An article by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal this weekend brought home to me the dgree to which politics in 2016 has fractured beyond hope of immediate repair. Ms. Noolan, a right of center author of books such as The Case Against Hilary Clinton, is certainly not sympathetic to the Democratic party but argued cogently that Donald Trump’s candidacy may in fact split the Republican party in the united States into two very distinct groupings. Her main point is not Trump has tapped into a vein of republican voters but that the Republican leadership has lost its way.
Another article, by Jim Newell in Slate, outlines Jeb Bush’s plans to destroy or weaken the other moderate Republicans in the race to be the only reasonable oice left standing and thus to have a shot to win the nomination.
What both of these articles show is an american electorate more divided than ever.
Not Just the USA
In Spain the elections of December 20th have left the country without a clear path to governance. Like in the United States, the former two party system that has governed spanish politics since just after its transition to democracy is on the verge of collapse and the socialist Party, the heir to the Spanish Republic is also close to disintegration with supporters fo Pedro Sanchez on one side and Andalucias’s Susana Diaz on the other.
In France, Marie Le Pen has managed to divide the electorate and while the powers that be managed to keep her party from power despite winning almost 6.5 million votes according to the Guardian!,
Even the United Kingdom is experiencing what one might call the “great fracturing” and has seen the United Kingdom Independence Party win 12.6 % of the vote and emerge s the country’s third biggest party.
Big problems to deal with
The political landscape would actually be rather entertaining if it wasn’t for the truly critical problems facing the world in 2016. These problems include:
- An increasing barbaric Islamic State operating just South of Europe and putting into play ancient rivalries between SHia and Sunni as well as between Islam and the West
- Increasing evidence of climate change and pollution and the challenge of implementing the Paris accord
- A sluggish global economy with increasing inequality around the word
- Other geo-political hot-spots around the world many of which could expand into regional, if not global, conflict
Time for Leaders
With these and other issues in mind what we need are real leaders not cynical politicians ready to do what it takes to get ahead in the polls or even be elected. What we certainly do not need are hot headed, know nothings who appeal to our most basic instincts and try to win elections by making people increasingly fearful.
The problem is that the Trumps and Le Pen’s of the world offer simplistic solutions to complex problems that people latch onto in order to make sense of a world in which they have lost their bearings.
The responsibility of leadership, as well laid out by Harvard’s Dean Williams in his new book is to help people make sense of the world around them and then to do the right thing for themselves and their communities. The right thing is clearly not to judge people by their religious affiliation or to deny the reality of climate change.