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Hullabaloo


Monday, January 02, 2017

 

Closing the Gap

by Tom Sullivan


Deaths by terrorism, 2001-2014.

Progressive activists this year will be inclined to fight hard to preserve meaningful policies and programs both in the nation's capitol and in states across the country. But that might not be the real fight.

During budget-balancing sessions as revenues fell during the Great Recession, legislators confronted gut-wrenching decisions. They were forced to make across-the-board cuts including to programs about which they cared deeply. To education, mental health programs, and more. People would be hurt. Legislators arrived home on weekends here looking as if they'd been physically beaten. (The stress of it, I believe, contributed to the early death of a beloved state senator.) I expect to see those looks again this year, just not because of budget shortfalls.

Heading into 2017, defending favorite programs may be the least of our worries. Defending democracy itself is the order of the day, E.J. Dionne cautions:

There should be no mistaking the dangers democracy confronts. The rise of far-right parties in Europe, the authoritarian behavior of governments in Turkey, Hungary and Poland, and the ebbing of center-left and center-right parties that were part of the postwar democratic consensus would be troubling even without the rise of Donald Trump. His emergence should sharpen our concern. “A right-wing demagogue in charge of the world’s most influential repository of democratic values,” wrote Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf, “is a devastating fact.”
The Washington Post Editorial Board concurs, seeing Trump's arrival "as a challenge to a democratic system that has held the country together since the Civil War."

Paul Krugman worries aloud in the New York Times that the United States risks becoming another corrupt "stan" like those of Central Asia:
Americans used to find the antics of these regimes, with their tinpot dictators, funny. But who’s laughing now?

We are, after all, about to hand over power to a man who has spent his whole adult life trying to build a cult of personality around himself; remember, his “charitable” foundation spent a lot of money buying a six-foot portrait of its founder. Meanwhile, one look at his Twitter account is enough to show that victory has done nothing to slake his thirst for ego gratification. So we can expect lots of self-aggrandizement once he’s in office. I don’t think it will go as far as gold-plated statues, but really, who knows?
Essentially, welcome to Trumpistan.

Krugman's reference to Central Asia reminded me of Thomas P.M. Barnett's "The Pentagon's New Map" and his notion that the sources of conflict in the world are concentrated in the non-integrating "gap" areas under cultural stress and disconnected from the broader economy.

A post-election tweet from Barnett suggests he believes his analogy is applicable to a certain nation-state as well:

At this point we all face a bit of cultural and economic stress. I, for one, do not welcome the thought of the Gap growing to include this country any more than it has. The world has enough chaos. (A friend's foreign cousin is recovering from gunshot wounds from the Istanbul attack.) Democracy itself is at risk, and repairing the breach right here may have a salutary effect not only at home, but abroad as well. It may be helpful to the seriousness of our purpose to remember that.