Decline and Fall of the American Empire?

The Guardian is running an interesting story on its site describing an emerging consensus in the financial markets that we’re witnessing the beginning of a real decline in American power and influence in the world — the kind of decline that Britain suffered after World War II, the end of an empire.

I hate the idea of an American empire with a passion, but it does appear that we’ve embarked on making it a reality.  Fifty years of gradual erosion of republicanism in America have resulted in a true imperial Presidency — the President can take us to war essentially with anyone he pleases, without consultation or approval from Congress.  Congress still holds sway on domestic issues, but thanks to gerrymandering of the redistricting process, the vast majority of Congressional districts are “uncompetitive”, meaning the incumbent is virtually guaranteed to win re-election.  This has become so widespread that one group is even claiming they can predict the results of the 2004 election — that’s right, next year’s election — for 350 House seats (out of 425) with a 99% degree of confidence.  The House, which was supposed to be the chamber closest to the people, has instead become a type of de facto House of Lords, elected for life.  So much for democracy.

Is this an American Empire?  Not yet — but a Presidency unfettered by checks and balances and a Congress unresponsive to popular will is pretty close to it.  We as citizens have to step up to the plate and make our voices heard if we’re going to avoid taking the final steps towards the end of the American republic.

In these times, it’s useful to remember the words of John Adams:

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.

Adams was cautioning us so that America would not become another example in the list of failed republics. One wonders if there’s anybody in Washington who is still listening.