Who is destroying our democracy and why?
I recently started listening to the wonderful Hot & Bothered podcast and from April first on, a couple of episodes were essentially recordings from the “Designing the New Green Deal” conference the podcast hosts Daniel Aldana Cohen and Kate Aronoff co-organised (I hope I'm getting this right).
Listening to this was very insightful. The New Deal, which (obviously, duh) is the namsake of the New Green Deal is a very important chapter of American history, but over here in Europe, we have not been taught about it in school, so when during the panels people talked a lot about the New Deal and what was good and what was bad, for me it was all new. It's fascinating to learn that this neoliberal, capitalistic hell hole (my words, deal with it) was, for a couple of years, a super interesting (and super successful) playground for social democratic, heck, even socialist policies and measures, all happening while Europe slowly descended into the worst war by the actions of my ancestors, Nazi Germany.
The New Deal
Anyway – The episode I listened to today from April 3rd (I'm a little behind on my podcasts) has Vox writer David Roberts talking about the challenges in getting the political system to pass the legislation for a New Green Deal. And something suddenly clicked for me. He explained how almost everything about Republican policy can be explained by the desire to make absolutely sure that something like the New Deal can never ever happen again.
Now, the thing is, both Demographics (with America more leaning towards Democrats as a whole while urbanisation marches on) and, you know, Reality (For example climate crisis impacts, but also things like Covid-19 which shows how fragile the US health care system is) are actually working against Republicans here, which is why, especially looking at it from the outside, their actions seem so blatant and outright desparate. But to be fair, they have also been super effective in suppressing progressive change in the USA.
But what about Europe
But while it's fun to shake my European head at the stupid Americans and their broken democracy, it has become quite clear by now that this foolishness is not funny but outright dangerous, killing people. Americas Covid-19 cases spiking as we speak as lock down measures have been lifted without the needed suppression of the virus – but also black people continue to being straight up murdered by the police.
And, quite frankly, from my European perspective, while I think that most of our Democracies over here are more robust (with Hungary and Poland right now being the notable exceptions) the underlying currents are obviously quite similar.
Massive privatisation, trade and service agreements that contain ratchet clauses for deregulation and privatisation and in general a trend to deregulate either in law or in practice are things that slowly but surely not only undermine the capacity to act for future governments but also seriously endanger the financial basis of communites and governmental bodies on all levels.
The “small state” is an extremely effective way of making progressive, socialist or social democratic policies very unlikely to happen.
The strategic nature of all of this becomes clear if you look at the areas where power is amassed instead of eroded, where governmental spending is increasing: Security forces and the Military. Again, the sheer extent of that imbalance is much greater in the US, where police forces often make up a substantial chunk of a community's budget and the military is the biggest single employer in the country, but the trends of militarizing the police forces while consistently undermining the needed transparency and accountability that allows a liberal democracy to hand over the monopoly on violence to the police head into the same direction.
And with that, meaningful change in the veins of a real New Green Deal (and not the fake version the EU commission proposed) becomes almost impossible, not only in the States but also in Europe.
It is not quite clear to me if we (and with that I mean both Europe and the USA) will be able to fix this issue without going through a valley of tears and blood beforehand (costing, given that we are very close to climate tipping points that will have devastating consequences, billions of lives, with a good chance of destroying civilisation as we know it).
But in contrast to those who throw their hands in the air and say “well, there's nothing we can do anymore, it will all go to pieces anyway” let me say that it will always be worth fighting for. Each degree of global warming counts. Each centimetre of saved land counts. Each less Covid-19 death counts. Each less victim of police violence counts. Each less homeless person counts. Each less person usurped by insurmountable debt because of a common illness counts. Each less refugee drowing in the mediterranean counts.
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!