I usually don’t discuss American politics on this blog but I can’t help but talk about this election as it is very personal. I can not for the life of me believe that Donald Trump is the President of the United States!! Wow! Like How?? I have literally followed these elections from day one that it is beyond me how the Americans settled on such a choice. Like I can not come to terms with the idea of that, especially when you compare his experience and temperament to that of Hillary; it makes no sense at all! After all of the outrageous racist and bigoted things he has said and done, I had expected a strong repudiation at the polls. But it didn’t happen! which is even more scary as it says a lot about the millions of Americans who voted for him. But I am not American so I may not be able to fully understand the extent of his appeal but I had genuinely assumed his bigotry, racism, divisiveness would prevent him from becoming the Leader of the free world but apparently the American electorate thought differently.
Honestly, I am truly speechless and heart broken not just because I was an avid supporter and admirer of Hillary Clinton but because I am genuinely scared for all my black and muslim friends. Having lived briefly in America, I have witnessed first hand, the bigotry and racism directed towards people of colour so its highly concerning to see someone whose campaign was built on hate and bigotry occupy such a post. I truly hope that President Donald Trump would be radically different from candidate Donald Trump; that is all everyone can do now – hope. I also take comfort in the fact that America has strong institutions that can check the President’s power. But if Trump’s antecedents are anything to go by, his Presidency would definitely be a test of the strength and resilience of the democratic institutions of the United States.
That said it is important to analyse these within the context of recent events in the world. This year has seen the rise of nationalism, protectionism, populism, islamophobia, anti-migrant and anti-immigration sentiment in many nations in the west. As a result, it is very obvious that we need to discuss the extent to which globalisation and neoliberal democracy has lived up to its promise. While it is indeed true that many of Trump supporters were motivated by racism amongst other factors; the reality is that a significant majority of these people were fuelled by legit economic anxiety. Globalisation has failed to deliver for many working class people in the west. While the world has largely recovered from the worst effects of the 2008 global financial crises, the reality is that the top 1% of the global elite benefitted the most from this recovery while many at the bottom of the pyramid are still struggling. In fact, to many of these people, not only have their manufacturing jobs disappeared but the global elite who created the crises in the first place were given huge bail outs by the government. That is why they are strongly against the political establishment because they feel that they represent the interests of the elite and not the people. This to me is at the core of the anger of the working class in the west. Every other factor such as racism, migration etc. have only served to reinforce the anger.
Unfortunately, many people totally underestimated the extent of this anger in the UK and the US but Populists such as Trump and Nigel Farage were quick to take advantage of it. I do not know what the implications of a Trump Presidency or Brexit would be but what I am certain of is that there has to be a critical review of neoliberalism and the world has to be bullish about tackling global inequality- within and between countries. So long as this gulf between the rich and poor persist, these anger will remain and demagogues will always be available to take advantage of it. In this respect, it is encouraging to note that even the IMF, a leading proponent of the Neoliberal agenda has even come to accept its short comings. In a June 2016 publication, the fund reached three conclusions about the neoliberal agenda;
- The benefits in terms of increased growth seem fairly difficult to establish when looking at a broad group of countries.
- The costs in terms of increased inequality are prominent. Such costs epitomize the trade-off between the growth and equity effects of some aspects of the neoliberal agenda.
- Increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustainability of growth. Even if growth is the sole or main purpose of the neoliberal agenda, advocates of that agenda still need to pay attention to the distributional effects.
Clearly, reducing inequality and ensuring globalisation works for everyone and not just those at the top has to be front and centre of global economic discourse going forward.
But what are your thoughts on the US election though? Are you surprised that Trump won? Why do you think he won? What do you think about the future of neoliberalism? How best do you think we can ensure that globalization works for everyone?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Please keep them coming.