12 July 2017

A Toxic Cocktail Around The World

Trump thundered: All is hell. And Clinton answered: All is well—we just need a few minor tweaks here and there to make it more inclusive. “Love trumps Hate” was Clinton’s final slogan. But love alone wasn’t up to the job; it needed something stronger to help it out, something like justice.

As a candidate, Hillary Clinton was in no position to speak to the mounting popular rage that defines our times. She had helped negotiate trade deals like the TPP that so many see as a threat; the first Clinton administration had deregulated the banks and derivatives market, laying the groundwork for the financial crash (she never came out against the move and had taken notinsignificant speaking fees from those banks herself). So she tried to paper over the popular distress . . . with the results we know.

In the absence of a progressive alternative, Trump had a free hand to connect with skeptical voters by saying: I feel your pain. You have been screwed. On the campaign trail, he directed some of the rage at the corporations who had pushed for these policies—but that’s mostly forgotten now. Most of his wrath was saved for the various racist bogeymen he conjured up: the immigrants coming to rape you, the Muslims coming to blow you up, the Black activists who don’t respect our men in uniform, and the Black president who messed everything up.

No Is Not Enough

Love alone wasn’t up to the job; it needed something stronger to help it out, something like justice

The Brexit campaign spoke to that same toxic cocktail of real economic pain and genuinely eroded democracy combined with identity-based entitlement. And just as Hillary Clinton had no compelling answer to Trump’s fake economic populism, the Remain campaign had no answer to Nigel Farage and UKIP, when they said that people’s lives were out of control and public services were underfunded (even as their proposed solution was poised to make things even worse).

The crucial lesson of Brexit and of Trump’s victory, is that leaders who are seen as representing the failed neoliberal status quo are no match for the demagogues and neo-fascists. Only a bold and genuinely redistributive progressive agenda can offer real answers to inequality and the crises in democracy, while directing popular rage where it belongs: at those who have benefited so extravagantly from the auctioning off of public wealth; the polluting of land, air, and water; and the deregulation of the financial sphere.

No Is Not Enough

The crucial lesson of Brexit and of Trump’s victory, is that leaders who are seen as representing the failed neoliberal status quo are no match for the demagogues and neo-fascists

We need to remember this the next time we’re asked to back a party or candidate in an election. In this destabilized era, statusquo politicians often cannot get the job done. On the other hand, the choice that may at first seem radical, maybe even a little risky, may well be the more pragmatic one in this volatile era.

And from the perspective of our warming planet, it’s worth remembering that radical political and economic change is our only hope of avoiding radical change to our physical world.

Whatever happens, the next few years are going to be rocky. So before we focus on how to win the world we want and need, we first have to get ready for the next wave of crises coming from the Trump White House, shocks that could well reverberate the world over.

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