In the U.S., the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, has indicated that the bible is his rulebook. He holds views on same-sex relationships and abortion that are not majority-held opinions. He has intimated that his ascension to power was ordained by God. Apparently God wanted him to be third in line to the presidency if anything happened to the current president or VP.
Johnson is a Trump supporter who questioned the legitimacy of the last presidential election and looks forward to the re-election of a criminally indicted man who has publicly stated he would use the FBI to harass his opponents. This time Mike’s preferred candidate plans to hire apparatchiks in government who would not question his impulses to form an autocracy.
Somehow a minority of Republican extremists in the House of Representatives was able to engineer the downfall of a House speaker and place Johnson in charge. Although moderate Republicans in the House complain about the party’s dangerous vector, it wasn’t enough for them to make a stand. Or there was something they got out of the deal that mitigates their distaste for extremism.
That is the theme of this piece: How extremist minorities can punch above their weight and derail good policy. The entire story for the U.S. has not been written yet, but it is possible a second civil war will ensue because the man who would be dictator is leading in the polls. There must be some relative innocents who would still vote for that man, not realizing the dangerous path they are committing to. They may not be extremists, but they feel they gain something with a vote for this man.
We need to remember that in 2016 the Democrat candidate lost to this autocrat while getting close to three million more votes. Clearly a minority overachieved. This also happens in the U.S. Senate. How did a Supreme Court get stacked with enough justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, while still supporting the right to bear the assault rifles that are used in countless mass shootings? A minority dominates once again with an anti-democratic Senate. It favours a two-senator-per-state system. So a state like California has their two senators cancelled out by a state like Wyoming, even though California has 68 times as many inhabitants.
Similarly, good policy was derailed in the Middle East. The 1995 Oslo accords provided a peaceful path to co-existence for the Israelis and Palestinian people. A minority of extremists on both sides would not accept this resolution. The result was a horror show that continues to unfold. An ultra-nationalist — inflamed by right-wing conservatives who could not accept any concession to the other side — assassinated Israeli Prime Minister and peace-accord architect Yitzhak Rabin. This opened the door for right-wing conservatives to stop the continuation of a two-state solution. To the degree that Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat wanted a solution, he recognized that Palestinian extremists would murder him if he tried to save the peace accord. After all, Egypt’s Sadat was similarly murdered by an extremist.
What has changed since 1981 and 1995 when both those leaders were taken out by fanatics who could not accept peace? The government of Benjamin Netanyahu is currently propped up by a right-wing faction that favors settlements in the West Bank displacing Palestinians. “We have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements.” Benjamin Netanyahu said this in 2009, when he was running for leadership. He has ended up supporting the opposite.
Ultra orthodox politicians, who saw the Supreme Court powers as a direct challenge to their goals, delivered Netanyahu’s last election victory. They wanted a closed religious society instead of a secular liberal one. Many in the country disagreed. There were mass protests on the push to weaken the court until everyone got distracted by the heinous Hamas incursion. Now that everyone is distracted, some settlers are more blatant in the push to displace West Bank Palestinians, their justification being: “These are biblical lands promised to us.”
On the Palestinian side, we have the extremist leadership of Hamas, which murdered PLO members who signed on to a two-state solution. Hamas got elected in 2007. Some say that they got the vote that one and only time not because of their anti-Israel policy, but because of corruption in the PLO. Some bargained with extremists for a legitimate reason: End corruption. Instead, they got a government who ended elections and eventually sent out fighters to kidnap and murder babies. If they’d had a crystal ball, maybe they would have voted differently.
Since the momentum towards peace spun out of control with the domino effect of a few assassinations over 20 years ago, our addiction to a Wild West internet has amplified our differences and pushed us to further extremes. Both sides have their propaganda floating in the ether. For example, when hundreds of thousands were in the streets because of a supposed Israeli bombing of a hospital that turned out to be not true, I was faced with people at home clinging to proven misinformation. Evidence supports the theory that hospital was instead bombed by a missile from another terrorist group … but good luck convincing those who live by emotional reasoning that they might be wrong.
As Canadians, the best we can do is resist the unregulated cyberspace’s clarion call to lump all Israelis or all Palestinians as evil. Instead, we should push for humanity for both sides. And we should, whenever possible, not vote for someone who espouses extremist policies, even if we get something marginal out of the bargain.