In the seventies, when I returned to the US after ten years abroad, I was struck by the amount of ‘intelligence sophistication’ among America’s college graduates. At the same time, however, contrary to Europe, where it was a given, ideological literacy was strikingly absent. When the press accused George McGovern of being a socialist, -Democrats were unable to defend him, having only a vague idea of what that label could or should mean.
Recently democratic socialism entered the American lexicon, as black and white, young and old men and women, enter the race for the White House, every one of them bright and knowledgeable, and determined to go outside the centrist box to find solutions to America’s daunting problems. They come from twelve different states and range in age from thirty-eight to seventy-nine. Out of a total of twenty, only five are women; however, in a first, one is gay — and no sooner had he declared his candidacy than he flew to the top of the charts.
When Barack Obama announced his candidacy in February of 2007, audience reactions told me that he would enter the White House. I experience the same certainty listening to Pete Buttigieg, the thirty-seven year old gay mayor of a midwestern city. Although foreign policy is hardly mentioned in primary debates, his candidacy has unusual implications for peace.
Under the fig leaf of Russian interference in the 2016 election lies the question of whether the US should continue to be the world hegemon or join with Russia, China, India and other major countries in a multi-polar condominium to keep the world from committing nuclear or climate suicide? The answer will be affected by the social attitude known as anything goes, which Russian President Vladimir Putin calls ‘Western degeneracy’. (The Russian Revolution briefly featured ‘free love’, but it was soon replaced by attitudes toward sexual relations similar to those that characterized the ‘Puritan’ United States.)
Postwar socialist constitutions enshrined sexual equality, while in America, ‘women’s lib’ gradually led to the ‘Me Too era: the denunciation by women (and men) of prominent individuals (including priests), who had abused them, and the affirmation of equal rights for LGBTQ’s (Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, people who have undergone surgical sex changes, etc). This attitude is rejected by far-right parties associated with the defense of Christianity vis a vis Islam — as well as by the Presidents of most developing countries.
LGBTQ’s are likely to be anti-war; and of all the candidates, ‘Mayor Pete’, as he is known to his constituents, strikes me as the only one with the kind of support that leads to the White House. Like Obama, twelve years ago, his delivery possesses an unerring authority (he is also a Rhodes Scholar), however where Obama’s charm was of the shark variety, Buttigeig’s is more like a kitten that is wise beyond its years.
Like his competitors, he is for all the right progressive changes that the United States desperately needs, while steering clear of foreign policy. (According to the US media, ‘Americans are not interested in foreign affairs’ — and of course the powers that be like it that way.) However, that is where he could make a real difference. Having served in the military only to prove that he could ‘fit in’, he is likely to reject the Wolfowitz Doctrine of American hegemony as well as the notion that socially, ‘anything goes’. The question is whether the world will gradually accept personal choice when it comes to who individuals love, along with an American turn away from world hegemony.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years. She can be reached at Otherjones. Especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.