Howard Fineman, writing in the Huffington Post described the Democratic Party he was hoping would be born. He characterized the struggles within the party over its future direction in the following way:
If Biden is to have a chance, he’ll have to somehow reach out to minority voters, who so far seem cool to or even estranged from Sanders and Clinton.
He’d also have to somehow reach out to a new version of the party that is out there waiting to be born. It is a yet-to-be-defined mashup of Black Lives Matter; pro-immigration activism; non-European cultural consciousness; tolerance of all religions, lifestyles and genders; genuine urgency about the fate of the planet; confidence in technology, social media and the sharing economy; and skepticism about America’s right, power and duty to lead the world.
Yet in the wake of worldwide trends it may be reasonable to ask whether Fineman hasn’t got his compass exactly upside down. Suppose his poles are reversed and his vision of the Democratic Party hoping to be born is actually the one waiting to die. How would that change the calculus?
The actual world of 2015 is the image negative of Fineman’s dream. Rather than being a place where migration is rare and persecuted, it is a world with altogether too much immigration, much of it involuntary, consists of people fleeing in fear from non-European consciousness. It is a time of people running from an intolerance of all religions save one which believes nearly all lifestyles and some genders should be persecuted, that has produced almost no technology yet which cleverly uses that invented by others, like social media for their evil purposes. This is the world which actually obtains.
In other words the empirical earth is full of people fleeing from all that Fineman’s vision holds dear towards everything it abjures. Most of today’s world isn’t fleeing from Europe and America. It is fleeing toward Europe or America bringing often with them all the intolerances left over from the Old Country. As the New York Times special on the global refugee crisis explains, there are more displaced persons on the road today than any time since World War 2.
They come from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Kosovo. Forth they stream from Bangladesh and the Muslim parts of Burma. They sail past Indonesia and Malaysia toward the hell-hole of Australia. A huge number are making their way overland through Macedonia and Serbia and are even now burrowing under the frontier wire of Hungary. On they come in boats from Libya, South Sudan, Eritrea and Nigeria, pausing only to catch their breath in Greece, Italy and France before going onward to the Promised Land. Not Israel in this case but Great Britain and Germany.
They come from everywhere, even in Europe masses of people have fled the fighting in Ukraine, half a million from Donetsk alone. They are swarming everywhere. The director of Human Rights Watch asks, ‘why does nobody care’ not just about the masses of refugees themselves the carnage they are fleeing from? After all, the West cared enough once so what changed in the interim?
Last Sunday’s bombing by the Syrian government of a busy marketplace in the town of Douma, killing at least 112 of its own citizens, was one of deadliest attacks in an ever-more devastating conflict. The four strikes came during the busy midday period, as if to maximize destruction. Once again, we were confronted with haunting images of rooms filled with the bodies of the victims, many of them children, being prepared for burial.
Almost exactly 20 years ago, a similarly brutal bombing of a marketplace during the Bosnian war changed the course of that conflict. On August 28, 1995, during its siege of the city of Sarajevo, forces of the breakaway Republika Srpska fired five mortar shells into the Markale market, killing 43 and wounding 75.
What changed in the interval was Western confidence in the normativeness of its values and its ability to intervene in global events. The political delegitimization of Operation Iraqi Freedom added to the disappointment in the Arab Spring has pretty much soured the West on anything except watching the tragedy passively unfold. The “skepticism about America’s right, power and duty to lead the world”, the logical consequence of ‘no more Vietnams’, ‘no more Iraqs’ is no mas, period.