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The American Dream is over and the American electorate knows it. The bizarre political show that we have witnessed in the last year is marked by a series of events that reveal the exhaustion of the ideological system that has sustained social order in the United States for at least two centuries. However, the political class, represented by Clinton and Trump, has shown that is incapable or unwilling to give space to some fresh air that updates and revitalizes it. Instead, they have opted for stretching it as much as possible, putting at risk the very social stability of the nation.
Surprisingly enough, this presidential race has its roots in the financial crisis of 2008. This event put in evidence both the fragile and dangerous foundation upon which the middle and working class Americans had built their lives, as well as the impotence of the public sphere – the political and judicial systems for instance – to check and balance the financial corporates´ libertinage. The occupy movements of 2011 in New York and many other American cities were an early attempt to agglomerate the voices of those who were paying the high costs of the “American way of life”. The call for justice, social justice, emanating from this movement, however, did not find an echo in the political class. Here may lay the biggest failure of the Obama administration in relation to internal affairs.
The social climate in the US is predominantly one of unrest. The machinery of upward social mobility, the main promise of the American Dream, is corroded if not broken completely since one of its essential components has become unsustainably expensive: the American higher education system. While topping the international ranks and being the envy of the world, American universities and colleges generate unpayable debts year after year. It is known that American students may spend most of their life working and yet not being able to pay back their loans.
During the last months, different polls underlined the role played by higher education in the definition of political inclination among the American electorate. For example, those who did not attend college tend to vote for Republican candidates, while more educated Americans are prone to Democrats politicians. This same trend is found in both Trump´s and Clinton´s supporters. But beyond the partisan outcomes produced by educational attainment, we should see American universities as a negative point of pressure for the American youth, since attending or not attending a university leads in similar ways to a life of precariousness, either in a low wage job, or as indebted for life worker.
Bernie Sanders was the only one to understand this situation when he proposed tuition free and debt free college education. However, the capacity of the Democrat party´s status quo to put him out of the presidential race offered us clear photo of the problem in the American political system: there are not real alternatives. The problem in America is not an economic crisis per se, a matter of just an unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities. The real crisis here is the inability of the American electorate to vote for different options that allow them to update the American dream and live a decent life, where there is no need to compete in a cannibalistic way for jobs or education. Both Trump and Clinton represent the same interests and the same group: the already privileged ones for who life options like higher education are just that: options, not the only way to get out of poverty.
This is a crisis of ideas, a crisis of alternatives to the neoliberal system we have complacently participated so far. Isn’t it in a similar way the same situation in post-Brexit UK? Whatever the results on November 8, the world will witness the high point of an era: the time when American and us global societies ran out of options and ideas.