Near the close of last Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate, Chuck Todd asked the candidates what he called ‘a simple question.’ In ‘one word,’ he asked, who or what is the biggest geopolitical threat to America today?
It’s not China or Russia or Iran or even North Korea’s ‘Little Rocket Man’. It’s us. We’ve become the biggest threat to ourselves. Only we can take ourselves down.
And that is nearly certain to happen if we don’t stop treating politics as entertainment, if we don’t get rid of a president who daily undermines truth and trust. At no time in our history have our national challenges been as complex and long-term as those we face today.’ Thinking we’re going to be ok if we keep ignoring the big challenges barreling down on us, if we just keep taking turns having one party rule and the other obstruct — with the result that no big, long-term and well-thought-out adaptations get built.
Here are just a few of the big challenges:
- First, if we have four more years of Trump, we’ll probably lose any chance of keeping the global average temperature from rising only 1.5°C instead of 2°C.
- Second, there has been ‘little or no real income growth for most people for decades. The anger over that is surely one of the things that propelled Trump into office and, if not addressed, could propel someone even worse, like Donald Trump Jr, in the future.
- Third, the next four years will redefine relations between the world’s two biggest economies — the US and China. Neither the US should try to overrule China nor China the US.in digitalization.
- Fourth, technology is propelling social networks and cybertools deeper and deeper into our lives, our privacy and our politics, so that many more people can erode truth and trust. The gap between the speed at which these technologies are going deep and the ability of our analogue politics to develop the rules, norms and laws to govern them is getting wider, not narrower. That gap has to be closed to preserve our democracy.
- Fifth, today’s workplace is distinguished by one overriding new reality. The pace of change is accelerating at the exact same time that people’s work lives are elongating. In today’s digital information age, ‘you have multiple changes in the nature of work within a generation In the past, you had multiple generations to absorb a single big change in the workplace and not several. So we’re going from a model of ‘learn, work, retire’ to a model of ‘learn, work, learn, work, learn, work.
In that kind of world the new social contract has to be that government makes sure that the safety nets and all the tools for lifelong learning are available to every American — but it’s on each citizen to use them.
If Democrats can choose a nominee who speaks to our impending challenges, but who doesn’t say irresponsible stuff or promise free stuff we can’t afford, who defines new ways to work with business and energise job-creators, who treats with dignity the frightened white working-class voters who abandoned them for Trump — and who understands that many, many Americans are worried that we’re on the verge of a political civil war and want someone to pull us together — I think he or she will find a new American majority waiting to be assembled and empowered.
Full text by Thomas L. Friedman |