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The Contender
Con (against)
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The Current Election is Evidence That The United States is Crumbling

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/20/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 790 times Debate No: 96309
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
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So Rounds First:

1) Acceptance/Opening Statements
2) Arguements
3) Refutations/Rebuttals/Elaborations
4) Closing Statements

My Opening Statement:

The current US election is a contest between malevolence and idiocy. One half of the country believes whatever they are told on television and look no further than the "feel good" message of a Progressive Politician, while the other half believes that a television personality, not known for any philosophical or political flair, is capable of managing the country. Although I continue to be supporter of the latter, this is not because I agree with him, but because I think he buys the population time to regroup and elect an actual Statesman (or Stateswoman).

I contend the reason for this is that the people of the United States have become so pseudointellectual and anitliberal. Instead, one party points to feelings to support their authoritarian vision while another party points to the Bible to support their authoritarian vision.

Essentially, this election is a symptom of a society which, although it was once based on democratic principles, is now heading on the road to dictatorship. I do not claim that this dictator will be one of the two politicians running, but that the policies they plan to enact (in addition to already existing policies) will be utilized by a future autocrat, who is, without a doubt, not too far down the road.


"If you had to choose a moment in time to be born, any time in human history, and you didn't know ahead of time what nationality you were or what gender or what your economic status might be, what time would you choose? Paleolithic? Neolithic? Ancient Greece or Rome? Medieval times? Elizabethan England? Colonial America? The 1950s? You'd choose today."

"We are fortunate to be living in the most peaceful, most prosperous, most progressive era in human history- it's been decades since the last war between major powers. More people live in democracies. We're wealthier and healthier and better educated, with a global economy that has lifted up more than a billion people from extreme poverty."

So spoke President Obama this spring and by any big picture, historical, objective analysis he's quite correct. This generation of Americans has real cause to be satisfied with their resiliency, proud of their outsized prosperity and influence in the world, and optimistic about their prospects in the 21st Century. This excellent 4% of the world's population hordes 25% of the planet's resources, compels a quarter of the world to do business with their currency, in their language, on their terms, dominates the seas with the largest navy by an order of magnitude, dominates the skies with the largest air force by an order of magnitude, maintains bases on every continent while suffering no foreign footholds on their own soil, exports American values and culture on a scale unmatched by any prior empire and enjoys a standard of living unmatched in human history. Whatever is to come, when chroniclers write their narratives of the early 21st century, they will begin and end their stories with the United States. If American preeminence does crumble now (as the law of entropy demands it must, eventually) it will only be because the American people now refused to perceive the American advantage, now refused to confront the challenge of the future, now refused to believe the American Dream.

In contradiction to Pro, I will argue that America is not crumbling, that this nation is as well positioned for future prosperity as any other if only we resolve, as generations before us have, to adapt and innovate in response to each new problem, to survive in unity in response to each new crisis.

I submit that Pro's thesis indulges in a self-reinforcing pessimism, unjustified by the present state of the Union or the uninspirational nature of the presidential race.

Case in point: Pro believes that the two front-runners for the are alike in authoritarian tendency but will vote for Trump to buy the people time until an "actual" (presumably less authoritarian) candidate can be elected. This rationalization fails on at least 3 measures:

1) By any objective test, Pro prefers the candidate demonstrating the most authoritarian vision of executive power- not just more authoritarian than any other candidate in 2016, but more authoritarian than any candidate since MacArthur.

2) If Pro truly believes both front-runners are unacceptably authoritarian in outlook, why not vote for another candidate?
Gary Johnson, for example, is a sufficiently qualified candidate running almost exclusively on a "weak executive" platform.

3) By definition, authoritarian governments suppress the advancement of rivals for leadership, so voting for an authoritarian contradicts the notion of "buying time" for a more perfect candidate.

Not only do I refute that both front-runners are alike in authoritarian promise, I also deny that any authoritarian tendency in a presidential candidate is always anti-democratic. A little authoritarianism is not necessarily undesirable in a presidential candidate: we are, after all, electing a Commander-in-chief, a chief executive. Like our justice system or our economic system, our Federal Govt is designed to be competitive and adversarial. Effective administrators tend to extend authority to the maximum extent, relying on effective judicial and legislative constraints to set the boundaries. Our best remembered presidents, Washington, Lincoln, FDR all exceeded their mandates in response to crisis. They are well remembered not because of their self-restraint but because they permitted constraint and surrendered power when the crisis had passed and their terms expired.

I contend that the strength of our democracy is less tested by the relative quality of presidential candidates than by challenges to our system of checks and balances. We may well be tested by constitutional crisis in the next presidential term. Whoever is our next president, calls for impeachment, nomination struggles, and profound political struggles are quite likely. The evidence Pro seeks will be found in degree to which the three estates play by the rules of engagement and respect the results.

The Roman Republic did not die because Julius Caesar refused to surrender his legions but because the SPQR was unwilling to unseat Augustus after the Civil War. Support for an authoritarian candidate does not necessarily prove a weaker democracy but failing to limit that president might.

