Global Consequences of American Polarization

Another fierce battle unfolded in the US Congress – and came to nothing. U.S. Republicans have once again used the filibuster to thwart legislation aimed at countering new nationwide voting restrictions, and the Democrats have failed to change the filibuster rules to do so. adopt. The saga illustrates the turmoil, polarization and paralysis that have engulfed American politics and will no doubt shape November’s midterm legislative elections. This state of affairs should worry the rest of the world.
In recent years, American society has been torn apart by misunderstanding and distrust. By creating algorithm-based ‘echo chambers’, social media platforms have compounded these problems, reinforcing people’s existing opinions, discrediting opponents and facilitating the emergence of an overzealous ‘cancel culture’. . The honest self-reflection and open dialogue necessary to enable reform and reconciliation have become virtually impossible.
As political leaders have learned to take advantage of polarization, the situation has deteriorated further. The populist, isolationist and capricious rhetoric and policies of former President Donald Trump have exacerbated polarization and fueled volatility. Now, warns political scientist Barbara F. Walter, the United States is “closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.”
I have no desire to preach to Americans what is in their political interest. It’s a long-standing habit of Europeans, and it’s condescending at the best of times. It is all the more inappropriate at a time when Europeans are confronted with our own brand of extremism and impasse.
But the fact is that the fracture of American society affects us all. Clearly, America’s polarized politics shapes its economic, climate, defense, agricultural, and foreign policies. The recent Republican-led move to impose sanctions on the Russian-German gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 – despite the threat it would pose both to US President Joe Biden’s Russian strategy and to US relations with the Germany – is a good example.
But the problem is deeper than any individual policy. After decades of emphasizing economic considerations, geopolitics has once again taken center stage on a global scale, with ideological competition between great powers intensifying precisely when liberal democracy lost its appeal. brilliance and where authoritarianism is gaining ground. This competition is played out in various geographical arenas (Ukraine, Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Taiwan), and even bleeds into the economic sphere (as with Nord Stream 2 or the Chinese technology giant Huawei).
The last time geopolitics defined world affairs, the United States established itself as a global leader and champion of Western interests and democratic values. Today, as the ongoing crisis on the Ukrainian border shows, the world needs America to take back that role. Yet the United States is now a shell of the leader it once was, and domestic polarization is largely to blame.
There is no miracle solution. But a number of ideas have been put forward, ranging from simple calls to stop giving platforms to extremists to detailed proposals to revitalize citizenship through compulsory national service. In some ways, this latest regime gets to the heart of the challenge.
Americans must reconnect with a sense of shared ownership of their country and its trajectory. They must take responsibility for their future, including contributing directly to the process of charting the way forward. Otherwise, popular support will remain elusive.
The European Union is well aware of this imperative. Like the United States, the EU is becoming increasingly fragmented as it struggles to clarify its purpose in the modern age. To meet this challenge, the EU launched the Conference on the Future of Europe. Dreamed up by French President Emmanuel Macron, the conference includes a series of citizen conversations focused on clarifying Europe’s challenges and priorities and helping to “shape our common future”.
As appealing as the concept may sound, however, the Conference is much like an idealistic fig leaf covering up bureaucratic inefficiencies. In any case, for the United States to even attempt such a move, it would first have to come to a consensus about what it means to be American.
Here, Republicans and Democrats currently subscribe to very contrasting visions, as the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly shown. If Americans can’t agree on a common understanding of their present — including, and most importantly, their country’s position in the world — how can they even begin to discuss a vision? community of their future?
The United States has been here before. In the years leading up to World War II, the United States was deeply divided, both by national policies that dramatically altered the landscape (such as the New Deal) and by conflicting opinions about what American involvement in war should involve. Yet World War II is now remembered as a “moment of American home courtesy”. Although this change can be partly attributed to the skillful political leadership of Franklin D Roosevelt, it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that gained widespread public support for the United States to enter the fray.
But a common enemy only works to unite a country if everyone agrees on who that enemy is. Given that Covid-19 – an enemy shared by the world – has only deepened the American partisan divide, clearly that is easier said than done.
To clarify America’s role in the world, an outsider’s perspective can be helpful. Non-Americans tend to have a clear idea of ​​what the United States has historically represented: ingenuity, generosity, and democracy.
The path to a reunited America, acting as a credible world leader, will not be easy or straight. But, given the number of players eager to profit from America’s decline, Europe must do everything to help the United States progress. Just as the United States sought a “Europe whole and free” after the end of the Cold War, Europe today must support a healed and reconciled America. — Project syndicate

? Ana Palacio, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain and former Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the World Bank Group, is a visiting lecturer at Georgetown University.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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