The Republican Party appears incapable of actively addressing the fundamental challenges posed by the onset of the 21st century.
Go down the list of challenges and necessary changes to which the GOP has turned a blind eye.
The challenge -- Reducing human generated greenhouse gas emissions pouring into the atmosphere and heating up the planet. The change -- Gradually replacing oil use with alternative clean renewable energy sources. The federal government must be the fiscal catalyst for development of long range sustainable energy technology since the private sector's primary focus is on immediate profits, not the public's future wellbeing. The problem -- The GOP is skeptical of any threat from global warming and thus oblivious to the window closing on opportunities to readily cope with the phenomenon. Republicans also dismiss the practicality of clean renewable energy's mass application in the near future. They seem to ignore that we already get more than 10 percent of our energy from those sources, which some experts believe could supply as much as 33 percent by 2050 under a crash program.
The challenge -- Stabilizing a burgeoning global human population and the runaway use of diminishing finite natural resources. The change -- Establishing an equilibrium with nature so as to operate sustainably within the earth's ecological carrying capacity. That means greater emphasis on recycling and reuse of finite natural resources and more measured use of renewable resources so that they have adequate time to regenerate. Qualitative values needs to take precedence over quantitative ones. The problem -- The Republican Party appears rigidly committed to an unsustainable pattern of economic expansion, based on conspicuous consumption which if left unchecked will lead to a significant decline in Americans' quality of life.
The challenge -- Global interdependency. No country, however powerful, can lay claim any longer to being totally self-sufficient. Technology has shrunk the world and created mutual dependence. The change -- No longer being insular doesn't require sacrificing our sovereignty, but it does require working within a cooperative global framework or facing an eventual loss in trade, technological progress, and political influence. The problem -- The GOP acts as though we are still a law unto ourselves, thereby triggering hostility abroad and jeopardizing the international cooperation essential to our future welfare.
The challenge -- Curbing modern industrial trans-boundary pollution. The change -- There must be greater reliance on coordinated national and international enforcement of modern pollution, which cannot be combated effectively through piecemeal efforts by local jurisdictions. The problem -- Much to the delight of its corporate campaign contributors, the GOP persists in viewing pollution as a local concern, which it largely was until the late 19th century.
Challenge and change also present problems for President Obama, should he win a second term. His speeches and some of his policies indicate he is better prepared than the Republicans to confront the daunting challenges that lie ahead. But if he moves too fast, the Republicans could successfully obstruct progress by making a powerful emotional appeal to human nature. In the face of uncertainty, most of us look for any excuse to cling to the familiar status quo and the path of least resistance.
If Obama moves too slowly on reforms, he risks having his presidential tenure written off as an historical footnote rather than referenced as a dynamic, game changing chapter.