In truth, presidential elections are far more potent symbolically than politically, a collective gesture of the National will. Reagan raised taxes and increased the govt by 8% but his presidency is nevertheless remembered as iconically "small government." Few questioned Bush 41's competency but he was denied a second term as an anti-tax protest. Obama's electoral appeal in '08 was primarily symbolic.

In this sense of the election, women- in spite of their long-standing majority in the electorate (and permanent majority in the population) are today afforded their first real opportunity to elect a representative from the ranks of that majority. To the extent that Hillary symbolizes the potential end of 240 years of disenfranchisement from the highest ranks of power for most of America, this election seems like the dawning of democracy, not collapse.

Pro's complaint is very traditional and rather tired- if no candidate promotes my particular agenda sufficiently, I am unrepresented and democracy has failed. But democracy does not depend on the perfection of ambitious politicians, we'd be long gone if it did. Democracy depends on our commitment to our fellow citizens- to sustain our institutions, to contribute our best, to protect one another, to be fair in prosperity and courageous in crisis, to survive together and teach the next generation how we survived. This Union will survive so long as we see ourselves as democracy's keepers.
Debate Round No. 1


Sources in Comments....

The United States as a Society and as a Civilization is crumbling. In fact, according to a study by professors at Princeton University, the United States is no longer a democracy, but is instead an oligarchy(1). In her opening statements, Con points out a few truths, but also a makes a few falsities....although these falsities are quite easy to believe. She praises the resiliency of the current generation of Americans (by which I assume she means Gen X and Millenials). This is actually quite false. Instead, that younger generation lives upon the shoulders of its predecessors, both figuratively and literally, as many of them are not yet property owners, earning itself the nickname "Generation Rent"(2). The influence held by modern Americans is purely based upon current economic splendor and military prowess; foreign peoples are either impressed by American wealth and want to copy its morals and ethics, or are afraid of bringing American wrath upon itself. Both of these reasons for influence are quickly vanishing:

As more migrant workers (legal or not) come into the country and send money back to their home country, jobs for Americans are lost to them. The H1B visa is the most cited example of this(3). The other problem of importing foreign technical workers is that American genius and capability is thus exported overseas, thinning the gap between American and foreign technological abilities. But these high paid STEM workers are not the only victims of migrant labor. Others who come in and take jobs that, as some would say, jobs Americans are unwilling to take, do take jobs that could be filled by Americans in desperate situations. High School grads looking for money to attend college or persons who have lost their jobs due to whatever reasons can no longer turn to more menial jobs, as those are taken by migrants. This is not a rant against immigrants, as that those individuals stay in the US and join the society, thus producing for the society (their money is often not sent back to their nation of origin and they do not return to that nation).

As for military prowess, the US military, although technologically advanced and currently the most powerful in the world, just had a major blow dealt to it. The insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan improved upon the Maoist Guerrilla(4) tactics used to force the US to a draw in Vietnam(5). The US, which possessed a vastly superior military force compared to the insurgencies in either of those two countries, lost in Iraq and has been forced to make an extended stay in Afghanistan. The reasons for this are several, not least of which was the poorly planned invasion of Iraq in the Bush Administration and the bumbled handling of both wars by the Obama Administration. Essentially, both presidents, neither one of which had extensive military experience (Bush was a National Guardsman(6) and Obama never served a day) decided that they were both superior commanders to the generals they had in place. The War on Terror, if all the conspiracy theories from both Right and Left are to be ignored, was one where generals chose to be politicians and politicians decided that they were generals. ISIS, if it can survive the onslaught of Russian, Syrian, and (quite possibly soon) Iranian troops, has shown the world how to defeat the United States in war. Merely make the war last too long for public approval and make it very expensive (the US did itself no favors by adhering to a policy of Nation Building).
As other rivals of the US take notice, they will realize that a combined effort of guerrilla warfare and conventional war will help to defeat a politically hogtied military. If the US military was unleashed and (not including any Weapons of Mass Destruction) its full force was allowed to be used, then no nation would dare to challenge it. But as it currently stands, many Americans do not want to see the horrors of war such as Abu Gharib, Guantanamo, or civilian casualties. To keep winning votes, politicians will acquiesce and put more undo political burdens upon commanders, who, in turn, will place that burden upon the fighting man himself.

Back to the concept of Oligarchy: con claims that the Roman Republic did not die because of Caesar but because of an unwillingness to unseat Augustus. In part, she is correct, but she neglects the cause of this unwillingness. The Patrician class (who had become wealthier and more powerful as Rome grew both in military and economics) had become quite Oligarchial. There arrived a vast divide between common working men and those wealthiest elites who rant the country. The Empire was obtained by Augustus, yes, but he did so because of the situation already in place long before Julius ever crossed the Rubicon(7).

As of right now, neither candidate appears to be an Augustus or a Julius Caesar (contrary to what most media outlets tell us), but both do represent the oncoming of such a character. One of them is from the higher echelons of big business, the other has done the bidding of Wall Street her entire political career(8).

