Martin LeFevre: Global Polity Now
Global Polity Now
"I think our country sinks beneath the yoke; it weeps, it bleeds; and each day a gash is added to her wounds."
- Shakespeare, Macbeth
Will things change in America if the Democrats win control of both Houses of Congress in November, and the White House in 2008? More importantly, will such a shift restore genuine US leadership as "the sole remaining superpower?"
America just endured three school shootings within a week, the last by a milkman who slaughtered five Amish girls (and shot ten) in Pennsylvania because he was "mad at God." Has this eruption of evil in our schools initiated a protracted period of soul-searching?
Hardly. The 30-second national attention span was immediately absorbed in a fit of prurience and politics, when the deviant tendencies of a congressman from Florida, Mark Foley, became publicly known. Even a nuclear test by North Korea, one giant step backward for mankind, has only temporarily overtaken the pettiness.
The Democrats, voices hoarse from falling on deaf ears with Americans about the carnage in Iraq (people wish it would just go away), suddenly sing like a choir in perfect harmony. What did House Speaker Denny Hastert know about Foley's Internet escapades and when did he know it?
Reasonable people in America, and the world over, hope against hope that the pendulum will swing back from the Far Right to some semblance of political normalcy in this country and internationally. If the Democrats wrest control of both Houses of Congress from the Republicans, the wishful thinking goes, it will restore the old checks and balances in the US government, and perhaps even US leadership in the world.
That's not going to happen. Even though 53% of Americans want Democrats to take control of Congress (Republicans retain support from a hard core of about a third of the electorate, while 10 or 12% are undecided), the pendulum isn't going to swing back because it's irretrievably broken. It no longer matters which party is in power.
A case in point is right here in California. Our illustrious ŒGovernator,' Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, has rebounded from the debacle of last year's needless, anti-union referendum. (It was touted as a "referendum on Schwarzenegger," and cost the state over 50 million dollars.)
After getting elected, Arnold initially veered to the right, taking the usual Republican positions and openly supporting Bush. But when he had his butt handed to him in the referendum, he made a sharp left turn, courting Democrats with issues like global warming, stem cell research, and ending the genocide in Darfur. He correctly judged that people would forget the referendum by this year's election, and now leads his nearest rival, Democrat Phil Angelides (who has promised to "do my best with you to end George Bush's failed adventure in Iraq") by over 10 points.
There are two antithetical trends in world politics today. One reflects the increasing commonality of issues facing people everywhere. The other is a "drifting sidewise" toward provincialism, sectarianism, and the small-mindedness of purely personal concerns.
The first trend is embodied by the slick and cynical Schwarzenegger, who believes that you can always fool enough of the people enough of the time. The second trend is personified by the serious and conscience-driven actor George Clooney, who stood next to Arnold at a rally last week and spoke of the international community's paralysis with regard to Darfur: "There are no Democratic or Republican sides to this; there is only right and wrong." That's simplistic, but at least he's concerned and acting on it.
The prominent and eccentric Democratic strategist James Carville said a few days ago that "Republicans are on the run and we can put them down for the count by hitting them with everything we've got immediately," Even if that's true, a change of party in Washington will not restore character, caring, and leadership to America. Besides, as the Bush bungling of the now nuclear power North Korea demonstrates, the world's situation has moved far beyond the petty politics of the Œsole remaining superpower.'
A bumper sticker one occasionally sees in car crazy California reads, ŒI feel much better now that I've given up hope.' Taken one way, that could reflect the wisdom of abandoning wishful thinking in favor of seeing things as they are. Taken another, it means the person has quit believing in anything and just doesn't give a damn.
At bottom, politics can be defined as the articulation and concentration of people's hope, or the manipulation and destruction of it. The Bush Administration will be characterized in history by the destruction of hope in many people around the world. America is dead; the real hope lies in a genuine global polity--now.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and
non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has
been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and
Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author welcomes