Jim Hightower, a great progressive populist, has a good post on Salon today. In it, he discusses the Brexit vote and, while acknowledging that some voters were motivated by anti-immigrant animus, locates the vote precisely in the growing rejection of the Neo-Liberal consensus that has been hegemonic in the last 30-35 years. Here’s a little snippet:
Now, the entire global establishment is rushing to assure itself that the Brexit movement is not a class revolt, but only a momentary spasm of voter ignorance and lower-class bigotry against Muslim immigrants. But they’re only fooling themselves. While the two-headed monster of raw racism and xenophobia was most certainly in play, that was not the majority of the pro-exit vote. At its core, this vote was a full-throated rebellion against out-of-control economic and political elites ruling from afar, enriching themselves by ransacking the workaday majority.
Of course, the obtuse, self-absorbed Tony Blairs of our world still don’t get it. Blair concluded his op-ed by pleading with establishment centrists to regain political control from the people and “find solutions that rise above populist anger.” Exactly wrong, sir. The obvious solution is to understand and work with the angry populace, rather than stoking their anger with more “solutions” from above.
Yes, some voters are outright bigots; others sometimes get bamboozled into looking down and blaming their problems on people even more desperate than they are; but most voters today — in Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere — are finding the light of true, progressive populism, turning their eyes upward to see and rebel against the elite manipulators who’ve long been rigging the system against poor and middle-class families.
Some confirmation from a bastion of capitalism:
The great sweep of economic history is a series of “rises” and “falls”—from the fall of Rome to the rise of China. The intriguing episodes that spark the “what ifs” of history come lower down—when a medium-size power suddenly reverses an inevitable-seeming trajectory. That’s what Britain did under Margaret Thatcher and her successors: a crumbling country unexpectedly overturning years of genteel decline to become Europe’s most cosmopolitan liberal entrepôt. My fear is this revival ended on June 23, 2016.
What went wrong? The obvious rejoinder is liberal Britain worked a lot better for some Britons than for others. That is true.
The author mourns the end of Thatcherism.
My (and Hightower’s) point is not that Brexit is good. It is similar to Bernie’s point:
The global economy is not working for the majority of people in our country and the world. This is an economic model developed by the economic elite to benefit the economic elite. We need real change.
The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the Leave proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States. Millions of American voters, like the Leave supporters, are understandably angry and frustrated by the economic forces that are destroying the middle class.
In this pivotal moment, the Democratic Party and a new Democratic president need to make clear that we stand with those who are struggling and who have been left behind. We must create national and global economies that work for all, not just a handful of billionaires.