Con, in her opening statements, points out that my opinion is an old complaint of not being represented because my ideology is not represented adequately enough. Although the point of a democratic-republic (which is what the United States is kind of supposed to be) is to have enough representatives that as many points of view are advocated for, I wholly concede that this is often not the case, even in a perfect world. However, before her brilliant closing paragraph, she serendipitously points the very flaw in American Society....

And I quote
"In this sense of the election, women- in spite of their long-standing majority in the electorate (and permanent majority in the population) are today afforded their first real opportunity to elect a representative from the ranks of that majority. To the extent that Hillary symbolizes the potential end of 240 years of disenfranchisement from the highest ranks of power for most of America, this election seems like the dawning of democracy, not collapse."

Instead of advocating Hillary's policies or achievements (which, let us not make that the subject of this debate) she simply points out the Hillary is a woman. How is it that all women are represented by her? She represents the platform she has taken politically, not every one sharing a biological characteristic with her.

To demonstrate the danger of this train of thought, we need only look at the various riots which have occured within inner cities, mainly among black populations outraged at the violent death of a community member at the hands of police (whether the dead individual was a criminal or innocent, armed or unarmed, is wholly inconsequential here). Such shootings, both justified as well as the actions of murderous police officers, have certainly taken place in the inner cities long before the events in Ferguson. I submit that the riots were actually a reaction to the sense of betrayal felt by very poor blacks in the inner cities after the first black president failed to deliver on his promise of "Change"(9). When he ran in 2008, there was a definite sense that he was going to bridge the gap between the races. Again, how will America's individual woman fare if the next president is female, when she doesn't represent her particular viewpoint?

So, I presume that Con (and anyone else reading this) does not simply want to see me crying and pointing my finger at society while offering not a single solution. May I humbly suggest the following: Political discussion should take place between friends and acquaitances. These need not be debates, but, for some reason, politics has become a taboo subject in polite discussion. Instead of engaging in discussion and possibly debate, people are merely happy sever ties with individuals who want to discuss politics. I don't mean to shove one's own ideology down every one else's throats, Progressives, Conservatives, Liberals, and Libertarians should discuss their similarities and differences.

Sadly, more people are perfectly content to discuss the TV shows last night and the weekend's football game instead of discussing current affairs and politics. People appear to have forgotten to civilly discuss political affairs in public, among their friends. To put this country back on the road of democracy, people need to be willing to civilly discuss things with one another. Since she put it so well, I am inclined to steal a line from Con. (Hope you'll forgive me): "This Union will survive so long as we see ourselves as democracy's keepers."



Pro's argument can be simplified to a single syllogism as:

P1: An authoritarian leader is evidence of a society in collapse.
P2: The candidates nominated by the two dominant political parties in the 2016 US presidential election are alike in that they promise a significantly authoritarian outlook.
C: Therefore, the current election is evidence that the US is crumbling.

Even if either premise proved true (neither is entirely true), there are at least two unspoken premises that must also prove true for this statement to work:

P3: One of the two front-runners will win the election.

This condition must prove true for the above premises to be true and can't be ascertained until at least Nov. 9th- nearly certain but still not yet proven.

P4: Candidates with authoritarian outlooks will be authoritarian leaders.

While a reasonable assumption, not inevitably true. Some authoritarians leaders leave democratic institutions relatively unharmed- Oliver Cromwell, FDR, Lincoln. Some authoritarians actually decentralize power and improve liberty- F. W. de Clerk, Gorbachev, Andrew Jackson. This assumption must prove true for the conclusion to be proven true but can't be assessed until either hypothetical president's legacy has been somewhat established- Jan 2021, let's say.

The projected nature of both conditions makes the thesis unproven but we need not wait to invalidate the argument since the more apparent premises are demonstrably false.

P1: An authoritarian leader is evidence of a society in collapse.

The major premise of Pro's argument is deeply ingrained into our Republic's mythology but even a casual historical survey quickly disproves this assumption. Americans tend to point to the American Revolution, to Hitler and Napoleon and say, "the rise of authoritarianism presages a fall." But most of the world's largest and most enduring civilizations were predicated on the legitimacy of authoritarian rule from beginning to end: Egypt, Persia, the Mongols, the British Raj. However much we admire the Roman Republic or the Greek Demos, we must admit that those societies achieved peak influence, peak prosperity long after democratic institutions were suppressed in favor of authoritarian governance. China has maintained its position as the most enduring and most populous civilization for over 4,000 years in spite of a highly authoritarian tradition of governance. In the bigger picture, the American experiment dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal is still in the trial and error phase, still being defined and developed and tested. The pendulum has decidedly swung towards freedom over the past century but democracy still can't be said to have yet proven the more sustainable system.

