Speaking of the challenges facing the United States and its allies in a still ambivalent democratic world, President Joe Biden said a few words the other day that directly relate to his own confrontation with authoritarian forces in his country. What he wanted to explain is more important than any specific aspect of his infrastructure proposal or the debate on how to pay the cost of that big bill.
“It is absolutely clear,” said the US president, that this era “is a battle between the usefulness of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies, “by which he meant China and Russia, but not just these great rivals.” This is what is at stake here. We have to prove that democracy works. “
Proving that democracy works is no longer an abstraction for a civic education class. Right now that phrase has a very specific meaning: can we maintain, improve, and modernize the nation left to us by the greatest generation, now that we are painfully aware of its state of disrepair? Can we provide decent livelihoods for our people, all of our people, and preserve an environment that supports and nourishes them? And can we do all of this in a free, competitive, transparent and fair political system?
Chinese and Russian autocrats, and their smaller imitators, openly scoff at these aspirations. Chinese leader Xi Jinping argues that only a party-led dictatorship can achieve a high standard of living and development. The same goes for Putin, with less frankness. Dictators are eager to test their power against our principles. And thanks to the partisan myopia of the Republican Party, now infected with the desire for its own potential dictator, we risk falling short of this challenge.
For anyone who has observed American policy over the past three or four decades, Biden’s warning is undoubtedly appropriate. Our political system suffers from a severely reduced ability to achieve important public goals, not to mention the massive national investment required to rebuild our physical infrastructure. When every major decision becomes an opportunity for partisan victory, rather than national progress, a tightly divided America will remain paralyzed.
The main vector of this paralytic disease has long been Mitch McConnell, the highest Republican. Ten years ago, he couldn’t imagine a more compelling goal than ending Barack Obama’s presidency after just one term. While Democrats aimed to modernize the health care system and provide universal coverage, Republicans saw their role as totally negative and behaved accordingly.
They’ve been acting like termites and that’s exactly what they’re threatening to do with Biden’s infrastructure plan today.
Well aware of what polls reveal about infrastructure and health care, Republicans are also offering lip service to popular preferences. Many Republican elected officials will support public works, improved transport, safer water systems, and even reduced carbon emissions. They can then claim to “negotiate” with Biden, but they will not vote for a program he is proposing or that the Democrats can support.
What makes their reflexive opposition so disheartening is that Republicans know full well how desperately the nation needs the physical and economic stimulus offered by the Biden program. Whatever they mean by “America first,” their political opportunism always puts America last.
The contradiction between Republican rhetoric and party termite behavior is drawn even more strikingly when framed in a global context. While Beijing surely poses economic, diplomatic, ideological and perhaps even military challenges to America and its allies, the Republican response is almost hysterical – as if the “Chicom” hordes are about to literally invade our countries. ribs. Their response to the coronavirus pandemic was not an action to save American lives, but a racist-colored blame campaign targeting the Chinese.
Still, if Republicans believed their own warnings about China, they would find ways to back Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan rather than trying to block it. Over the past four years, their own president has failed to solve this huge problem. The opportunity to rise now above petty partisan concerns, defend democratic values and build the future is historic and history will condemn every politician who fails again.
Learn more about Joe Conason, editor-in-chief of The national memo, and read articles from other Creators Syndicate authors and designers, visit the Creators Syndicate website www.creators.com
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