These few paragraphs from They’re Still Not Listening, lays it all out as to how these global schisms in society have developed and what’s driving it.
In the later part of the 20th century and the first two decades of the current century, leaders of left-wing parties like Clinton, Obama, Blair, and Hollande oversaw their parties’ transformation. Those left-wing parties abandoned the key constituency of working-class voters in favour of a cosmopolitan, multicultural, educated, and woke future. Left-wing parties who had been advocates for laborers, union workers, and low-skilled natives for over a century now began viewing them as backwards culturally and worthy of being left behind by globalism.
Working-class people found it increasingly difficult to find work, start a family, and create a life that provided them with a level of dignity they expected from living in a Western society. Many became victims of despair, depression, and drug overdoses. Workers found themselves on the losing end of globalism, abandoned by traditional centre-left parties, but were still unwilling to trust traditional right-wing parties that had a long history of opposing labour unions and protections for workers.
Left with few other options, a portion of former left-wing voters found themselves voting for national populists like Le Pen, Trump, and the Law and Justice Party (PiS) in Poland. Unlike most traditional right-wing parties, national populists are centrists on economic issues; they’re supportive of protecting industries like manufacturing, mining, and logging, support a welfare state that helps young families and seniors and are sceptical of free trade and globalism. Trump won the Rust Belt, which including the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, by appealing to voters who had been on the losing end of globalism for decades. The billionaire reality TV star campaigned on renegotiating NAFTA, attacking free trade agreements, and ending global trade deals. It paid off substantially; in 2012, union voters supported former president Obama by eighteen points over pro-free trade Republican Mitt Romney; in 2016 they supported Clinton over Trump by only eight points.
Over the past few decades, there have been two defining moments that led millions of people to scepticism toward globalism and the current economic system: The Great Recession, which led to the billion-dollar bailouts of companies and countries that were too big, to fail, and the hollowing out of Middle America after NAFTA and the normalization of trade deals with China. Those events culminated in the rise of national populism in Europe, the UK, and America.
The Great Recession The Great Recession occurred throughout most of Europe and North America in late 2007 when the financial crisis and subprime mortgage crisis devastated the American economy and rippled throughout most of the West, destroying millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in wealth. It came at a particularly difficult time, especially in an America that was suffering through two Middle Eastern wars, the hollowing out of manufacturing jobs in Middle America, and a looming opioid crisis that was beginning to kill more than fifteen thousand people per year.
Presidents Bush and Obama turned to Keynesian economics, pouring nearly $500 billion in bailout and stimulus plans into the economy during the recovery.635, 636 The recovery took more than half a decade to reach every geographical corner of the US, but even then, however, it wasn’t equal among race, geography, or education. Only one Wall Street banker, Kareem Serageldin, went to jail for handing out risky loans and crashing the world economy.
Most big financial institutions were saved, but business on Main Street stagnated and Americans across the political spectrum from the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protested the elite. Even when Washington spent billions to save America’s car manufacturers, they continued to move production and investment overseas, showing no loyalty to the American taxpayer and worker.
By 2016, upper-income Americans had completely recovered from the recession, with their net worth increasing to $810,800 from $740,100 in 2007. They were the only ones to see a return to pre-recession prosperity, while middle- and lower-income Americans’ net worth in 2016 was still 30 to 40 percent lower on average than it had been in 2007. For low-income white Americans, net worth declined from $42,700 in 2007 to just $22,900 in 2016. Millions of Americans who had been on the losing end of globalism for decades found themselves on the losing end of the recovery.