Face It: America Is a Failed State; Its “Leaders” Have No Legitimacy

More and more I’ve been thinking of the United States as a “failed state.” We’re in need of that revolution Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence saw as necessary when a government fails to meet the needs of its people.

Wikipedia defines a failed state as “a political body that has disintegrated to a point where basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government no longer function properly.”

To my mind, that definition fits our country exactly. Our government is absolutely gridlocked in terms of serving us. It can’t deal with minimum wage, healthcare, climate change, infrastructure, immigration, the threat of nuclear war, or voting rights.  

Moreover, the U.S. president is a criminal.  He routinely disobeys international law without a second thought. Think, for example, about his worldwide illegal drone assassination program. It amounts to a mechanized death squad – a gang of robot murderers. Mechanized or not, drone killers roaming the world like that completely contravene international law. That makes the president a criminal – a murderer.

But, of course, Mr. Biden not alone in such designation. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the same criminality has been embraced by all U.S. presidents going back at least to the end of World War II.

Do yourself a favor and listen to Chomsky’s words. He points out that since 1945, all 13 White House occupants have been indictable criminals. Each of them deserved imprisonment if not execution. As such, none of them enjoyed legitimacy.

On top of that, the Supreme Court is entirely dysfunctional too. I’m thinking in terms of rendering unbiased judgments. SCOTUS has been packed with right wing idealogues through a blatant process of hypocritical fraud. Two of them are credibly accused sexual predators. The ideology of those “justices” exactly mirrors that of the Republican Party, an organization that (again) Chomsky has nailed as “the most dangerous organization in the history of the world.”

The GOP merits that title, Chomsky says, because its climate change denial expresses a willingness “to destroy the prospects of human existence.”

By the way, with their tepid approach to climate change and their openness to nuclear war with China (shared of course with the Republicans) Democrats are not far behind their rivals. Such positions by the two major U.S. parties rob them ipso facto of any legitimacy.

That leaves ordinary citizens like you and me governed by . . . tyrants. Yes tyrants!

Remember the cry of our 18th century “founding fathers”: “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” Well, think about it: we’re all paying taxes, aren’t we?  But tell the truth: do the people in Congress represent our interests?

I’d say not. Clearly not.

Think about our interests. According to polls, a clear majority of us want a minimum wage of $15; we want Medicare for all, forgiveness of college debt, free access to college for all who want it, increased environmental protection, an end to forever wars. We want affordable housing, renewal of the nation’s infrastructure, daycare, and freer access to voting. Americans want the rich to pay higher taxes.

Each of those is an important issue that affects our daily lives. But our representatives don’t care. Instead, they move in the opposite direction. They give their rich donors tax breaks, deregulation of businesses, and privatized public property and services. They unquestioningly increase the military budget at every opportunity. And they do so even though “our” nation already outspends the ten next highest spenders combined! But then when it comes times for the programs we want, there’s never enough money.

On the election front, I’m even convinced that the Democrats care less about defeating Republicans than I do! How else do you explain their impotent dysfunction before state laws whose undeniable purpose is to disenfranchise the Democratic base itself?

Laughably, the Dems defend their limp surrender on the grounds that the Senate parliamentarian won’t let them do otherwise! Meanwhile, every one of us knows that Republicans would never (have never) eschewed any tactic underhanded or overhanded that would advance the interests of their wealthy base. But Democrats can’t bring themselves to act similarly. They’re too high minded, they want us to believe, and too interested in (one-sided) bipartisanship to stoop as low as their rivals. Please!

Turns out, however, that the real Democratic base is the same as the Republicans’.

In any case, we’re left without representation.

See what I mean about “failed state?” Our government is completely illegitimate at all levels, presidential, senatorial, representational, and judicial.

Time for a revolution. As I’ve argued before, the January 6th folks might not have been that far off.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

2 thoughts on “Face It: America Is a Failed State; Its “Leaders” Have No Legitimacy”

  1. Dear Mike,

    I enjoyed reading your post, and I have no problem agreeing with you statements, while at the same time totally admiring you straight forwardness.

    When a spade so obviously is a spade, then it seems right to call it so.

    However, the question for me is how do we deal with this predicament our country is in.

    Sadly, I am afraid we are so far gone that calling it a spade could easily become an invitation to open conflict.

    So, I try to go back the WWJ do? And even though Jesus was crucified as a revolutionary, I suspect his answer would be “…forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus in the CIM seems to give me the same answer, which I would interpret as relating to cosmic, not just worldly justice.

    I hope this doesn’t make you think I am a wimp?

    Your new friend,



    PS: The key problem as I see it, was foreseen by Thomas Jefferson when he said: “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic.”

    Sadly America today seems deeply dumbed down.

    PPS: Forgive me for elaborating on the “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” story through the attached piece.


    1. Thanks, Hans. I love Jonathan Livingston Seagull. And I’m so happy to reminded us of that wonderful book at our meeting. That first year I taught “Issues and Values” at Berea College (1974), the whole freshman class read and discussed Jonathan. Loved teaching that book. I agree with you about forgiveness. I have to keep reminding myself (as Ken Wilber would) that most of our “leaders” have not progressed beyond egocentric and ethnocentric consciousness. It’s not their fault that they haven’t yet reached (or refuse to grow to) worldcentric, much less the cosmic-centric consciousness of ACIM. Still though, criminals are criminals and need re-education along lines not provided by the prison system you’re so aware of. Ironic, isn’t it, that relatively petty crime is punished so severely, while those guilty of massive offenses including genocide run free, preside over governments, and are asked to share their wisdom on CNN.


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