Friday, February 03, 2012

GOP victory would restore outdated worldview

As I sit here writing this at the kitchen table, I have had to move the computer screen as the streams in over my shoulder. 

Perhaps it’s the spring-like winter we are experiencing here in Cleveland. It has brought the early return of my backyard cardinals and bluebirds.  But for the second consecutive day I am feeling optimistic. Yesterday, it was the signs of community collaboration and engagement on the part of Cleveland’s too-often dormant and disengaged black middle class. Today, it’s the cumulative effect of the Republican effort to find a suitable candidate to take on President Obama. I have swung back and forth between thinking that the Republicans were soaking up all the ink with their relentless — and generally false — attacks on the President, and then enjoying their increasingly savage attacks on each other.

In past election cycles, it’s been Democrats beating on one another while the Republicans watched and waited for the chance to bomb the Dems for being “soft” on defense, appeal to the baser racial instincts of the GOP base, and tout their presumptive superior economic policies.

All of that is at the moment turned on its head.  Gingrich and Santorum have provided great campaign fodder for Obama’s re-election effort against Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee. And Mitt himself continues to show how disconnected he is from the masses of Americans.

So while I never underestimate right-wing willingness to appeal to the fears of its base, I am for the moment feeling pretty good as conservative overreach has stirred up women and even working-class Joes, who, if they are unable to identify with Obama, will nonetheless vote to keep him in office.

Retaining the president is important not only to prevent a rollback to the loot and steal policies of the Bush years, but essential to finding a way to navigate an increasingly complex world. When Bush I proclaimed a “new world order” after the fall of the Soviet Union, he had the right term but the wrong understanding.  He clearly envisioned a world in which the United States would be unchallenged militarily and politically.

The past twenty years have shown just how wrong Bush I and “Mission Accomplished” Bush II were in hewing to American military might and the US as the world’s police force. Both Romney and his main GOP challengers — Gingrich and Santorum — are even further to the right with their trumpeting of “American exceptionalism”.

While the domestic political landscape can change on a dime, what doesn’t change is the need for the President of the United States to have an understanding of the rest of the world.

The pandering of Romney and his rivals to those who long for what is basically a vision of international white supremacy is increasingly out of date in a world that is more intricately colored day by day. Nobody talks about this more clearly than a “colored” American named Fareed Zakaria, about whom I have written briefly before here. Here is his open letter to Mitt Romney:

The world has changed, Mr. Romney
 “Dear Mitt Romney,
… I’d like to call attention to a line you have used repeatedly: “This is a president who fundamentally believes that this next century is the post-American century.” … [L]et me make sure you know what exactly you are attacking.
 … the age of American unipolarity — which began with the collapse of the Soviet Union — has ended. For a quarter-century after the collapse of communism, the United States dominated the world with no real political or economic competitors. Its ideas and its model — the Washington consensus — became received wisdom everywhere.
Today we are in a different era. In 1990, China represented 2 percent of global gross domestic product. It has quadrupled, to 8 percent, and is rising. By most estimates, China’s economy will become the world’s largest between 2016 and 2018.
… It is not just China that is rising. Emerging powers on every continent have achieved political stability and economic growth and are becoming active on the global stage. Twenty years ago Turkey was a fragile democracy, dominated by its army, that had a weak economy constantly in need of Western bailouts. Today, Turkey has a trillion-dollar economy that grew 6.6 percent last year. Since April 2009, Turkey has created 3.4 million jobs — more than the European Union, Russia and South Africa put together. That might explain Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s confidence and his country’s energetic foreign policy.
Look in this hemisphere: In 1990, Brazil was emerging from decades of dictatorship and was wracked by inflation rates that reached 3,000 percent. Its president was impeached in 1992. Today, the country is a stable democracy, steadily growing with foreign-exchange reserves of $350 billion. Its foreign policy has become extremely active. President Dilma Rousseff is in Cuba this week, “marking Brazil’s highest-profile bid to transform its growing economic might into diplomatic leadership in Latin America,” the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Brazil’s state development bank is financing a $680 million rehabilitation of Cuba’s port at Mariel.
… I could go on.
This is a new world, very different from the America-centric one we got used to over the last generation. Obama has succeeded in preserving and even enhancing U.S. influence in this world precisely because he has recognized these new forces at work. He has traveled to the emerging nations and spoken admiringly of their rise. He replaced the old Western club and made the Group of 20 the central decision-making forum for global economic affairs. By emphasizing multilateral organizations, alliance structures and international legitimacy, he got results. It was Chinese and Russian cooperation that produced tougher sanctions against Iran. It was the Arab League’s formal request last year that made Western intervention in Libya uncontroversial.
By and large, you have ridiculed this approach to foreign policy, arguing that you would instead expand the military, act unilaterally and talk unapologetically. That might appeal to Republican primary voters, but chest-thumping triumphalism won’t help you secure America’s interests or ideals in a world populated by powerful new players.
You can call this new century whatever you like, but it won’t change reality. After all, just because we call it the World Series doesn’t make it one.”  Source
I couldn’t have said it better. Find the entire column here. 


WiseFather said...

American Exceptionalism is the puffery used to excuse misadventure abroad and inaction at home. In a recent post I analyze the American Exceptionalism concept and contrast it with a healthy patriotism that could help unite the public against those few who are ruining America.

Jolly Roger said...

"American Exceptionalism" is, plain and simple, a white nationalist dog whistle, that "real Americans" will hear and run towards. The stunning irony that isn't mentioned very often is that the proponents of "American Exceptionalism" managed to turn a flawed, but functional, state into one of those third-world tin-pot countries that you correctly noted have cleaned up their act and are on the rise. Beginning with the attempted impeachment of Clinton in 1998, the right wing in this country have rendered it essentially ungovernable. And, believe me, I believe the present President has something similar in store for him after this election cycle.

Some "exceptionalism." Some white "supremacy."