There is another very helpful article in Foreign Affairs, this time by Professor Sarah Kreps of Cornell University. Professor Kreps looks at how a ““tale of two countries”—and the ripple effects on foreign policy … [has emerged, and ] … is more apparent in the United States than in Europe. Because of vast inequalities in the United States, geography now dictates a person’s chances of success. The zip code in which an American is raised is a significant determinant of how much money he or she will make in his or her lifetime. For a variety of reasons, Americans are less mobile now than they were in the years since 1948. Self-segregation—birds of a feather flocking together—has led to increasing political polarization, as exposure to alternative viewpoints has faded and an “us versus them” mentality has become entrenched … [and] … Much of the ensuing handwringing over Americans’ immobility, inequality, and polarization has focused on the domestic consequences. But there are beginning to be repercussions for foreign policy as well, such as the exposure of fissures in the idea that Americans are all from one planet, be it Mars or Venus.“
I think it’s a penetrating analysis and I also think that we, Canadians, need to understand it. We Canadians have, I believe, become increasingly moderate even as our American friends and neighbours, who we too often ape in to many things, have become more polarized. I suspect there is a “mushy (moderate) middle” in America’s political spectrum, probably quite a large one, but I fear it has washed its hands of electoral politics ~ leaving the voting to (relative) extremists. (While I suspect most politically informed people will recognize Bernie Sanders, the other fellow is Richard B Spencer, an increasingly popular figure in the “alt-right” movement ~ if “movement” is the right word.) Fewer and fewer moderates succeed in American national politics ~ more and more extremists, which, in my opinion, includes Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, do.
“In 2016,” Professor Kreps says, “Trump won the support of voters living in 85 percent of the country, mostly rural areas, but lost virtually every metropolitan region in the country—which is how he won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote. Surveys suggest that these groups—the nonmetropolitan citizens who supported Trump and the metropolitan constituents who supported the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton—are separated not just by geography but by stark and growing cleavages in how they see the liberal international order … [and] … Today, two-thirds of Democrats polled agree that free trade has been good for the United States (up from 57 percent in 2009), compared with 36 percent of Republicans. Although, according to a Pew survey, 49 percent of the population as a whole agrees that there are no circumstances in which torture is acceptable, only 27 percent of Republicans share that view (compared with 67 percent of Democrats). Almost 60 percent of Democrats polled indicated that climate change is a serious threat and that the country should address it “even if this involves significant costs,” compared with just 12 percent of Republicans. As these data suggest, when it comes to foreign policy, Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus.“
Most Canadians, more than 75% I suspect, think that free(er) trade is, generally, a good thing … there is a protectionist lunatic fringe, it’s at home in both the Liberal and New Democratic Parties, led by well known “activists” but they are largely marginalized. Equally I would guess that at least as many Canadians (75%+) agree that torture is never acceptable. Finally I suspect that somewhat fewer, maybe 60%, as with US Democrats, agree that climate change is an important issue on which public money should be spent.
Professor Kreps notes that there are many areas in which the US national government is “out of step” with the rest of the world and with a majority of Americans but, she explains, state and local governments and, even more importantly, the private sector can and are acting to augment or even replace the US national governments in areas suck as foreign aid, climate change and global technological change. This is an area where the Government of Canada and Canadian institutions should look to align policy objectives:
- Canadian politicians should encourage private foundations to more active and more public leadership roles in a range of activities including climate change and foreign aid. Matching grants are one way to do this;
- The government should invest more in higher education ~ including making it easier for bright foreign students to attend universities inn Canada. Programmes supported by government should be broad ranging but should be focused on economic “outcomes” which suggests that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) should, probably, receive more than the social sciences and programmes like :”gender studies” should receive none at all;
- The government should work more with other than US led multinational organizations ~ it should pursue a CANZUK free(er) trade (including free(er) movement of workers) agreement for example and seek more political leadership roles in e.g. NATO and the IMF, G20 and so on.