Game Changer

A number of recent articles have argued that America -- and the post WW2 order -- is broken. Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy wrote that the "Pax Americana, the stabilizing role played by the U.S. superpower, is no more. The G-Zero era—where no one country (or constellation of countries) is willing or able to assume the responsibility of global leadership—is now officially upon us. And it’s already wreaking havoc." The phrase "G-Zero" is a play off the slogan of the G-20, which assumed the world could be led by a small elite of countries. In a G-Zero world no one is in charge of "the world".

At the heart of the vacuum is a growing political division in the West, the putative wrecker ball of the G's collapse. Evidence of the division abounds.  "It feels like America is descending into chaos," writes John Podhoretz. "Wednesday’s ghastly shooting spree at the congressional Republican baseball practice" felt like the start of something. The assassin had a list of six other Republican congressman in his possession.

That "something" sounds exactly like a menace from a horror movie script. "Following the attack on congressional Republicans by a left-wing political activist on Wednesday, VICE News sat down with a few domestic extremism experts to talk about the surge in political violence in the U.S., particularly from the left. In his discussion with the news outlet, Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, issued a chilling warning about "something" he feared was "coalescing on the hard left."

But David French, writing in the National Review, is less apocalyptic. "We’re not in a Civil War," he writes "but we are drifting toward divorce." He may well be right but no one quite knows divorce would mean and  still less whether it will be a good or bad thing.  As in the case in divorces of the marital kind, political separation can lead to disaster or to freedom depending on the outcome. What is less in doubt is that it will produce a degree of voluntary re-segregation that French thinks is already taking place on micro and macro levels.

Last week there were two telling incidents — one small, the other more consequential — that spoke volumes about the state of our national life. Let’s start small. Over in Seattle, in the midst of a debate over juvenile justice, a city-council member invoked his “Republican friends” as a symbol of the broad-based agreement that incarceration policies need to change. One of his colleagues, Kshama Sawant, snapped back with the proud declaration that she didn’t have any Republican friends. The crowd cheered.

Sure, it’s but one small incident, but consider something bigger. The state of California is in the process of taking a series of political steps that are not only cementing its status as a progressive enclave, it’s stumbling toward its own foreign policy. After Donald Trump withdrew America from the Paris climate agreement, California governor Jerry Brown rushed to fill the void. California is touting its collaborations with China to combat global warming.