As I said in the first round, the strength of democracy is not demonstrated by an ability to deny the ascendance of authoritarian figures. Even a strong democracy requires an occasional adjustment in the balance towards more consolidated power in response to crisis. The strength of democracy is demonstrated by the constraints placed upon those consolidations and the capacity to restore liberties to the balance when the crisis has passed. Democracy took a hit when the US confined Japanese-Americans to concentration camps in 1941 but was renewed by reconciliation and reparation in the decades after WW2. So it was with the Civil War, with slavery, with indigenous peoples. Guantanamo Bay and the drone campaigns are present stains on our ideal nature but so long as we determine to correct and denounce these faults, our society need not be permanently diminished.

The advantage that this resiliency has over authoritarian prophylaxis is the accommodation of the useful brute, the philosopher king of Plato's Republic. Sometimes, the intransigence of the contrary, the baloney of the bureaucrat needs to be overcome by decisive action. So long as the people can reject that power, make philosopher kings into fisher kings, then democracy may be sustained or even improved.

Con refutes the assumption that the mere ascendency of an authoritarian leader equates to a crumbling society. Pro's major premise is not always true.

P2: The candidates nominated by the two dominant political parties in the 2016 US presidential election are alike in that they promise a significantly authoritarian outlook.

Even if the major premise were always true, the argument still needs to demonstrate that Trump and Clinton are both particularly authoritarian to establish an inevitable increase. Let's agree that some authoritarian tendency is implicit in any personality with the chutzpah to seek the lofty mantle of "Leader of the Free World." Ford was not particularly authoritarian but he pardoned Nixon in the face of popular condemnation. [1] Carter was not particularly authoritarian but he invaded Iran without consulting Congress. [2] Let's also agree that Trump projects a particularly authoritarian interpretation of executive power

However, I refute that Clinton can be likened to Trump in degree of authoritarianism. Nor would I characterize Clinton as particularly authoritarian. I assume that Hillary as president would prove no more authoritarian than her ex-presidential husband, likely to be more constrained by political opposition than Bill, and likely to be more restrained by caution favoring institutional norms.

Quite belatedly, let's introduce a definition of authoritarianism here and contrast each candidate by authoritarian characteristics:

"A form of government characterized by strong central power and limited political freedoms."

"Juan Linz's influential 1964 description of authoritarianism characterized authoritarian political systems by four qualities:

1. limited political pluralism; that is, such regimes place constraints on political institutions and groups like legislatures, political parties and interest groups;
2. a basis for legitimacy based on emotion, especially the identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat "easily recognizable societal problems" such as underdevelopment or insurgency;
3. minimal social mobilization most often caused by constraints on the public such as suppression of political opponents and anti-regime activity;
4. informally defined executive power with often vague and shifting powers." [3]

The Clinton team is just that- a team. Recent Wikileaks data has revealed a wide range of political advisors over-analyzing every position, over-editing every speech, vigorously debating the best move and the consequences. The apparent rise of her more critical advisors, like Podesta and Mook, over her cautious loyalists suggest a shift towards improved accountability in a hypothetical administration. As Clinton quipped last week, "it takes a village to write this joke."[4]
Trump, by all accounts, regularly ignores his advisors and contradicts his own campaign even his VP. Trump decision-making is done by a team of one and his inner circle is essentially his children.

Clinton's path to the White House has been fairly traditional: Yale lawyer and political operative for 50 years, Senator, Secretary of State, tested and experienced two-time campaigner. Her presidential potential has been recognized and anticipated for 20 years
Trump has no political credentials. His legitimacy is based on a TV character he once played. His candidacy is predicated on reactionary fears of exaggerated threats- immigrants, terrorists, urban violence, political conspirators. When asked to explain why he was running for president, Trump once responded, "I love America so much, I see what's going on with regulation. I see what's going on with the hatred that everybody has for each other. You look at Baltimore, you look at Cleveland, you look at all of the places just exploding. We have an African American president and we've never had it so bad." [5]

Suppression of Political opponents-
Clinton has history of being a team player. In this campaign she modified positions to satisfy the left (TPP, minimum wage) and negotiated with her rival Sanders to achieve his endorsement. After her loss in '08, she joined her rival's administration and in return now enjoys his full throated endorsement: "I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as President of the United States of America." [6]. As a Senator, she won the cooperation and approval of many political opponents. "I found her to be easy to work with, smart and willing to reach agreement on complicated issues," said GOP Senator Judd Gregg. ""I would think Sen. Clinton would have a lot more respect for the institution than Obama did," said former GOP whip Don Nickles. In fact, Hillary was confirmed by her old co-workers to be Secretary of State by a 94-2 vote. She emerged from her roles as FLOTUS and First Lady of Arkansas more popular during times of Conservative ascendancy. [7]
Trump, on the other hand, has left a tornado's trail of destruction behind his passage to power. Prominent GOP bulwarks like McCain and the Bushes refuse to be associated with Trump. He's openly battled with Ryan and Priebus and weakened the prospects of down ballot tickets. Some now question whether the Grand Old Party will survive Trump's candidacy. [8]

Vague powers-
Clinton was an actively engaged FLOTUS. She has experienced the mandate's "big stick" and acquiesced to the office's limitations. She knows the law and its limits and probably has some notion of what she can get away with.
Trump is demonstrably ignorant of most aspects of executive authority. Of the 21 actions Trump has promised to perform on his first day in office, most are not his job and many violate the Constitution. [9]

Clinton is not particularly authoritarian and certainly less authoritarian than Trump. The US can therefore reject authoritarianism by rejecting Trump, preventing the crumbled country pessimistic Pro predicts.
Debate Round No. 2


So first of all, I should like to sincerely apologize to Con for saying 'she' instead of 'he'. My fault and I apologize sincerely.

