Connecting the Dots with John Bos: How did it all come to this?

  • JON BOS

Published: 7/25/2021 8:36:13 AM

There is a grim parallel between Hampshire College professor emeritus Michael Klare’s article in The Nation magazine about our polarized international community and our polarized politics here in America.

In the June 25 issue of The Nation, Klare wrote that “the leaders of the Western world — meeting first as the G7 powers in Cornwall, England, on June 11-13 and then as the NATO members in Brussels on June 14 - did not exactly initiate Cold War II. However,” he said, “they did lay the necessary groundwork by describing a world divided along fundamental ideological lines. Klare’s perspective as The Nation’s defense correspondent is underscored by his experience as a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association in Washington, DC. He is the author of All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change.

On one side, Klare contends, are “the democratic, stability-seeking nations that adhere to international norms and rules; on the other are aggressive, authoritarian states like China and Russia that seek to undermine the rules-based international order. While it might be possible to work across this divide on matters of common concern, such as climate change and nuclear nonproliferation, the West’s main task, in the coming decades, must be to enhance its capacity to defend itself against the other camp — and diminish the other side’s economic, political, and technological clout.”

Doesn’t that sound like what’s going on today in American politics?

“Not since the early days of the original Cold War,” Klare wrote, “have Western leaders been so explicit in their depiction of a world divided into two ideologically opposed camps. Unless challenged, this outlook will now govern NATO’s organizational structure and the various military forces — including those of the United States — assigned to it. In such an environment, the likelihood of a military clash becomes ever greater, whatever the intent of particular leaders at any given moment.”

Klare is deeply concerned about the growing possibility of nuclear warfare, one of the two great existential threats to humankind, along with the climate crisis.

Coming back home to this side of the Atlantic, we can see this kind of political polarization as the defining feature of early 21st century American politics. As part of a yearlong study of polarization, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll of more than 10,000 adults between January and March of this year. It found “that Republicans and Democrats are further apart ideologically than at any point in recent history. Growing numbers of Republicans and Democrats express highly negative views of the opposing party.” Kind of like America vs Russia or China, dontcha think?

The Pew Center study also found that “The share of Americans who express consistently conservative or liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades, from 10% to 21%. As a result, the amount of ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished.”

The “median,” or typical Republican is now more conservative than 94% of Democrats, compared with 70% twenty years ago. And the median Democrat is more liberal than 92% of Republicans, up from 64%. Among Republicans and Democrats who are highly engaged in politics, 70% now take positions that are mostly or consistently in line with the ideological bent of their party.

One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to see how this is playing out in Washington D.C. Growing polarization has led to homegrown political denial of presidential election results and the incitement of the Jan. 6 insurrection in our nation’s capital. Polarized opinions are becoming ever more evident in the personal lives and lifestyles of those on both the right and left as readers of the Recorder can witness on its Opinion pages.

Back to Michael Klare’s perspective about an increasingly divided world; he writes “A new Iron Curtain has not yet come down. Progressives must, therefore, reject the false contention that the world can be neatly divided between the upholders and destroyers of the ‘rules-based international order’ and that we, the upholders, must be prepared to risk nuclear annihilation in defense.”

How can we in America avoid the further annihilation of our Constitution including the right for everyone to vote, the corruption of government legislation by “dark money” and the growing appetite for authoritarian rule? Is there some way to stop the annihilation of our democracy’s work in progress? How might we find a way to end the Cold War between the upholders and destroyers of ethical and people-based government?

And how did it all come to this?

The “Connecting the Dots”column by John Bos appears every other Saturday in the Recorder. Bos is a contributing writer for “Green Energy Times” and “Citizen Truth.” He invites comments and questions at john01370@gmail.com.

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