. And politicians of both corporatist parties promised to do this. Speaking at the Earth Summit in 1992, then President GHW Bush rejected environmental constraints on the US economy bluntly asserting "The American way of life is not negotiable." This became the mantra for both political parties.
A skilled magician does not, of course; actually perform "magic" causing, say, a rabbit to suddenly materialize inside of a hat. Rather he or she relies on misdirecting the attention of the audience, so that they fail to see what is actually being done surreptitiously by the magician. This leads to the perception that "magic" has occurred.
Similarly, over recent decades, corporatist spin meisters and their bipartisan politicial whores continually reinforced the idea that maintenance of the American Dream required the progressive evisceration of government regulation of the economy in conjunction with reduction of taxation on corporations and the very wealthy.
Essentially, the people were convinced that preserving their standard of living required ever greater corporate control over government in tandem with ever lessening government regulation and taxation of corporations. The more that the avaricious profit-seeking of the elites undermined the American economy, the more that the victims, the American people, were conditioned to cry out for their victimizers to be given still greater power, with ever fewer constraints, upon its self-interested exercise. Predictably, as the rich got richer, everyone else become poorer, had to work longer, were ever more financially insecure. Which occurrence, in its turn, generated more pressure to further empower corporations at the people's expense--both literally and also figuratively.
So here we are in 2009. "Change you can believe in" has been shown to mean limited change, if and only if, it benefits corporate interests. The hijacking of the health care legislative process in Congress is exhibit A. The apparent demise of even a watered down cap and trade environmental and energy bill is exhibit B. Elected politicians do not control our political and economic system, they are controlled by it.
Absent a revolution, of, for, and by the people, the corporatists will continue to control our political system. As most Americans fervently seek to maintain the American Dream status quo, logically they will only revolt when that status quo has been undermined.
Given their corporatist media brainwashing such a revolt would represent a conservative attempt to restore the vanishing status quo. In other words, the aim of the revolt would be to fully empower a corporatist system. In plainer words still, fascism would finally "flower" in America.
If military conquests of oil lands allowed for a few crumbs to be distributed to the population, fascism American style would actually be popular initially. After all the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have proved that Americans care nothing for the deaths of vast numbers of foreigners so long as wealth, comfort and security are preserved here in the "homeland."
Both Democrats and Republicans are heir to a 400 year old belief system which includes absolute faith in "free" markets to deliver prosperity. Both subscribe to the belief that the economy can expand endlessly. They believe that this expansion can be accomplished without significant damage to the planetary biosphere. They accept without question the axiom that "America is the greatest country in the world."
What though accounts for this presumed greatness? Is it our lack of a universal health care system--something all other wealthy countries--and many poorer ones such as Costa Rica, have? Is it our skewed, uneven distribution of wealth in favor of the rich over everyone else? Perhaps it's our possessing the largest number of prisoners of any nation on the planet? In any event this belief is an axiomatic embodiment of the idea of American exceptionalism which began 400 years ago. We need to realize that ideals are one thing. Actually living up to those ideals is something very different.