By Javad Heirannia

Americans have lost trust in their leaders: George Washington University professor

October 18, 2020 - 15:2

TEHRAN – Professor Hossein Askari, who teaches international business at the George Washington University, says American people have “lost trust in their leaders.”

In an interview with the Tehran Times, Askari also says, “Americans don’t even trust one another or their institutions as they did 50 years ago.”

The professor says the United States has its lowest standing since WWII among its staunchest allies in Europe and “it is popular only in Israel”. 

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: How would you categorize America’s standing in the world today?
A: It is at its lowest since WWII. Just take a look at the respected Pew Research poll results. America has its lowest standing since WWII among its staunchest allies in Europe. In the Middle East, it is popular only in Israel. The American brand is no longer an asset but is a liability.

The George Washington University professor says there is widespread voter suppression in the U.S., asking: “How is this a real democracy when California with a population of nearly 40 million has two senators, and 6 states each with a population of less than 1 million, have two senators each? How is it a democracy when a man or woman wins the popular vote but does not win the presidency?”


Q: How much of this is a result of internal developments in America?

A: Look, America boasts about its democratic credentials, but voter rights are at the foundation of democratic societies. How is this a true democracy when there is widespread voter suppression? How is this a real democracy when California with a population of nearly 40 million has two senators, and 6 states each with a population of less than 1 million, have two senators each? How is it a democracy when a man or woman wins the popular vote but does not win the presidency? How is this a real democracy when its senators have lost their voice while one man (Mitch McConnell) decides whether or not a bill comes to the floor of the Senate? How is this a real democracy when at the behest of the president the judiciary investigates the president’s adversaries? Can it be a real democracy when the president is above the law? 

America is a country where the president professes faith and yet has been accused of rape and other sexual misconduct. When he breaks his word to the people almost on a daily basis? Where the president pardons criminals who happen to support him? How can you respect a country when it touts that its president is the leader of the “free” world when the president denies scientific facts and has lied thousands of times to his own people when he calls himself a billionaire but pays no taxes while a factory worker pays through the nose? A country with the worst income and wealth distribution among all advanced countries? A country where millions don’t have healthcare and where you need a job before you can get healthcare? A country that was built on the backs of African slaves but still discriminates against black Americans in their everyday lives?

Today, conditions are direr than ever because all presumed norms of behavior that once held America together have been trashed by Trump and his enablers. In the wake of this, the weakness of America’s constitution and institutions is laid bare. No country can rely on the presumed decency of its leaders without strong enforceable checks and balances.

I could go on and on but my point is this, the rest of the world sees what a large segment of the American population refuses to see and much less admits. The country is imploding from the inside. This process is unfolding before our very eyes. Yes, it will still take a number of years but it has started. How can the rest of the world respect such a country and follow its lead? While America’s leaders are at fault, in a real democracy the electorate is the real masters and ultimately responsible for their country’s fate.

Q: How much of this results from the country’s international interferences?

A: After WWII, America was generally admired around the world. America helped rebuild a ravaged Europe and assisted other countries around the world. But slowly America started to go down a different road, namely, empire-building and support of dictators to do its bidding. There is an excellent book by Daniel Immerwahr, How to Hide an Empire that lays out how America has built this hidden empire. My own book Collaborative Colonialism argues how the United States has become a colonial power by supporting dictators around the world. Yes, America says that it wants democratic governance throughout the world but it has dozens of bases around the world and uses illegal covert operations and military might to bully most countries into submission. Its use of force is made more potent by its collaboration with oppressive dictators to get what it wants—just look at Saudi Arabia and Egypt to name just a couple. People who suffer and have little freedom see America’s support for their oppressive rulers and are not big fans of the United States. Can you blame them? America has historically helped people around the world when they face natural catastrophes such as storms and earthquakes but today America is causing misery by its inhumane economic sanctions in countries such as Iran where the supply of food and medicine is threatened.

In sum, whether you look at the United States internally or internationally, there is less to admire with each passing day. Mark my words. All this will come to haunt America in the future.

“America has historically helped people around the world when they face natural catastrophes such as storms and earthquakes but today America is causing misery by its inhumane economic sanctions in countries such as Iran where the supply of food and medicine is threatened.”
Q: Will conditions change quickly for the better if Trump is not re-elected?

A: To turn this dire situation around will take much time. Trust, cooperation, and other such institutions are the key elements for success in any country. Americans have lost trust in their leaders. Americans don’t even trust one another or their institutions as they did 50 years ago. The country is divided as it was around the Civil War and instead of embracing each other Americans are distrustful and uncooperative. Trump has just accelerated this loss of trust and division. To restore trust and strengthen its institutions will not be easy. This is not a light switch. It takes years to build trust but it can be eroded quite rapidly. 

First, the Democratic party must get control of the presidency and the Senate. And then it must move deliberately. It will face a hostile federal judiciary at all levels. The “legal” system may thwart efforts to restore decency and a caring social order.

Q: What do you believe America should do for a positive turnaround?

A: If Biden becomes president and if the Democrats control the Senate, the new leaders must do a number of things to try to restore trust and confidence and thus to unify the nation. 

Appoint qualified cabinet members and other federal officials down the line—no cronies and men and women with scandals in their past or scandals that might come to light while in office.

Avoid all conflicts of interest—there should be no financial entanglement—and if there is ever a whiff of financial or personal misconduct there should be immediate dismissal of the implicated person.

-Overhaul the tax structure to reduce the taxes of lower-income earners and increase the tax burden of the wealthy.

-Provide affordable and quality healthcare for all Americans.

-Strengthen Social Security.

-Reduce or even better, eliminate the cost of a public college education.

-Improve and enhance access to public housing.

-Rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accord.

-Rejoin the Iran nuclear accord to bring credence to America’s commitments. 

-And yes, pack the courts, for the sake of fairness and to correct the impropriety of the Republican Party the Supreme Court should be expanded from 9 to 13 and the federal court system should also be expanded as America’s population has increased significantly while the federal court system has not kept up. Democrats have been wishy-washy for far too long.

-Reform the laws on public broadcasting to disallow public broadcast channels to be the mouthpiece of any politician or political organization and spread lies and misinformation that further divide the nation. 

-Repeal Citizens United to limit the role of money in politics.

-Reform and limit the president’s right to pardon.

-And finally, all crimes in the Trump administration, including those of the president, must be thoroughly investigated and if proven litigated in the courts. While it may be easier to move on, it is not the correct thing to do. Future presidents and officeholders must be put on notice and the American people must be reassured that the United States is a country of laws.

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