The joy of travel: we stepped out of the tube station at South Kensington. A young man with a fistful of handbills spotted me and asked: “What do you think about that new president you’ve got?”
Yes, it’s a global village and every villager knows that we Yanks just wet our bed, nationally speaking. It’s embarrassing, but we are not the only ones who have lost control of political functions. The Brits just soiled themselves with Brexit. Our French allies are about to vomit up a Marine Le Pen. Russia got in this game first by having sex with a cheesy circus strongman, Vladimir Putin.
All of these political tragicomedies are versions of the same story line: millions of voters want to return to an earlier, simpler time when foreigners stayed in their foreign places, when Dad had a job, when the kids would do even better, when the seasons were predictable. Of course none of that is true any more. I don’t think it was ever totally true but it is certainly becoming less true.
One thing is true for sure: Trump/Brexit/Le Pen/Putin voters are angry. Some would say they are also terrified. Fear is no doubt lurking in the background, but our angry white guys and their international ilk are certainly furious with the liberal democrats, the professionals, the ‘establishment,’ the Hillaries who are responsible for everything falling apart. They choose to believe the demagogues, the neo-fascists and the well paid liars (yes, I mean you, Fox News) who tell them that their enemies are rapists creeping across the border, predatory minorities running wild in city streets, serial murderers who operate charitable foundations and run for president.
So here we are riding a powerful wave of rejection. We are rejecting immigration, globalism, trade and, to a significant degree, science, optimism and the once-popular New Millennium.
So what now? It’s not easy to talk people out of being angry. But why not point the finger in a different direction, toward the political correctness that actually got us in trouble? Which establishment dogma has hurt us worst? I believe the biggest lie of all is austerity. In our country, debt paranoia translates into the popular wisdom that running a deficit is a sin worse than pederasty. We forget what Keynes taught us: public spending and controlling the money supply are essential economic tools.
The reality is that we have dug ourselves into some very deep holes, including (but not limited to) a decaying infrastructure, an under-resourced education system, a climate that is increasingly destabilized by an obsolete energy economy and an underemployed working class. These holes will just keep getting deeper unless we start spending money to build ladders.
Does anyone agree with me? Greeks do. Republicans, not so much.
But let’s agree on one thing: the clock that our Trumpistas and other reactionary voters want to turn back? Sorry, it only runs in one direction.