I do believe in the potential for change. That is why I am sanguine about democracy, even in its seemingly dysfunctional state. It is the best hope America has. Democracy is by nature about change; some changes are truly dispiriting (read Trump), while other changes reach greater heights (read JFK and Obama); and in the majority of cases, democracy produces average leaders, some tending to the mediocre. It is for this reason, I think, Churchill once said: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”
But you are right to be concerned about the state of affairs in America today. What we are witnessing is what some might describe as, acedia. Acedia is the strange combination of apathy and boredom. It is the fruit of a strange parentage; its father is the more than 70 years of unprecedented peace in Western Europe (if you exclude wars in the former Yugoslavia); and its mother, the paradox of the reality in which the more seemingly prosperous a society appears to get, the more dissatisfied its citizens become. This disease is by no means unique to America, you will find the same malady in other highly developed countries such as the UK (read Brexit).
I humbly submit that it is because of acedia, that education institutions and other leadership institutions have abdicated their role in the last 40 years or so, as you so ably describe in your article. The vast majority of us no longer critically analyse things as we ought to, we are easily satisfied with the superficial.
But I have hope. I have hope that those of us who are alarmed by what is going on, will find the gumption and the wherewithal, to help drag America and other Western countries by the scruff of their collective neck back from the brink. We can only achieve this by continuing to have faith the democratic institutions at our disposal - however seemingly dispiriting their present situation may appear to us. It’s worth a try.