Second, Con, could you be so kind as to post a link to the speech you quoted from in your first post here? I would just like to see the full thing.

So on to the debate...

I was reading over our argument and see that it reads more like a debate about whether the observer should vote for Trump or Clinton, and I never meant it to be like that. I should very much like to debate that, but perhaps after this debate if the election is not over yet......

So, my main point, which I appear to have distracted this debate from, is that American Society is crumbling. The cartoonish nature of the current election is not the cause, but the symptom of the social rot.

So let us use them as evidence. First, we must strip both candidates of all things associated with them. We should not consider party or theory about them. Whether you wish to call Trump a racist or Clinton a criminal, for now, leave that behind. Whether you think mass deportation is unconstitutional or think, if Clinton should win, there will be an end to the Second Amendment, forget that as well. To understand why American Society is ill we must examine just two promises from each candidate.


Call it Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, a government power grab, boondoggle for the insurance companies, or the greatest piece of legislation since the Civil Rights Act, the current President's signature piece of legislation is a major point of contention this election, more so than it was in 2012. The reasons for this are as such: when the law went into effect in 2014, twenty five million people lost insurance coverage due to it(1). More recently, Pinal County, in Arizona, has no insurers and thus no one is covered there(2). Also, premiums are going to spike by 25%(3). Both Candidates have proposed measures to fix these flaws.

Clinton claims that although the law is at its core a brilliant piece of legislation, there are some major problems with it that were previously unforseen. In her words, she plans to revise it. She does not want to repeal it, as some Conservatives do, or replace it, as Trump promises to do. Her plan is improvement(4).

Trump wants to repeal and replace the bill. He recognizes that the need for some kind of Nationalized healthcare system exists, but also believes that the current Affordable Care Act is little more than a classic example of corporate cronyism; insurance companies lobbying for a law that restricts competition and divides the country into vulnerable sectors where only one ore two companies can sell a government mandated product. Instead, he proposes to force health care companies to compete across state lines. He also proposes that HSAs, essentially emergency bank accounts meant to pay for hospital bills, be granted to every American and those funds be untaxable. He also wants to make it so healthcare related costs, if paid by an individual, are considered tax deductable expenses(5).

However, the need for such legislation, whether it be an improved ACA or a usurping one, is an example of the illness of decline in American society. The people have lost a sense of National identity and with it, an urge to care for their fellow countrymen. As campy as it may seem to be, the old black and white movie "It's a Wonderful Life" depicts such a society, with community members rushing to aid a fellow man in need(6). Although this is an extreme example, there was a time when neighbors would help each other out of the kindness of their hearts. Although modern Americans might donate a good deal to charities in the third world, when a neighbor is evicted or forclosed upon, they merely gossip and say each man gets what he deserves. There is a great lack of National charity, and without it, there is a lack of a sense of duty that a Society needs if it is to continue existing.

This is a kind of deviation of "The Tragedy of the Commons"(7). Each individual is depending upon other individuals to take care of those in need. Usually, they expect that person to rely on various charities or the Welfare system to take care of them. However, corruption in some of these charites(8) tends to render them skeptical, and the Welfare system is commonly referred to as the "Nanny State"(9). However, this does not at all make the modern American open his own wallet to those in need, much less his door. He is capable of seeing the man in need only as a scam artist trying to make an extra buck or a potential criminal trying to take advantage of human sympathy to gain access to a home. He is unable to view that man in need as a fellow American. (PLEASE NOTE: I am not advocating for people to open their doors to complete strangers).

That is the one cause of this illness: a lack of a sense of duty towards one another.


Clinton, now that the race has reached a National level and she no longer has to contend with Senator Sanders, has capitalized on the plight of many younger Americans struggling to repay student loan debt.(10) Trump made his campaign about the outsourcing of jobs (And the insourcing, the H1B visas mentioned earlier).(11)

There are many on the Right who wish to paint those calling for college to be debt free as stupid socialist kids who don't want to work for a living. There are some, both Right and Left, who consider the unemployment and disenfranchisement of lesser skilled laborers as the Natural order of things, an event which is inevitable given economic improvement. However, it has not been asked (or it has not been asked by the right people) as to whether or not the banks are practicing usury, or whether it is philosophically moral (not economical, but fundamentally moral) for American businesses to ship labor overseas. However, these are questions for another debate.

