February 25th, 2010
10:43 AM ET

America the optimistic

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/25/t1.flags.jpg caption="Kazin: U.S. is strong, especially in culture, entertainment, services, intellectual capital." width=300 height=169]


What does it mean when 86 percent of the Americans surveyed last week by CNN/Opinion Research Corp. say they believe that their system of government is broken?

It probably means, Michael Kazin says, that Americans are behaving like they always do. A repeated theme in American history, says Kazin, a historian at Georgetown University, "is Americans believing the country is in decline and then finding ways to rebound from both the fear of decline and the problems that gave rise to that fear."

There is reason for optimism, says Kazin, who specializes in populist movements and is the editor of The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History.

For one thing, populist movements similar to, for example, Tea Parties, have reared up repeatedly in American history to rail against social inequities and faltering financial systems. But rather than heralding the end of the republic, he says, they "often spur politicians to make changes that in the end make the country stronger."

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Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Tim Gibson

    Doing well in relation to the rest of the world is not a very good percentage in a world wide economic crisis.

    The problems of our nation, of our world can be repaired, yet it will not come through by favor of our leadership. It will come when enough becomes enough and we take the power back from the high bidder and put it into the hands of the common people.

    February 25, 2010 at 1:26 pm |