Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
How Reality Blindsided Anti-globalists
“It is better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die.”
- Steve Biko
Anti-globalization sentiments once had a voice, a bold, logical voice that was easy to relate to. That voice pinpointed the hardships inflicted on those who had been abandoned, ignored, or forgotten by the so-called principle of openness and internationalism. It identified the millions seared by unfair global trade deals that favor multinational corporations who evade taxes, close factories, and siphon jobs to places where labor is cheap and exploitation is overlooked.
But this backlash, propelled by a rampant batch of populist politicians lost its way when they transformed the sentiments into a hate movement. So, anti-globalization became anti-immigration, anti-minority, anti-Islam, anti-LGBT, and blind, sometimes senseless, opposition to the Status quo. And now, it has lost its voice.
Perhaps no other individual has aided the rise, and ultimately, the flop of such sentiments than the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. As a candidate, he railed against free trade, immigration, and foreign intervention. He promised to block illegal immigration from Mexico by building a wall, to call out China as a currency manipulator, to drain the swamp in Washington, to repeal and replace Obamacare with a cheaper healthcare system, and to put America first.
His victory at the polls gave impetus to populist politicians across Europe. In the Netherlands, the far-right politician, Geert Wilders, pledged to ‘de-Islamise’ the country by closing its borders, ban Islamic headscarves, close mosques, and ban the Koran. He also promised to take the Netherlands out of the European Union and stop public money going towards development aid, windmills, the arts, and innovation.
|Marine Le Pen|
In France, Marine Le Pen, daughter of the openly racist and anti-Semitic founder of the far-right National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, made similar pronouncements. Using traditional language to mask her ideas for a radical shift in France’s role in the world, she emphasized nationalism and a protectionist economy, promising to fight terrorism by closing the borders. She too promised to pull France out of the European Union.
And in Italy, two populist politicians, Matteo Salvini of the Northern League and Beppe Grillo of the 5-star Movement, joined the bandwagon.
Then Trump’s presidency started, and it became immediately clear that he had fooled the world with his veneer of populism. Through hastily drafted executive orders, nonsensical actions, and remarks, he soon revealed himself to be a buffoon president.
He did not drain the swamp; he filled it. He did not call out China as a currency manipulator; he embraced the country’s leader (and his Son-in-Law, Jared Kushner, has strong business ties there.) He shrank away from his non-interventionist position and bombed Syria. Though he bungled his first major legislative effort, he subsequently repealed Obamacare but replaced it with a nightmare of a health care plan, nothing near what he promised. He claimed the presidency was more complicated than he had imagined.
His unrealistic budget plan almost caused a government shutdown, forcing him to withdraw his proposal to build the wall with Mexico (estimated cost: $67 billion). What’s more, in his first 100 days in office, he has spent nearly every weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate, playing golf, which cost taxpayers an estimated $20 million. (In comparison, Obama’s cost $97 million in 8 years).
|Le Pen & Wilders|
These flip-flops alerted voters elsewhere to the dangers of bogus populism. Just as in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, many people took another look at themselves in the mirror and the sight wasn’t pretty. On March 15, this year, voters in the Netherlands turned their backs on the populist Geert Wilders and voted for prime minister Mark Rutte.
Last week, in the UK council elections, British voters obliterated
the UK Independence Party, UKIP, whose former leader, Nigel Farage, misled many into voting
for Brexit. By the time the dust settled, the party had lost all but one of its 145 seats to the Tories. And
last Sunday, France came to its senses too, when voters, even those who didn’t
support Emmanuel Macron, voted for
him to keep Marine Le Pen out of the presidential palace.
At long last, these populist politicians, exposed as charlatans and blindsided by reality, have lost their voice. And they didn’t see it coming.