It is becoming increasingly clear that people are losing confidence in this country. They’re losing confidence in our government to solve our problems here at home. They’re losing confidence in both political parties’ ability to lead. They’re losing confidence in our ability to lead the world, as the globe’s lone remaining superpower. This decreasing confidence in our country comes not just here at home, but all over the world — and the evidence is all around us.
At home, the two parties can’t come together on anything meaningful. We are not having the discussions that we, as a state and as a nation, need to have. Rather than having a real debate about entitlements, about immigration reform, about the budget, or about the proper size and scope of government, we nibble at the edges. We pass temporary fixes for enormous problems — or ignore them completely, passing them on to the next generation.
Politically, both parties are out of options as well. The next presidential campaign will be a long one, to be sure, and a real leader may yet emerge, but right now it’s hard to imagine who. On the Democratic side, they are so desperate for options that they are willing to ignore the clear moral failings of their presumed frontrunner. None of Hillary Clinton’s potential foes in the primary seem capable of giving her a real contest, even given her recent scandal.
On the Republican side, they suffer from the opposite problem: too many options. The question consuming most of them seems to be how they can cobble together the minimum coalition necessary to win the nomination, not how they can grow the party enough to actually get elected. The GOP needs to find a fresh face who can compete on new fronts. The question is, can that fresh face be an effective candidate, never mind leader of the free world? That’s the question facing Republicans right now.
Internationally, we can’t seem to put together an effective campaign to fight ISIS, let alone stop Russian expansionism. Although Arab allies have been pulled together by what they see — rightly so — as an existential threat, our own Congress has been too drowned in partisan bickering to notice. Meanwhile, our European allies seem less than interested in facing Putin, an existential threat standing on their very doorstep. The failure of Western allies to be able to effectively confront Putin can be attributed to the lack of any unified, strong leadership from any Western nation.
This lack of confidence has not been caused by any one particular policy or solely by either party, but by a series of events over the past several decades. Both parties have had their share of foreign policy blunders, ideological divisiveness, and embarrassing scandals that have contributed to this problem. Just as both parties have contributed to the problem, both parties need to contribute to the solution.
The solution, internationally, is not to veer too far toward either interventionism or isolationism, but to strike a balance between the two. We need to be able to intervene when necessary to protect national security without feeling the need to solve every problem in the world. Domestically, we need to recognize that the serious problems facing this country will require solutions forged in consensus.
Hopefully in 2016 someone will emerge who has that confidence in America. Someone who hasn’t given up our ability to show responsible leadership in the world. Someone who knows we still have the capability to work together to solve problems. Someone who can show all Americans that it’s OK to believe in the greatness of this country. If such a candidate emerges, confidence in America can be restored, both at home and abroad — but it’s up to all of us to make sure that happens.