Monday, February 27, 2017

Does Populism Change Everything?

I'm reading Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything. It is fantastic but dispiriting. It provides a historical account of how collective recognition of climate change corresponded with a corporate-dominated globalized free trade system -- the latter effectively negating a plan for addressing the former. In fact, the primacy of trade was memorialized at the outset at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.

One theme that Klein stresses throughout is localism. In order to deal with the planet's changing climate we are going to have to craft local solutions. The problem is that the neoliberal global trade architecture that has been erected the last 25 years makes localism illegal. Local goods and services cannot be privileged over those from foreign countries.

And this is why there is such hostility from the neoliberal center towards the populism that is rising throughout the West. At root this fast-growing populism is a rejection of corporate-managed international trade and banking. Being anti-immigrant is just the flower of the populist plant that has taken root.

This morning online, which means it will be printed in tomorrow's national edition, The New York Times has a good, long article by Alissa Rubin, "Geert Wilders, Reclusive Provocateur, Rises Before Dutch Vote," devoted to the "Dutch Trump":
Geert Wilders, far-right icon, is one of Europe’s strangest politicians, not least because he comes from the Netherlands, one of Europe’s most socially liberal countries, with a centuries-long tradition of promoting religious tolerance and welcoming immigrants. 
How he and his party fare in the March 15 elections could well signal how the far right will do in pivotal elections in France, Germany and possibly Italy later this year, and ultimately determine the future of the European Union. Mr. Wilders (pronounced VIL-ders) has promised to demand a “Nexit” referendum on whether the Netherlands should follow Britain’s example and leave the union.
“The Netherlands is kind of a bellwether, a lot of trends manifest themselves here first,” said Hans Anker, a Dutch political strategist who has worked both in the Netherlands and the United States. 
“I wouldn’t rule out that Wilders could be prime minister,” he added. “This one is fundamentally unpredictable.”
The problem for Wilders, even if he wins, will be forming a government:
Right now Mr. Wilders’s party looks set to win more seats than any other or to come in second. However, he has historically polled better before elections than he has performed in them. [Same problem that Le Pen and the National Front have.] Still, after pollsters underestimated the likelihood of both Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump last year, no one is relying on predictions.
The bigger question is whether even if Mr. Wilders comes in first or second, he would be willing to form or join a governing coalition. For more than 20 years, no one party has had a majority. Other parties say they will not work with him and he has shown little interest in compromise and working with others.
What I find curious is how balanced Rubin's story is compared to, say, The Times' reporting on Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, which is always dismissive. It is as if the neoliberal center sees a possibility of collaborating or co-opting the rising populism. This is the dance underway with Trump. And at this point I think it should be apparent to all of us that Trump is willing to play along with the neoliberal center.

There are of course contradictions. The future of the EU is problematic. A Wilders wins means a Nexit vote, as a Le Pen win means a Frexit. The Trump talking point is that capitalism, for all intents and purposes, is contained in one country, and that is the United States. Multilateral trade agreements will be scrapped in favor of bilateral negotiations. Easier said than done. Globalized free trade is the key to the neoliberal unipolar world; that, and full spectrum U.S. military dominance. A kaleidoscope of bilateral trade agreements leads to a multipolar world.


For a good assessment of the Thomas Perez's election over Keith Ellison this weekend to lead the DNC, read Glenn Greenwald's "Key Question About DNC Race: Why Did Obama White House Recruit Perez to Run Against Ellison?"

The answer? Money, of course. It doesn't bode well for Democrat hopes of picking up seats at the midterm.

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