Sunday, November 13, 2016

All Of the Above

Everybody, it seems, has an explanation for how a racist, bigoted, misogynistic pathological liar became the president-elect of the United States. Inevitably the focus becomes attaching blame for this farcical calamity.

Some blame the dead-ender, political illiterates who supported Trump. Others blame the media that gave Trump such a free pass. Hillary gets a lot of blame. Obama too. The Democratic Party that has lost touch with the public, it gets blamed. To these and more my take is "all of the above." Without the benefit of a thorough post-mortem, a real muscle and sinew exploration, it can't be helpful to play this game. That can only lead to scapegoats.

Timothy Garton Ash, writing in The Globe, says the focus has to be on defending liberal democracy, not just in America but across the West.

So now the challenge is in plain view: We face the globalization of anti-globalization, a popular front of populists, an international of nationalists. “Today the United States, tomorrow – France,” tweets Jean-Marie Le Pen. It will be a long hard struggle to defeat them, at home and abroad, and we may now have to look to Germany rather than America for the “leader of the free world.” But defeat them we will.

In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, we have something very close to fascism. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey is rapidly crossing the line between illiberal democracy and fascism, while Viktor Orban’s Hungary is already an illiberal democracy. In Poland, France, the Netherlands, Britain and now the United States, we have to defend the line between liberal and illiberal democracy. In the United States, we shall now witness the biggest test of one of the strongest, oldest systems of liberal democratic checks and balances.

What we see in all these nationalist populisms is an ideology that claims that the directly expressed will of “the people” trumps (the verb has already acquired a new connotation) all other sources of authority. And the populist leader identifies himself – or herself, in the case of Marine Le Pen – as the single voice of the people. Donald Trump’s “I am your voice” is a totemic populist line.

...Does history teach us anything about such wave-like phenomena, appearing at roughly the same time in many places, in different national and regional forms, but nonetheless having common features? Nationalist populism now, globalized liberalism (or neoliberalism) in the 1990s, fascism and communism in the 1930s and 40s, imperialism in the 19th century. Two lessons perhaps: that these things usually take a significant period of time to work themselves out, and that to reverse them requires courage, determination, consistency, the development of a new political language and new policy answers to real problems.

We must, therefore, brace ourselves for a long struggle, perhaps even a generational struggle. This is not yet a “postliberal world,” but it could become so. The forces behind the popular front of populism are strong, and traditional parties are often weak, and such waves are not reversed overnight.

...A greater burden therefore falls on other leading democracies of the world: the many national democracies in Europe, but also Canada, Australia, Japan and India. If we in Europe feel it is vital for the Baltic states to be protected against any possible kind of aggression by Mr. Putin’s Russia, we must work through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union to ensure that. We can’t rely on a Putin-praising Mr. Trump. Britain having sidelined itself as a result of its own version of nationalist populism, a special responsibility lies with French and German voters. If we have a French president Alain JuppĂ© and a re-elected chancellor Angela Merkel at the end of next year, Europe may still be able to pull its weight.

Ms. Merkel made by far the most dignified response I have seen to Mr. Trump’s election. “Germany and America,” she said, “are tied by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and human dignity, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views. I offer the next President of the United States, Donald Trump, close co-operation on the basis of these values.” Magnificent.

The phrase “leader of the free world” is usually applied to the president of the United States, and rarely without irony. I’m tempted to say that the leader of the free world is now Angela Merkel.

What a time for a generational struggle to defend liberal democracy. This authoritarian populism is indeed a challenge and to more than just liberal democracy. It arrives as a massive "threat multiplier" to complicate and worsen every other challenge now facing mankind from climate change to nuclear proliferation and just about everything in between. One essential factor to responding to every one of these challenges is social cohesion out of which collective will arises. Now that we've embarked on a world of social division, popular will becomes angry and incoherent. Oh dear.


Steve said...

Bottom line its income inequality that is driving the populism. Ironicly a billionare con man was seen as more fair than Hillary.

Northern PoV said...

Thing is ... no one really understands 'economics' or 'monetary policy'.

These are both abstract conceptions about forces that that steer us deep below our very puzzling human behavior. Abstract 'social science' with principles impossible to prove one way or another.

Its a bit like grammar rules. They are not predesigned when inventing the language, rather they are patterns discerned after study.

