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From Riots to Reform in America

Mass protests and rioting following the killing of yet another African-American by a white police officer have compounded multiplying crises in the United States. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, a looming economic depression, and persistent racism, the American social contract has never been in more need of reform.

MEXICO CITY – The wave of anger and indignation sweeping the United States in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis policeman exposes the myriad contradictions of American society. With a presidential election less than six months away, the US is gripped by despair and violent polarization. Yet if one looks through the triple crisis of COVID-19, economic depression, and mass protests and rioting, one can glimpse enormous potential opportunities.

As I show in my new book, America Through Foreign Eyes, since the US ceased to be a middle-class society, starting in the early 1980s, it has been incapable of thriving. Without a full-fledged welfare state, it has consistently failed to adapt to a fundamental shift in its founding paradigm. Its Athenian-inspired political system was built for a society that treated everyone within the circle of enfranchisement as roughly equal, while excluding many others whom it deemed “less equal” (to borrow from George Orwell’s biting description of Bolshevism). The out-groups included women, Native Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and many others.

As a result of these founding conditions, the US political system has long proved ill-equipped to retool its safety net, let alone its broader social contract. To take the most recent example, consider then-President Barack Obama’s attempts to fix the US’ deeply flawed and dysfunctional health-care system. Though the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, it contained many loopholes and half-measures, and has since been systematically undermined by Donald Trump’s administration.

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