How Did We Get Here? The Roots and Future of Populism
The confluence of globalization and the information revolution has primed the United States, and the world, for a resurgence of populism. Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” explains how the populist ideology helped President Trump win the White House. Trump’s message of cultural anxiety connected with voters, but it’s not an unfamiliar ideology. Zakaria opens the history book and explains how past trends are re-emerging today. He also reflects on the rise and root causes of populism from his own experience, as an immigrant.
- The world is globalized and hyperconnected, and there’s no going back
- What’s a trucker to do when they’re replaced by a self-driving vehicle?
- Rising immigration is the best bellwether for modern populism.
- Populist leaders become popular by playing the everyman
- America needs to think about job retraining on a massive scale
- 2017 Festival
Although smartphones, global supply chains, and artificial intelligence are ubiquitous today, it’s easy to forget just how recently these innovations seemed fantastical. Globalization and the Digital Revolution delivered a one-two blow to the world many people who are alive today thought they had a place in, argues CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. But there’s no way to opt out of these changes.
it’s not just individuals and communities who are grappling with the maelstrom of technology and power. Governments and nations must contend with new rules for how to maintain their own power, nonetheless how to jockey for world position.
Big IdeaA many-to-many network system does not allow for that kind of crucial power that the State had always had — that ability to control information and control the narrative.Fareed Zakaria
Technological innovations and a global workforce have combined to divorce capital from labor, argues Zakaria. And while that may have some upsides, it’s a harsh reality for many breadwinners to swallow. Their roles in the economy, their identities as professionals, and their purposefully constructed lives are being turned upside down. Watch as Zakaria uses the trucking industry as a prime example of the precipice many blue-collar workers find themselves teetering on today:
The future that many truck drivers see coming in their rear-view mirrors is one that came for American manufacturers, retailers, and laborers, and it’s unnerving.
Populism used to be traced back to a single source: the economy. The populism of Latin America in the 20th century, for example, was seen as an almost direct result of dire economic circumstances. So why are many populist movements today springing up in affluent global powers? While every populist movement has its nuance, postulates Zakaria, he argues that this new wave populism is centered around immigrants and immigration.
A century of change
That doesn’t mean economic angst doesn’t play a role; immigrants have been scapegoated for economic turmoil since time immemorial. But modern populists see immigrants not only as an economic threat, but also as an existential one.
It’s no secret that most Americans vote with their gut, not shrewd policy analysis. So what makes someone as rich as Donald Trump appeal to blue-collar workers? Zakaria thinks it’s the same thing that made Bill Clinton so popular, and that’s an exceptional ability to be seen as an everyman in a suit:
Politicians are quick with words of dismay about the job loss due to globalization and technology that’s central to populism, but they’re short on solutions. Fareed Zakaria thinks he has one:
Fareed Zakaria: We need to think about the idea that any American who is displaced, either because of trade or technology, at any point in their lives can go and get three to six months of retraining at a local community college of their choice. This would be paid for by the federal government. Local industry would identify the needs — right now we need welders or right now we need retrofitters, or whatever it is — and the federal government would pay for it. It would be on the scale of the G.I. Bill.
Zakaria concedes that it’s an ambitious plan, but he points to Germany’s apprenticeship system as a blueprint for retraining and growing blue-collar jobs in America.