- Caleb Walsh illustration
Only a few months ago, it looked like we were in serious trouble as a planet. Our politics were going crazy across the world, veering towards the wacky extremist right. We were leading the way here in the United States (with an assist from Russia), but we weren't alone.
The British had voted for Brexit, leaving the rest of Europe behind in an economically perilous decision, and they were getting ready for an election where the polls suggested the Conservatives were poised to receive a mandate for a "hard" exit that would have limited the mobility and economic freedoms of British citizens.
In France, far right-wing leader Marine Le Pen had broken through to make it into the country's two-top presidential runoff. Even if she were unable to seize the presidency, it appeared her party, the National Front, could make significant, dangerous gains in the parliamentary elections to follow, cementing themselves and their toxic, racist policies into the mainstream.
Meanwhile, President Trump's reckless decision to abandon the Paris climate accord threatened to collapse a hard-fought consensus for global action. It was feared that large polluters, like India and China, might soon join the U.S. in pulling out, or at least weakening their commitments to reduce emissions of carbon pollution.
But then the pendulum started to swing back. And while there is still a whole lot of crazy on this tiny planet of ours, it looks like global politics might actually be taking a shift back toward sanity.
Instead of following America in fleeing from facing down climate change, India and China are emerging more committed than ever. India is scrapping plans for coal plants after determining that renewable energy would be more affordable. China is taking advantage of the absence of American leadership to assert even more forcibly its own power, and making climate change one of the issues where it plans to lead.
And Britain has made a sharp reversal: The Tories, who were expected to dramatically increase their hold on the government, instead found themselves having to cobble together a governing alliance after losing their outright majority. They were cut down to size by Labor's left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn (potentially representing the emergence of a different kind of crazy), and now signs suggest that the Tories will need to negotiate a kinder, more gentle Brexit.
Perhaps the single greatest example of rising sanity can be found in France. Emmanuel Macron has led his new centrist party to victory, first in winning the presidency and now looking likely to elect hundreds of diverse newcomers to Parliament. At the end of a recent speech in English urging action on climate change, he declared that we need to "make the planet great again."
As for back here in the U.S.? Trump's White House continues to sow chaos through tweets and policies alike. There's no doubt this will continue to disrupt progress, and keep politics across the globe more reality TV than reality.
That said, as America has retreated from its responsibilities, it's promising that new leadership has emerged elsewhere. There's little doubt that this will harm America's long-term interests, but it's good news for us a species.
Perhaps most significantly, the recent changes in politics elsewhere have, at least in part, been driven by a notable increase in the participation of young people in the political process. For example, both Corbyn's and Macron's electoral victories were made possible by increased turnout among young voters. With the recent energy being put into protests here in America, perhaps young people will turn out at the ballot box to help our nation return to sanity, too.♦
John T. Reuter, a former Sandpoint City Councilman, has been active in protecting the environment, expanding LGBT rights and Idaho's Republican Party politics.