June 14, 2014

“About as Bad as it Gets”

Normally, I don’t comment on what is happening on the national and international levels in these notes.  However, the recent developments demand a quick comment.

I can’t recall ever seeing so many parts of the world and parts of our nation’s policy unraveling at once.  We have the extreme terrorist group ISIS taking over Mosul and driving south in Iraq.  Obama will be blamed for having pulled out of Iraq too fast.  But there was no evident game-winning plan I could see.  Clearly President Maliki has been driving a huge wedge between the Shiites (his party) and Sunnis.  The Kurds have moved in on the north.  Iraq is out of control.  If you are a parent of a service person who lost their life in Iraq, you would feel more than sick.  You would be angry.

The airport in Karachi, Pakistan came under a vicious attack, almost 30 dead.

Our service people in Afghanistan are being killed at high rates with no promise whatsoever of when we leave.

“What has Bush’s war wrought?”  Sadly, the question answers itself.

And with all this going on, with the possibility that perhaps the U.S. and Russia working together would help forge a plan to control the inferno in Iraq and which continues in Syria, we are at loggerheads with Russia, failing to negotiate maturely on what can be done to support the development of a peaceful Ukraine that respects Russia’s and the West’s and, above all, Ukraine’s own interests.

Turning to our own nation, the polarization becomes even worse.  Eric Cantor, a conservative if there ever was one, is defeated in the Virginia primary by somebody even to his right.  This is the unexpected spoils of the gerrymandering which the Republicans have so vigorously advanced, creating a world that if you are not far to the right or far to the left you may not even have a chance in what is altogether a predictable general election for one party or the other. 

Any chances of meaningful legislation during the remainder of Obama’s term, distant to start with, are off the table.  All the talk about early childhood, substantive immigration reform, revision of the tax code which everyone agrees is arcane and resulting in business moving off-shore, all that is off the table. 

A recent poll conducted by Pew Research Center shows that this polarization is not just a function of Washington but of a large minority of people.  We are at a point where 30% of consistent conservatives say they would be unhappy if an immediate family member married a Democrat while 23% of consistent liberals say the same thing.  The division appears in other striking statistics of this survey.  Far more liberals than conservatives think it is important for a community to have racial and ethnic diversity (76% versus 20%), while far more conservatives than liberals attach importance to living in a place where people share their religious faith (57% versus 17%).

And the degree to which politically engaged Democrats or Republicans hold consistently liberal views or conservative views has gone up significantly.  For Democrats up from just 8% in 1994 to 38% today; for Republicans up from 23% in 1994 and 10% in 2004 to 33% being consistently Conservative today.

All of this cries out for a President in the next term who can really unify the country.  I cannot imagine that being anyone whose last name is either Clinton or Bush.  I hope we can find this individual and that he or she will be successful in gaining office.

In the meantime, we will work within our own “circles of influence” to do all we can.

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