The tragedy of this American moment: Populism, elites, and the 2020 election | Anand Giridharadas


The tragedy of this American moment: Populism, elites, and the 2020 election
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“We’ll be better off” is the lie that sank America, says Giridharadas. When it comes to globalization, trade and automation, for decades American elites have been “rich-splaining” to ordinary people, saying: ‘Don’t worry, it will all be fine in the aggregate’. “As though anybody lives in the aggregate,” quips Giridharadas.

Populism was inevitable with the current economic order. The tragedy of it is that Trump has focused the blame on minorities rather than on the institutions that caused the quality of life in America to plummet.

Before 2020, the Democratic party needs to harness the American spirit of revolution. More importantly, it will have to figure out how to talk to disgruntled Americans and channel populism for the common good.
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ANAND GIRIDHARADAS:

Anand Giridharadas is the author of The True American and India Calling. He was a foreign correspondent and columnist for The New York Times from 2005 to 2016, and has also written for The Atlantic, The New Republic, and The New Yorker. He is an Aspen Institute fellow and teaches journalism at New York University.
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TRANSCRIPT:

ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: You know that old saying about the fox guarding a henhouse? So, I like to tell a different version of that story with a backstory.

We’re the hens, regular people trying to live our lives. And we had a guard of the henhouse—it was the government. It wasn’t perfect but it did a reasonable job of protecting us from each other, guarding equality, making sure none of the hens were pecking the other hens too much. And then came along, the last 30 to 40 years, a fox—and the fox is big business and wealthy people. And the fox didn’t like the guard because the fox kind of wanted the hens to itself. And so what did the fox do? It bit that guard in the leg.

It argued that government was bad, “The government was the enemy,” it defunded government, it fought for lower taxes so government could do less stuff. Then the guard starts stumbling away and bleeding out. Off the scene, the hens are unguarded, and the fox presents itself to the hens and says, “What a shame! Government is just not what it used to be, it’s not protecting you! Not fighting for you. It’s so inefficient. It’s so, gosh, that’s so sad. Well, let me step in! I’m rich and I’m here to help.”

Well, rich people and wealthy corporations spent a generation waging a war on government, defunding government, allowing social problems to fester and allowing their own profits to soar.

And then, with government weakened, social problems multiplying and their own pockets full, they reinvent themselves as the new replacement of government, which is—instead of trickle-down economics we now have trickle-down change: Let them make their fortune, and then they’ll just throw some social change down from the mountain.

Well, we have to decide in America if that’s the kind of change we want. But what I do know is if you project that kind of change backwards throughout time we wouldn’t have created most of the change that we all take for granted today. There would, frankly, have been no New Deal. There’d be no modern American economy if we had depended on the powerful to throw down scraps.

Many of the most important things in American life had to be taken from the powerful and given to the many, and it’s time that we reclaim that heritage again.

I think it’s hard to understand why populism is rising throughout the world without reckoning with the role of a class of global one-percenters who are remote from their communities, more connected to each other than to the communities they live in, and seemingly devoted to profit and returns above all else. The fascinating and complicated thing about this global populist moment is that it takes very different forms. I mean, here there’s a very strong racial dynamic to it that is at the heart of it. There are other places where that’s less of a factor. In some places it’s about internal racial things. In other places it’s about immigration. In some places it’s about all of the above. But I think what is undeniable in this country is that for 30 or 40 years, many people on the left and right have felt that things were not going right, that the country wasn’t working for them, that it felt rigged to them, that it felt impossible to secure the life that they were promised by this country and to give their children something better than they had. And all that w…

For the full transcript, check out https://bigthink.com/videos/elitism-p…

About agogo22

Director of Manchester School of Samba at http://www.sambaman.org.uk
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