Tighter security and keeping tabs on domestic extremists is only part of the job we need to do to stabilize American democracy. Brian Katulis at The Liberal Patriot argues that a spirit of inclusive nationalism could do a lot to detoxify the nation's political atmosphere.
"America’s military and law enforcement organizations kept the peace and maintained their neutrality (at least for now), and it is important to root out any signs of extremism or partisanship within these institutions’ ranks. Maintaining the nonpartisan independence of these organizations is vital for a healthy democracy – as is the constant need for ensuring their highest commitment to professionalism and America’s values. But legalistic and bureaucratic moves only scratch the surface of a deeper problem – one that won’t be fixed overnight.
A key ingredient to improving the broader political landscape is to revive a broader spirit of an inclusive nationalism – everyone can do a better job at stepping back from the “us versus them” mentality that has undercut America’s democracy and other open societies around the world.
These ideas have been swirling around global right wing extremist networks for many years, and they also have some deep roots to ugly parts of America’s own history. As a result, today’s Republican Party has a tough fight against the extremist voices that have been in their camp for decades – doubly so now that it has a QAnon conspiracy theorist among its ranks in Congress and Donald Trump raised hundreds of millions of dollars since last November’s election.
A change in the broader environment requires serious work across the ideological and political spectrum to foster better politics. Extremists fill the gaps left behind by weakened political parties that are seen as out-of-touch and lacking a clear vision for the country.
The long-term challenge is one facing Republicans and Democrats alike – doing more to foster a more inclusive nationalism, as John Halpin wrote in Democracy, “Democratic and Republican leaders who align themselves with dogmatic economic ideologies or unresolvable culture wars fail to serve our country well.” One of the biggest failures in America’s politics today on the right and the left is the failure of a compelling narrative – a shared story about the country and its core ideals.
The problems of narrow thinking afflict parts of the left, too, as Peter Juul and Ruy Teixeira point out in American Affairs. They make the case for an approach that “speaks to all Americans as Americans – not as members of finely sliced and microtargeted demographic categories – and engages them in an optimistic and truly inclusive politics of national renewal and reconstruction.”
We saw glimmers of inclusive nationalism at Biden’s inauguration last month – particularly when three former U.S. presidents came together with a powerful message of unity reminding Americans that they have more in common than what separates them. But platitudes at national moments are easy. Tougher is staying connected to the bigger picture of a shared common good for the country during the rough and tumble of wrestling with difficult public policy issues – as we are seeing in the current stimulus debate.
Reviving that sense of a shared national narrative – one that is open, pluralistic, and inclusive – is essential to a well-functioning society. The historian Yuval Noah Harari argues in his book, Sapiens, “Much of history revolves around this question: how does one convince millions of people to believe particular stories….” Societies need these shared stories to get large numbers of people to cooperate successfully."
Read it all at The Liberal Patriot!