“For the past 25 years, the center-left has told the bottom 60% of the income distribution in their countries the following story: “Globalization is good for you. It’s awesome. It’s really great. We’re going to sign these trade agreements. Don’t worry, there will be compensation. You’ll be fine. You’ll all end up as computer programmers. It’ll be fantastic. And, by the way, we don’t really care because we’re all going to move to the middle because that’s where the voters are, and they’re the ones with the money, and they’re the only ones we really care about…and you basically take the bottom 30% of the income distribution and you say, “We don’t care what happens to you. You’re now something to be policed. You’re now something that has to have its behavior changed. We’re going to nudge you into better parts…
It’s a very paternal, patronizing relationship. This is no longer the warm embrace of social democracy, arm in arm in solidarity with the working classes. They are to policed and excluded in their housing estates, so you can feel safe in your neighborhoods and private schools.
So once this has evolved over 20 years, you have this revolt, not just against Brexit. It’s not about the EU. It’s about the elites. It’s about the 1%. It’s about the fact that your parties, have sold you down the river.” (Excerpt from Mark Blyth’s “Brexit” on YouTube)
Liberals and progressives love to point across the aisle and accuse their opponents of racism, misogyny and xenophobia, but that’s not what the Trump campaign is all about. And that’s not what Brexit was about. While it’s true that anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise in Europe and the US, the hostility has less to do with race than it does jobs and wages. In other words, Brexit is a revolt against a free trade regime in which all the benefits have accrued to the uber-rich while everyone else has seen their incomes slide, their future’s dim and their standard of living plunge. As Vincent Bevins of the Los Angeles Times said:
“Both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for thirty years”…“since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt.”
Fake liberals like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton have been big proponents of free trade and thus contributed greatly to this groundswell revolution against condescending elites and technocrats whose ultimate goal is to level the playing field so that workers in the developed countries compete nose to nose with underpaid wage slaves in China, Vietnam and across Asia. As Blyth says in the YouTube piece:
“Because the long run effect of the euro is going to be to drive western European wages down to eastern European levels.”
Bingo. More and more people know that this this is the real objective of free trade, to lower wages and crush organized labor in order to boost profits. And this is why the media has been unable to undermine public support from Brexit or Trump, because the issues impact working people and their standard of living DIRECTLY. The majority of voters now believe that these elite-backed policies are destructive to their interests and a threat to their survival. That’s why they remain indifferent to the media’s charges of racism.
Elites understand what’s going on. They know they got too greedy and went overboard. They also know the public is mad as hell and want blood which is why the markets have gone crazy. Investors have driven “safe haven” bonds into record territory which signals the big money guys are terrified of the changes that the election could bring. What does that tell you? Check this out from Fortune magazine:
“Wealthy US investors are hoarding record cash balances out of fear that US presidential election will wreak havoc on their retirement accounts a senior USB Group AG executive said … Although the US stock market hit a new high this week, many clients would rather sit on the sidelines than risk the kind of losses they faced in 2008, he said…
A UBS survey of 2,200 high net worth investors found that 84% of them think the election will have a significant impact on their financial health, McCann said, citing a report to be released later in July.” (“Wealthy are hoarding cash out of fear of what the election will bring”, Fortune)
So moneybags investors think that there’s going to be a day of reckoning and that all the anti-free trade, protectionist rhetoric emerging from the various campaigns is going to weigh on the markets?
It sure looks that way, and some would say that that day has already arrived. This is from the World Socialist Web Site:
“A report issued by the GTA on Wednesday said the term “slowdown” created the impression that, while it is losing momentum, world trade is still growing and one country’s exports do not come at the expense of others. These “rosy impressions” should be set aside because its analysis revealed that world export volume reached a plateau at the beginning of 2015. World trade was not only slowing down, but not growing at all….
The report warned that a “negative feedback loop” could develop where zero trade growth fuelled the resort to ever-more protectionist measures, leading to a further decline in trade. While the report did not draw out the implications of its warning, they are clear. It was such a feedback loop that developed in the 1930s, intensifying the Great Depression and ultimately leading to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.”
(“Global trade stagnates amid wave of protectionism”, Nick Beams, World Socialist Web Site)
Global trade has already been hammered by misguided central bank policies that merely try to steal export-share by weakening the currency. (The race to the bottom) But now we are embarking a period of strong economic nationalism which threatens to break up the Eurozone, intensify the call for protective tariffs on foreign-manufactured goods, and launch a full-blown trade war on China. And it’s all a reaction to the way that free trade was rigged to benefit the 1 percent alone. Elites can only blame themselves. Here’s how Glenn Greenwald summed it up in a recent article at The Intercept:
“Brexit….could have been a positive development. But that would require that elites…react to the shock of this repudiation by spending some time reflecting on their own flaws, analyzing what they have done to contribute to such mass outrage and deprivation, in order to engage in course correction…
Instead of acknowledging and addressing the fundamental flaws within themselves, they are devoting their energies to demonizing the victims of their corruption, all in order to de-legitimize those grievances and thus relieve themselves of responsibility to meaningfully address them. That reaction only serves to bolster, if not vindicate, the animating perceptions that these elite institutions are hopelessly self-interested, toxic, and destructive and thus cannot be reformed but rather must be destroyed. That, in turn, only ensures that there will be many more Brexits, and Trumps, in our collective future.” (“Brexit is only the latest proof of the insularity and failure of western establishment institutions”, Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept)
Western elites were shocked by Brexit, shocked that all their fear mongering and finger-wagging amounted to nothing. The same is true in the US, where the media’s daily attacks on Trump have failed to erode his base of support at all, in fact, they may have added to it.
Why is that? Why has the media’s repudiation of Trump only increased his popularity and strengthened the resolve of his supporters? Has the media lost its power to influence or is something else going on?
The media hasn’t lost its power, it’s just that personal experience is more powerful than propaganda.
What personal experience are we talking about?
Economic insecurity. Brexit was about economic insecurity. The Trump phenom is about economic insecurity. The rise of left and right-wing groups across Europe and the US is about economic insecurity. This isn’t about ideology, it’s about reality; the reality of not knowing if you’re ever going to be able to retire or put your kids through school or make your house payment or scrape by until payday. The reality of muddling by in an economy where the prospects for survival look worse with every passing day. That’s the reality that made Trump possible, and that’s what this election is about, economic insecurity.
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].