Independence in an Era of Interdependence

The world is an increasingly complex place.  The biggest environmental threat is no longer the factory upstream but the practices of factories and power plants around the globe.  Terrorist attacks in countries that many have never heard of (or only heard of in relation to a benefit concert) are the lead story on the news (even though most terrorist attacks outside of the U.S. and Europe do not make the news).  Terrorist attacks at home are conducted by folks who have lived in the U.S. for an extended period, but who get their “religious” philosophy over the internet from groups based in the Middle East.

It is not surprising that we see similar responses to these issues around the globe.  In Greece, the established political parties have been tossed to the side in favor of new parties that vow to defend Greece’s interests in renegotiating its national debt with its European allies.  In the United Kingdom, a slim majority votes to leave the European Union in opposition to the EU’s control over much of the economy and immigration.  In Australia, new parties centered around single strong figures gain Senate seats will expressing concern about immigration and keeping Australia for Australians.  Across Europe, anti-immigrant parties are gaining strength.

It is also not too surprising that we are seeing the same thing in the U.S.  As the U.S. slowly approaches the day when a majority of its citizens will be from “minority” groups, we see a plurality of the Republican Party picking a nominee who vows to exclude Hispanics and Muslims from entering the U.S.  Even though imports and exports each represent about 10-15% of the eighteen trillion dollar national economy (with the net trade deficit representing about 3% of the national economy), the disruption caused by trade (and other changes like increased automation from modern technology) leaves a significant part of the population feeling battered by the new economy.   To these people, we have the same candidate pretending that all we need is a new tougher approach to trade negotiations is all that it will take to turn things around.  To terrorism, his answer is that we just need to be more aggressive, even though we have been bombing terrorist facilities for almost two decades.

The reality is that we no longer live in a world in which the United States can have its way by snapping its fingers.  Keeping America great requires taking into account the complexities of the rest of the world, not running around like a bull in a china shop.  Bombastic rhetoric and applauding economic disasters elsewhere is not a substitute to sound, well-thought policies.  There is no good model for what it means to be independent in an interdependent world.  I do know that it does not mean pulling the global economic structure down around us like Samson in the temple.  I do know that it means defeating Donald Trump in November.  Over the next several weeks as Democrats engage in debate about what our platform should say about our vision for the future, it’s important to keep in mind that the world is depending on us to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

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