What these two groups have in common, despite the vast amount of students opting to vote Democrat and the large swathes of unemployed laborers, primarily factory workers, who have pledged their support for the Donald, is that they both are demanding the right to produce. Students want to get a well-paying job so they can contribute some of their income back into Society, whether through spending or investing, and not simply repaying banks a good chunk of their income. Disenfranchised factory workers want almost the exact same thing. They want to be gainfully employed, earning their money, instead of having to swallow their pride, take a massive cut to their personal finances (much like the students saddled with debt) and come crawling to the welfare system for help.

However, what cause of social illness both of these two groups are showing is a lack of the same rugged individualism that built the United States. The original American settlers in the West went out, claiming plots of land and built their own houses, creating their own opportunities. I am not claiming that they should all go rough it in the wilderness Manifest Destiny style, but there are other options. To gain money for school, students could save every penny they earn at various jobs to help pay, while striving for scholarships. There is also the military option, i.e. the GI Bill for those who are qualified. Plenty of businesses offer work for school programs. Better yet, studying on one's own, learning as much as one can from books and free online sources can replace the need for a college education. Although there is no degree, one could still prove their mastery of the material. Likewise, the unemployed factory workers can still sell their abilities; they still possess a great of mechanical skill. They can form their own companies, producing goods using the same skills they utilized in the employment of larger corporations.

Both the indebted students and the laid-off workers both have the same illness: they expect others to create their opportunities instead of creating their own. And it can be done. Let's not forget a certain college dropout who developed a product that revolutionized the world and has turned him into a billionaire(12).


Perhaps the greatest problem of all is that people no longer talk about serious issues with one another. Instead, everything is expected to be small talk. People engage in meaningless discussions about the weather or sports, instead of issues of policy or politics. As a result, the country, and the Society, has become more and more polarized. So people instead view others who have opposing points of view as either unintelligent or radical. Instead of meaningful dialogue (dialogue as such as here on this site:) ) they opt to avoid people who want to discuss possibly touchy subjects.

So this disconnect between people, a lack of a sense of duty, and an expectation for the provision of opportunities are all why our Society is on decline.


Thanks, Pro- I've managed to lose my composition this evening and have only minutes to reconstruct. Rather than forfeit, I'll give you a couple of rebuttals now and hopefully I can mix in some more considered counter-arguments in my conclusion in R4

I have to admit that as Pro's argument diffuses through the rounds the crux of thesis becomes a bit elusive. If Pro will forgive the oversimplification, I'll try to pare us down to the essential:

Pro has concluded that the United States is crumbling and has offered a variety premises to support this conclusion.

In R1, the current election was presented as evidence of a weak electorate and portent of a future dictator.

My counter argument in R2 was that the candidates weren't all particularly authoritarian, that some authoritarian tendencies can be useful in leaders during a crisis and that the trick was reclaiming power after crisis. Besides, I countered, a future dictator does not necessarily equate to a nation in decline.

In R2, Pro conceded that the US is at present economically and militarily dominant. Pro argued that the current state of immigration is evidence of our faltering economy, while recent folly in the Middle East is evidence of our faltering might. Pro also argued that the US is an oligarchy.

In R3, Pro argued that American disconnection, irresponsibility and entitlement were further evidence of a US decline and recommended increased political discourse by way of solution.

I suspect that the largest differences between Pro and Con are questions of degree and import and relative optimism: the evening news vs. the history books. Pro identifies some genuine challenges for the current generation and concludes a great unraveling is inevitable. Con agrees that the US faces challenges but because we have faced similar challenges before with remarkable success Con sees no justification for pessimism; because we have overcome more difficult perils and survived stronger Con is optimistic that the US might continue to endure.


Less than 1% of Americans identify as exclusively American Indian or Native Alaskan, [1] which tells us that the overwhelming majority of the population is descended from some generation of immigrant population. Over 500 years, each generation with significant fluxuations in immigrant population mostly according to relative economic health. Waves of Irish, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican immigrants have immigrated, settled mostly in pockets of like nationality, struggled to synthesize, met resistance and eventually normalized- adding their culture, work, and children to great mix of Americans. Generally speaking, the ability to attract and synthesize immigrants is a sign of regional economic health. Con sees no reason to assume tha the same dynamic won't continue to apply. Yes, there is significant sharing and appropriation of American innovation, but that too has always been the case and the expansion of American technologies like the light bulb, the automobile, the television, the PC, the Internet, the smart phone has proved preponderantly beneficial to US economic dominance. Yes, it is possible that Americans will lose their technological edge but that is not yet so and needn't be so. In the coming decade, robotics, automated transportation, customized pharmaceuticals, sustainable energy solutions will transform every economy and require a complete redefinition of labor, health, energy. The US leads in all these technologies and has the capacity to maintain our role as leader during the coming redefinition or we can decide our nation is crumbling and let others take the lead. The choice is ours.


