America is on edge

Many key aspects of economic, social and national life that were once viewed as smoothly running certainties are out of joint. The Covid-19 pandemic, though it has eased its deadly grip, has left a complicated legacy of challenges that are still disrupting daily life. Some are aggravations — like the more than 800 airline flights cancelled on Sunday. Others threaten Americans’ economic prospects and sense of safety and wellbeing, like the growing fears of a recession.

Such an atmosphere is sure to breed new turmoil in a nation seeing widening ideological divides ahead of midterm elections that are likely to cause more dysfunction if power is split in Washington between Republicans and Democrats. And it almost guarantees years of political bickering ahead of the 2024 presidential race, which may hamper the nation’s capacity to solve any crisis.

Acute problems include record gasoline prices. Families are struggling to cope with the soaring costs of food and vital goods. Some major cities are failing to manage a homelessness crisis. Baby formula shelves are still often empty. And summer getaways are hampered by an airline industry knocked off balance by Covid-19. While vaccinations and less deadly variants reduced the threat of the virus, it’s still disrupting business, schools and summer camps.

The political split in the country, meanwhile, is exemplified by the tortuous effort to pass even rudimentary firearms safety measures in the Senate. While liberals watch the ever-escalating death toll from mass shootings with horror, conservatives who believe all gun rights are at risk make it difficult for Republican lawmakers to compromise. Political divisions are also underscored by the mixed reception of televised hearings of the House select committee probing the US Capitol insurrection. The panel is showing just how close the US came to an authoritarian takeover with ex-President Donald Trump’s coup attempt. But the new evidence is being largely ignored by his supporters, reflecting the GOP’s turn against democracy and raising the stakes for the next elections.

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