Wednesday Night #1793
On Wednesday, David Cameron resigns and Theresa May moves into #10 Downing Street. Andrew Hammond, writing in the Globe & Mail, perhaps puts it best: Theresa May’s first job? Tackling the damning legacy of David Cameron “Taken overall, Ms. May now has to tackle as best she can Mr. Cameron’s legacy as prime minister which could end up being the breakup of the United Kingdom, one of the world’s most successful political unions. This would mean that the nation would no longer punch so strongly on the international stage, adversely affecting its ability to bolster international security and prosperity at a time when both remain fragile.”
At lunch on Thursday, the 14th at the University Club, Wednesday Night’s OWN Peter Perkins will address The Brexit Aftermath: “The potential contagion (particularly for the euro area) is enough to tilt global growth from strengthening to weakening. Global policymakers will need to provide offsetting reflation to limit financial contagion and ensure that business and consumer confidence is not impaired in a lasting fashion.” Details & Registration information
Meanwhile, the past week’s violence in the U.S. is heartbreaking and deeply troubling; commentators are drawing comparisons to the Summer of ’68. One of the most thoughtful – and depressing – analyses we have read is by Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent at The Atlantic, The Near Certainty of Anti-Police Violence – “By ignoring illegitimate policing, America has also failed to address the danger this illegitimacy poses to those who must do the policing.”.
We have also included below the full text of David Brooks’ most recent column for your consideration.
Once again, President Obama stepped in to the role of Consoler-in-chief, admitting “I’ve spoken at too many memorials during the course of this presidency. I’ve hugged too many families. I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change. I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.” His speech in Dallas drew considerable praise [Obama Tells Mourning Dallas, ‘We Are Not as Divided as We Seem’], but also some sharp criticism [How Obama ruined his Dallas memorial speech]. We lean to the former view and also believe that media reports should have paid more attention to the presence and words, of former President George W. Bush especially “Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”
Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton (finally!). On Monday night’s PBS Newshour (The latest on the veepstakes, Sanders to endorse Clinton), Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report agreed that “Bernie Sanders got a lot of what he was looking for. The platform includes a $15 minimum wage, for instance. Also, over the last week or so, Hillary Clinton’s … moved closer to Bernie Sanders. She made some announcements on health care, as well as college affordability. So Bernie Sanders, you know, this endorsement isn’t for free. Bernie Sanders has been pushing Hillary Clinton, and you can expect that to continue beyond tomorrow.” This should mollify his supporters to a certain extent.
Storm clouds over the China Sea? Tribunal Rejects Beijing’s Claims in South China Sea
(NYT & BBC) An international tribunal in The Hague delivered a sweeping rebuke on Tuesday of China’s behavior in the South China Sea, including its construction of artificial islands, and found that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters [China claims about 90% of the South China Sea, including reefs and islands also claimed by others] had no legal basis.
In its most significant finding, the tribunal rejected China’s argument that it enjoys historic rights over most of the South China Sea. China says it does not recognise the tribunal and has refused to take part. So now what?
The NATO summit in Warsaw over the weekend has prompted a range of reactions. Salon declares that The West escalates with Russia: Make no mistake, a second Cold War is now official NATO policy – “NATO’s aggressive posture towards Russia sets a dangerous course for Obama’s successor .” The gloom twins, Burney & Hampson, are at the opposite end of the spectrum, doubtful that “the rhetoric in the turgid, but solemn, 32-page communiqué is matched by resolve. The track record to date is not encouraging. Whether in the Middle East, Afghanistan or in Eastern Europe, the Western alliance is on its back foot.” We recommend the Maclean’s interview with Carleton Professor Stephen Saideman for a more sanguine analysis.
To make up for the very heavy tone of these topics – we must add this delightful and oh-so-true lexicon: Common nonprofit terms and concepts and what they actually mean
San Antonio — I never really understood how fascism could have come to Europe, but I think I understand better now. You start with some fundamental historical transformation, like the Great Depression or the shift to an information economy. A certain number of people are dispossessed. They lose identity, self-respect and hope.
They begin to base their sense of self-worth on their tribe, not their behavior. They become mired in their resentments, spiraling deeper into the addiction of their own victimology. They fall for politicians who lie about the source of their problems and about how they can surmount them. Facts lose their meaning. Entertainment replaces reality.
Once facts are unmoored, everything else is unmoored, too. People who value humility and kindness in private life abandon those traits when they select leaders in the common sphere. Hardened by a corrosive cynicism, they fall for morally deranged little showmen.
And then perhaps there’s a catalyzing event. Societies in this condition are culturally tense and socially isolated. That means there are a lot of lonely, alienated young men seeking self-worth through violence. Some wear police badges; some sit in their rooms fantasizing of mass murder. When they act, the results can be convulsive.
Normally, nations pull together after tragedy, but a society plagued by dislocation and slipped off the rails of reality can go the other way. Rallies become gripped by an exaltation of tribal fervor. Before you know it, political life has spun out of control, dragging the country itself into a place both bizarre and unrecognizable.
This happened in Europe in the 1930s. We’re not close to that kind of descent in America today, but we’re closer than we’ve been. Let’s be honest: The crack of some abyss opened up for a moment by the end of last week.
Blood was in the streets last week — victims of police violence in two cities and slain cops in another. America’s leadership crisis looked dire. The F.B.I. director’s statements reminded us that Hillary Clinton is willing to blatantly lie to preserve her career. Donald Trump, of course, lies continually and without compunction. It’s very easy to see this country on a nightmare trajectory.
How can America answer a set of generational challenges when the leadership class is dysfunctional, political conversation has entered a post-fact era and the political parties are divided on racial lines — set to blow at a moment’s notice?
On the other hand …
I never really understood how a nation could arise as one and completely turn itself around, but I think I’m beginning to understand now. Back in the 1880s and 1890s, America faced crises as deep as the ones we face today. The economy was going through an epochal transition, then to industrialization. The political system was worse and more corrupt than ours is today.
Culturally things were bad, too. Racism and anti-immigrant feelings were at plague-like levels. Urban poverty was indescribable.
And yet America responded. A new leadership class emerged, separately at first, but finally congealing into a national movement. In 1889, Jane Addams created settlement houses to serve urban poor. In 1892, Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance to give the diversifying country a sense of common loyalty. In 1902, Owen Wister published “The Virginian,” a novel that created the cowboy mythology and galvanized the American imagination.
New sorts of political leaders emerged. In city after city, progressive reformers cleaned up politics and professionalized the civil service. Theodore Roosevelt went into elective politics at a time when few Ivy League types thought it was decent to do so. He bound the country around a New Nationalism and helped pass legislation that ensured capitalism would remain open, fair and competitive.
This was a clear example of a society facing a generational challenge and surmounting it. The Progressives were far from perfect, but they inherited rotting leadership institutions, reformed them and heralded in a new era of national greatness.
So which path will we take? The future of the world hangs on that question.
One way to think about it is this: America still has great resources at the local and social level. Here in San Antonio, there are cops who know how to de-escalate conflicts by showing dignity and respect. Everywhere I go there are mayors thinking practically and non-dogmatically. Can these local leaders move upward and redeem the national system, or will the national politics become so deranged that it will outweigh and corrupt all the good that is done block by block?
I’m betting the local is more powerful, that the healthy growth on the forest floor is more important than the rot in the canopy. But last week was a confidence shaker. There’s a cavity beneath what we thought was the floor of national life, and there are demons there.