In the smaller, pessimistic picture, US ineptitude in Iraq, the rise of ISIS, etc can be seen easily portrayed as failures and harbingers of a more dangerous world. But in a larger sense, great powers are always losing smaller wars against entrenched regional powers. Think of how often Roman legions were overrun by Parthians, Celts, Dacians, Germans, Jewish revolts and civil wars. The strength of Rome was her willingness to return and impose her will. In the big picture, Iraq and ISIS are nothing new. We fought endless guerilla insurgencies during the Indian Wars, we suffered unwinnable asymmetrical struggles in the Phillipines, Korea, Vietnam, the Barbary Coast, which all shared with the Gulf War the assumption that a greater investment in destruction would have proved irresistible. But like the prior engagements the US had no vital objectives to achieve and walked away after spending more blood and treasure than was deemed worthwhile. Such adventures are expensive follies to be sure but we've survived many such follies before- why should Iraq prove especially fatal?
Debate Round No. 3


I see that you only had a short time to respond and recognize that. For that reason, I'll waive this part so you can elaborate more on immigration and military setbacks and any other points in your previous argument that you wish to expand upon. Just please do not bring in new topics. Thanks for the debate! I feel it was highly constructive and enlightening, and hope you feel the same way.


Thanks, Pro-

The poet Robert Lowell once joked, "In the end, every hypochondriac is his own prophet."

Pro's argument reminds me of a hypochondriac who, convinced his headache is a brain tumor, sees no reason therefore not to continue breakfasting on vodka and Cheetos. If we as a nation, at the height of our security, convince ourselves that we are crumbling, then fall we surely shall. The symptoms Pro presents to justify a diagnosis of America's demise are not new or particularly fatal but if we are intimidated into inaction by lumped up laments we may fail to seek the remedy.

In R1, the symptom of decline was the election- authoritarian candidates and unreasoning voters. Pro overlooked profound gradations in the candidates relative to that trait and expressed a preference for the most authoritarian choice- helping to fulfill his own prophesy.

In R2, Pro moved on to immigration and military folly as symptoms of decline. I countered that both concerns are commonplace to great nations in power. We should worry rather when people stop dreaming of an American way of life. We should worry rather when nations stop looking our way for guarantees of security.

Pro also offered evidence to suggest that the US is increasingly oligarchical against which I apply the same arguments as before. Is oligarchy new? No- in fact, I can think of few times in history when authority did not boil down to a small cadre of wealthy men. As always the question is degree. In a sense, Republics are oligarchies by design- certainly the Supreme Court is a judicial oligarchy, the Senate an oligarchical check on the more representative House. Are we more oligarchical now than the era of plantations? Are we more oligarchical than the era of Carnegie and Rockefeller? Does Google call the shots more now than did General Motors and AT&T in their day? I don't think so.

Yes, the current wealth gap is unsustainable in the long term. Yes, the billionaires enjoy outsized and unfair influence. But the oligarchs don't always win- net neutrality, the Keystone pipeline, Obamacare, the Paris agreement, the stall of TPP are recent populist wins over powerful interests. Trump's candidacy is certainly a kick in the teeth to the powers that be. Further, our oligarchs are too much in competition to be said to dominate- Jeff Bezos vs Rupert Murdoch, George Soros vs the Kochs, Trump vs Mark Cuban. Like authoritarianism, oligarchism is one of these habitual consolidations of power which our democracy is meant to balance and check rather than eradicate.

At the end of R2, Pro countered my argument that electing a woman as POTUS represented an increase in democracy, symbolizing an end to 240 years of disenfranchisement from that office for the female majority. Pro argued that voting for a woman because she was a woman embodied the problem with the electorate because she doesn't represent their interests. Pro went on to suggest that civil unrest in response to recent police abuses was an expression of Black dissatisfaction with Obama and to expect similar dissatisfaction from women regarding Clinton. Hunh? Obama's current approval rating within the Black community is 86%- a number few politicians get out of any constituency. [1] And no, women aren't confused about which presidential candidate represents women's priorities in healthcare, jobs, minimum wage, child care, education, climate change, and abortion. Even if she weren't a woman, Clinton's policies would be overwhelmingly more in line with the majority of women than Trump.

In R3, Pro offers 3 more symptoms of national decline: weakening civic duty, an increasing sense of entitlement, and interpersonal disconnection. Against each, I offer the same arguments as before- all of these are problems, none of these complaints are particularly new or particularly worse than in prior generations, none are necessarily fatal to the nation's prospects.