Thomas Piketty (Capital in 21st Century) attempts to explain some these and is as or more credible than most (imho).

On the other hand ...Many of us do understand climate change. Not abstract.
Hard science.

If we win the 'generational struggle' it will mean we learn to work together to share what's left of the planet. Losing means a 'Mad Max' style future.

Anonymous said...

Defend liberal democracy or its capture by looting robber barons and bribe-taking politicians? If what we had over the past 36 years is 'liberal democracy', you can keep it!

Northern PoV said...

Good ole Chomsky weighs in
"It is hard to find words to capture the fact that humans are facing the most important question in their history – whether organized human life will survive in anything like the form we know – and are answering it by accelerating the race to disaster. Similar observations hold for the other huge issue concerning human survival, the threat of nuclear destruction that has been looming over our heads for 70 years, and is now increasing.

It is no less difficult to find words to capture the utterly astonishing fact that in all of the massive coverage of the electoral extravaganza, none of this receives more than passing mention. At least I am at a loss to find appropriate words."

Northern PoV said...

To Anonymous 7:28

Liberal Democracy reigned from approx 1930ish till 1975.

Far from perfect but a whole lot better than the current clusterf**k.

That's what we want back ... as a beginning step to survive than again thrive.

The Mound of Sound said...

Steve, sorry but you're another of those armchair experts with his pet explanation. The world is a good deal more complex than you imagine, Steve, even the United States and its voting public.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon 7:28 - history is full of voices like yours saying the same things to excuse similar excesses. Whether you like it or not, that's a very sad truth.

The Mound of Sound said...

NPoV - Liberal democracy, when it's not subverted, leads to certain outcomes, the most important being the rise of a broadbased, robust middle class. As that middle class becomes a large economic force it also becomes the dominant political force and a force of moderation. When that middle class is undermined, as it has been in America since Reagan, eventually you may see political capture, regulatory capture, and the rise of inequality of wealth, income and opportunity.

Anon sees a champion of the American people in Trump. A good many white Americans see him that way. However, you will know whether he is by how many champions of the public interest he appoints to his cabinet. Will Trump restore tax fairness in America? Even on the campaign he promised tax cuts that would primarily worsen the imbalance between the 1% and the rest.

Perhaps Trump will make America great by "taking the oil" from the Middle East as he's long and repeatedly promised.

Given how he's already backpeddling on campaign promises while he still has two months before he's sworn in, I'm guessing that Anon and all the other Gullibillies will have to accept that they've been duped.

Anonymous said...

"Anon sees a champion of the American people in Trump."

Yeah right. If you think Hillary Clinton was a champion of liberal democracy, you can't know much about one or the other.

I'm very happy that Trump stopped her. Now New Deal Democrats OWN the Democratic party. They will eviscerate the bribe-taking insiders who handed a ridiculous buffoon like Trump a super-majority.

Now America is on track to restoring, in 2020, the Progressive New Deal Era that began with FDR and was ended by Reagan. All thanks to Donald J. Trump. He's the perfect Herbert Hoover who will fire up the movement to usher it in. (Looks like he already got the party started and he hasn't even been sworn in!)

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, don't let facts get in the way of your perfectly delightful delusions. A progressive New Deal era in 2020? Are you out of your mind? Trump will be infecting the US Supreme Court with one and possibly as many as three Scalia clones by 2020. The real bribe takers, in the House and Senate, will be thoroughly entrenched with big money support as never before, thanks to Citizens United, ensuring that political and regulatory capture is secured in America's transactional democracy. Your naivete is your most profound attribute, Anon.

Anonymous said...

Guess I'm naive enough to believe there was once a man named FDR.

The Mound of Sound said...

No, but you are naive enough to see FDR in Trump.

Anonymous said...

Since Bernie lost the nomination, I was thinking Elizabeth Warren would make the perfect FDR and that all we need now is a Trump presidency to user in a New Deal revolution for 2020.

I'm presently thinking: all the Blue American racist-like hate of Red America will cause the country to split into two or three if the New Deal is not handled right. But I have faith in Warren who has voted Republican in the past primarily because she believes America is a country for both Democrats and Republicans. (FDR united liberals and conservatives behind his New Deal vision which is why it lasted so long.)