Political and social reactions to the objective eco nomic changes have been at

Political and social reactions to the objective eco

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Political and social reactions to the “objective” eco- nomic changes have been at least as disturbing and con- sequential as the changes themselves. Deep urban versus rural resentments have erupted. Political polarization has reached a hundred-year-plus high, and a growing number distrust core American institutions. Today’s extreme polarization is unique because of a rise in negative partisanship, according to political sci- entists Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster of Emory University. Americans don’t simply disagree with each other—we actively dislike each other. The populist revolutions will never have a coherent set of goals. They are about protest, not solutions. Forging any solution at all will require compromise, balancing extraordinarily disparate interests. But in a po- litical crisis in which both the leaders and the rank and file despise each other, anything like significant compromise seems a bridge too far. Any real programmatic change can only be achieved by working across existing ideological boundaries. And any resulting set of changes will take time to be realized. But our political system today is so dysfunctional, so driven by
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32 THE INTERNATIONAL ECONOMY WINTER 2019 negative partisanship, and so saturated by distrust that it is nearly impossible to conceive of a way forward. Such an environment is ripe for hijacking. When the elites display no interest in creating a new story, a populist can build a power base offering a different story to explain the discontent and anger. The politics of resentment be- come a national force. Our central dilemmas will not be solved by some new program. Until America’s leaders begin to reach across the partisan and ideological chasms, until there is a genu- ine effort to revive the American political system and to restore trust in America’s institutions and in America’s promise, we cannot begin to work out of this dead end in which we are trapped. The apparent rise of populism in the West may have profound consequences for the world as a whole. JIM O’NEILL Former Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, United Kingdom, and former Chairman, Asset Management, Goldman Sachs International I am not entirely sure that the premise is truly accurate as a portrayal around all the world. Yes, it appears to be true in the United States, perhaps Brazil, many west- ern European countries, and maybe another handful. But collectively, these countries are no more than one billion against a full world population probably in excess of 1 tril- lion. Is it true for most parts of Asia? I doubt it—there isn’t much evidence. Is it true in Africa? Again, I doubt it. So, as with many “big” global questions posted by western commentators, these are not really true global questions. Of course, the consequences of the apparent rise of populism in the West, if we can understand its main causes, may have profound consequences for the world as a whole, including all the countries where it isn’t evident. What is relevant is that one of the most widely perceived
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