The world is beset with a series of emergencies that would challenge the abilities of even the best leaders. Climate change is real and worsening. The most pernicious effects of the pandemic remain unaddressed, from the continued spread of the virus to the slow creep of poverty returning for millions as the COVID-19 safety net is rolled back. A war in eastern Europe reminds us that we are always just a hair trigger away from nuclear annihilation. And a survey of nations around the Western hemisphere shows governments in crisis.
Here in America, we often lament that our two-party system holds voters hostage and prevents new ideas and leaders from rising to the top. Yet parliamentary systems, which often require several smaller parties to come together to form a governing coalition, aren’t fairing much better across Europe and elsewhere.
Let’s start with the United Kingdom. The Brexit referendum was the beginning of six years of turbulence that has seen two general elections and five different prime ministers lead the country since 2016. Included among those are the clownish Boris Johnson and the utterly incompetent Liz Truss, who managed to hold power for just under two months. Challenges from the Brexit referendum endure, not the least of which is how to handle the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. There seem to be no clear answers as the carousel of leadership continues to turn.
Next is Israel, which has been similarly unable to form a stable government. The Israeli public has been through five elections in the last four years due to either the collapse of governing coalitions or the outright inability to form a government. At the center of it is Benjamin Netanyahu, a divisive figure in Israeli politics to say the least. Despite facing three separate trials for corruption charges, Netanyahu looks poised to become Israel’s prime minister for the third time in elections held this week. He’s accomplished this unlikely feat by courting some of Israel’s most right-wing parties to form a government. This is a major step backward from the previous government, which featured an Arab party for the first time in Israel’s history. And there’s no telling what political turmoil Israel may be thrown into if Netanyahu is convicted while serving as prime minister.
Not to be outdone is Italy, the poster child of electoral instability. Italy has had over 70 governments in the 77 years since the end of World War II. But whereas the Italian governments of the past were short-lived or led by braggadocious blowhards like Silvio Berlusconi, the latest election has caught international attention because of its echoes from the past. The Brothers of Italy party, led by Girogia Meloni, will lead a right-wing coalition government. What’s notable is that the Brothers of Italy is directly descended from the fascist government of Benito Mussolini, and will lead the most far-right government since the war. Given what happened last time Italy had a government this far to the right, many people are nervous about what Meloni’s success portends.
Then there’s Haiti, where the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse has plunged the nation into political catastrophe. The situation has grown so dire that the current prime minister, Ariel Henry, has called for international troops to help quell violence and support the otherwise inept national government.
Finally, we return home to the United States. Our political crisis runs far deeper than many people realize. The January 6th Insurrection represented the beginning of a right-wing attempt to seize the government through non-democratic methods. Several states have passed or changed laws to make it easier to disregard legitimate election outcomes, and candidates who claim President Joe Biden lost the 2020 election have proliferated across local, state, and national contests. On top of it all, Donald Trump is still energizing and supporting these efforts, setting the stage for a presidential election in 2024 that could be historic in its ugliness. The 2022 midterms look like they may be a preview of that contest.
One bright spot has been Brazil, where former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defeated President Jair Bolsonaro. There were fears that Bolsonaro would challenge the election results. While he hasn’t conceded, Bolsonaro has let the official transition process move forward.
This is a time for leaders to prove that they are up to the monumental tasks before us. We need leadership that will unite minds, hearts, and resources to stop the apocalypses hurtling towards us- nuclear or climate, take your pick. Instead, the Western Hemisphere is beset with dysfunctional governments, unable to even function properly, much less meet the moment. Short-term political gain over long-term solutions until the end of time. Which at this rate, is looking to be sooner rather than later.