I'll refute that we are weakening in our sense of duty to one another. Charitible giving is at an all-time high, up 4.1% in 2015- $373.25 billion or an average of nearly $3000 per household. That just over 2% of GDP. [2] Volunteerism is down a point or two from historic highs in the years after 911, but roughly a quarter of Americans do some kind of formal volunteering. [3]

Pro argues that Obamacare proved necessary because of a breakdown in community networks. I would ask why Obamacare itself should not be seen as exactly the kind of community outreach Pro admires. We've capped the max annual cost of healthcare for most Americans, made some insurance possible for millions on the lowest economic rungs and made tens of millions eligible for insurance when before no insurer would take the risk. [4]

Pro misses the continuity of American community because of changes in scale and medium. He pines for the "Wonderful Life" days when communities pulled together to bail out failing bankers and bemoans the 2008 TARP plan, when communities pulled together to bail out failing bankers. These days, much of my neighborhood defines itself online. Lost dogs, garage sales, police blotter, zoning aporovals depend less of posted bills and public halls and more on apps. Last year, the neighborhood rallied to give a well-liked old-time neighbor a trip to Iceland, her lifelong dream. Perhaps digital neighborhoods are less personal but they're also less isolated, less racist, less conforming.

I also refute that our generation is particularly dependent. Pro points to unemployment insurance and student loans as evidence of a lack of rugged individualism. Well, it's easy to forget that until the 20th century, rugged individualism was a rare and mostly fatal tendency in American life. Men mostly expected to inherit the family enterprise, mostly farms. Women mostly expected to depend on their husband's fortune. Those restless few who wandered off to prospect gold or wrangle cattle or found some new business mostly lived shorter, crueler lives. The industrial era created stronger, more independent middle class but the efficiencies of the post-industrial era require a much smaller body of much better trained people who need to learn new skill sets constantly to maintain relevance. As educational demands increase so do costs and some inevitably are left behind by the whirl of competition. Perhaps our interdependency is more evident today, less personal than in days gone by, but I refuse to believe we are less intrepid entrepreneurs than our forefathers. Look at how quickly Walmart replaced Sears, Amazon replaced Walmart. Look at Uber taking over the taxi market. Look at food trucks taking down McDonald's. Every day now is a brave new world, and any of us with the courage to take on the next challenge is at least as rugged in the face of the unknown as those of the far more static past.

Can we take a beat to note that Pro has essentially complained that Americans are too interdependent and not interdependent enough in consecutive arguments?

Pro's final malady is a lack of connection on substantive issues. Again, this argument must be nearly as old as human speech and the contradiction to Pro's assertion can be found in the digital age. Look, nobody took notes when Mark Twain talked about the weather with his mailman but the internet stores vast quantities of conversation and the preponderance is idle chatter. Substantive debates have always been a rarer breed but they seem more common in the past because they are better remembered. There are plenty of forums available to discuss the great issues, they're just less popular. This debate will probably get fewer readers then the next Pickachu battle but truly it was always thus. Let's not assume our country is at an end just because we now over-record the silly stuff.

With Pro's major points refuted, let's conclude by consulting the most popular modern authority on societal collapse, Jared Diamond. Diamond identifies five principal factors contributing to the fall of civilizations:

1. climate change
2. hostile neighbors
3. diminished trade
4. environmental issues
5. failure to adapt [5]

We should note that Pro's evidence for US collapse does not coincide with Diamond's research but more importantly we that Pro's conviction of an imminent US collapse precludes the option of adaptation. Diamond distinguishes two crucial choices made by civilizations that managed to persist:

1. long-term planning
2. A willingness to reconsider core values

For her first 12 score years, the US has proved pretty weak on the former quality but fairly agile on the latter. Certainly, we can and must improve on both to survive the future. Diamond, for his part remains " a cautious optimist. By that, I mean that, on the one hand, I acknowledge the seriousness of the problems facing us. If we don"t make a determined effort to solve them, and if we don"t succeed at that effort, the world as a whole within the next few decades will face a declining standard of living, or perhaps something worse. On the other hand, we shall be able to solve our problems " if we choose to do so."

Pro and Con agree that the US faces important challenges but we strongly disagree about the nature of those challenges. In short, Hillary is not a threat, but Trump might be; authoritarians and oligarchs are not a threat so long as they are kept in check; military failures are not a threat so long as they are small and overseas; immigration is not a threat so long as we continue to adapt and synthesize; our public-mindedness is not waning; our independece is as strong as ever; and we maintain the capacity to discuss our destination and course corrections we need to make to get there. Sailors convinced that the ship will sink because they spot a storm ahead don't add much to our perilous navigation.

Thanks to Pro for a good debate. Please vote CON
Debate Round No. 4
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Posted by levi_smiles 2 years ago
Also- a note of irony.

It may not be apparent, but my profile name is an abbreviation of "Leviathan Smiles" referencing a perspective on god shared by the Book of Job, Moby Dick, and HBO's "Deadwood"

So in a debate that's essentially American pessimism vs American optimism the opponents are Lucifer Wept vs Leviathan (God) smiles. Nice
Posted by levi_smiles 2 years ago
Thanks, LuciferWept, for the engaging topic. Feel free to use masculine pronouns for me in the upcoming rounds. I'm not offended & you didn't miss some gender cue from me as I asserted none. Normally, I wouldn't care but since I made a point about what Hillary means to women, I feel I should be forthright about not speaking from a woman's perspective.

Here's my sources:

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