The Democratic Party has a huge responsibility. It is must nominate a person to save the United States from a drift toward autocracy and oligarchy as well as saving the world from disintegration into more aggressive and disputatious tribes. Oh, and by the way, the nominee also has to win, to administer the government of the US and to establish some reasonable policies around oh, so many things.
That the Trump administration thumbs its nose at the rule of law and at congressional oversight is no revelation. Nor is its appointment of incompetent sycophants in key positions (23 year old director of personnel anyone? How about a Director of National Intelligence lacking the intelligence experience mandated by law?) Not even its constant “exaggeration” of the truth and reflexive lying. One area that may not be as obvious is the harm to national security. Many people of both parties have tired of our frequent misguided international adventures. However, the solution is to reduce the need for adventures by helping to manage chaotic and increasingly complex international relationships, not to withdraw and pretend everything is ok as long as we win each individual transaction.
We are almost certainly at higher risk now than three years ago. There is no evidence that North Korea has slowed down its nuclear program. Iran has been given a green light to proceed with theirs, Turkey is becoming a very unreliable member of NATO. NATO has been threatened by Trump if they don’t pay up or pay us for our support. Russia now holds greater power in the middle east. China is not being challenged in the South China Sea. Military experience is ignored in matters of military discipline and law. Military budget is diverted for non-military for pet projects. Ambassadorships are unfilled. The State Department and several others have been trashed. The list goes on and on.
The main concern raised by this list is that collectively it shows a disregard for the value of foreign partnerships and alliances. A bunch of bilateral transactions cannot be as strong as a few multi-lateral, multi-national agreements that serve common interests rather than only our own. The Trump administration cannot see the value in that and assume that if each individual event is in our favor, then the whole game must be a victory. The next president must begin to reestablish the credibility of the US in foreign policy. That, in turn requires rebuilding the State Department and repopulating ambassadorships and many mid- and lower level positions within State.
There is growing division within the country and it is lead by the president. We see the politicization of everything, much of it emanating from the White House. That is not to say that Democrats are above politics, just that they are not as good at it! Which is another reason they have to win! It is essential that we return to fixing problems and establishing policies that work for people rather than policies that just have good, outrage-generating political sound bites.
However, the threat I am most worried about is to American values both in the short and long term. Conservatives complained that Obama’s administration was a threat to American values too. So let me make clear I’m not talking about pro-choice/pro-life, pro or con gun rights, big government vs small government, deficit management – oh, wait, that one is not on anyone’s list any more. The thrust toward autocratic processes, court manipulation and total opaqueness in government dealings sounds and looks remarkably like the move toward a police state. I don’t see this as a short term issue but one that could be firmly entrenched wth another five years of Trumpism.
This is a threat not only to the United States but to the world. And not just the so-called “free world”. The US has had its hands in many sordid international adventures that raise doubt about our values and the president has in fact said we’re no different from anyone else (“We’re no angels”). The saving grace of the Shining City on the Hill or American Exceptionalism has always been the existence and pursuit of values denoted in our “sacred documents” – the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Federalist papers and others over the years that lay out the goals of a government that derives its authority from the people. It allows for mistakes as long as we try to return to the path forward.
This administration is not trying. In fact it seems completely happy to erase the bread crumb trail so we won’t be able to find out way back. This is not only an issue of the Trump administration but seemingly across the globe in countries that once seemed destined for the rule of law by consent of the governed – Turkey, Hungary, the Philippines to name a few. As alliances crumble, there is no longer leadership to help resolve disputes. Trade disagreements and disputes over sovereignty reign. That’s why the UK is leaving the EU.
The next president must take on all of these challenges while working with the Republicans on budgets, health care immigration, housing and more. You – Democratic Party primary voters – must nominate someone who can replace the current president and begin to build new coalitions and ideas that will unite us. Barring that, we may as well begin mandatory Chinese language and culture lessons in Kindergarten because China will soon be in charge of a disintegrated America.