Millions of migrants are being driven northward by the horrible conditions in countries south and east of the Mediterranean Sea and south of the U.S. border. Most of these asylum seekers simply want a better life, free from fear. Still, they have become a huge political issue in the United States. Their plight is also a wakeup call regarding a growing humanitarian crisis. It’s not possible to erect barriers along our southern border that are impenetrable and that wouldn’t stem the tide or eliminate the problem anyway. Congress needs to help solve the problems of crime, hunger and political oppression that pressure migrants to leave their home countries and to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Republicans have blocked this legislation.
The coronavirus pandemic is a more urgent call, at least in the short term. Over 6 million people have died worldwide and U.S. deaths this year will exceed one million. Although it’s not over yet, this virus could have been much worse and it certainly won’t be the last that infects global populations. But have we learned anything from this experience?
Well, it’s clear to me that former president Donald Trump’s initial efforts to politicize this public health crisis, particularly the wearing of masks, greatly exacerbated the problems. His posturing motivated millions of his followers and numerous Republican politicians to thwart federal government efforts to get control of this disease. They spread conspiracy theories about the efficacy of vaccines, promoted ineffective treatments and attempted to sow distrust, not only of the government but of health care workers trying to save their lives. As a result, the U.S. has a higher coronavirus death rate than any other developed nation, according to a recent New York Times article, and is falling behind other large, high-income nations in administering lifesaving booster shots.
The pandemic has also shed a bright light on supply chain weaknesses, apparently caused by globalization. This subject deserves a lot more analysis, but suffice to say, if the United States doesn’t produce or control its supply of protective equipment, medicines and necessary medical devices before the next global health care crisis occurs, serious national security issues will result. Republicans have been reluctant to approve funding to solve these problems.
To make matters worse, right in the middle of the pandemic, the phone rang loudly last year on January 6, as a mob that was spurred on by Trump and his lie about a stolen election attacked the U.S. Capitol building. This could have been a successful coup but for a few, mostly Republican, officials who this time refused to go along with his scheme. Yet, despite overwhelming evidence that Joe Biden was the clear winner in 2020, polls indicate that the majority of Republicans continue to believe the Democrats sole the election from Trump.
The January 6 insurrection was not a one-off event; it was a prelude. If all those responsible for this heinous attack are not held accountable, including Trump, this type of violence will proliferate. And if federal voting rights acts are not passed to nullify attempts by Republican-controlled state legislatures to control the outcome of future presidential elections, they will result in chaos. All but a few Republicans oppose holding Trump accountable and the GOP strongly opposes federal voting rights legislation.
The most recent wakeup call is ongoing as ruthless Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin flattens Ukrainian cities and slaughters civilians. This crisis is a global game changer that forces the West to totally reevaluate its strategic plans on dealing with Russia and also China, which is supporting Russian objectives in Ukraine.
Fortunately, President Biden has skillfully rebuilt the U.S. relationship with the European Union and NATO that Trump virtually destroyed during his presidency. Biden was also able to coax our allies to impose massive sanctions against Russia, which was not simple or easy. Yet, some Republicans are actually supporting Putin and most attack Biden as “weak,” “incompetent” or worse as they attempt to score political points during this crisis. Whose side are they on?
Regardless, Putin’s aggression also raises serious supply chain issues, including with oil, natural gas and wheat. Russia is derisively called nothing but a massive gas station but it supplies a substantial percentage of Europe’s energy needs and both Russia and Ukraine are significant producers of wheat. Consequently, prices of many goods and services will skyrocket and American pocketbooks will suffer.
Also, significant and perhaps dramatic effects on the world order will occur depending on how this situation in Ukraine plays out, including how food supplies are secured and how global warming is addressed.
That introduces my concluding concern, the rapid warming of the planet. I believe the wakeup call we are receiving from rising global temperatures, burning forests and melting glaciers rings louder than all the others. A significant rise in ocean levels and/or unbearably hot temperatures around the planet would force a mass migration that will make today’s problem with asylum seeking migrants seem trivial. The resulting struggle to maintain food and clean water supplies alone will create horrific national security issues for the United States. Still, most Republicans discount climate change or call it a “hoax.”
Make no mistake, the liberal democratic order that America championed following World War II is being threatened, including by Trump, his supporters and the Republican party. Hopefully, voters will figure this out before the elections in 2022 and 2024.