Progressive people all around the world are relieved and giddy with joy about Trump’s defeat, and a globalist like Biden replacing him. Some are already celebrating as if the global populist, ultra national and ultra-conservative forces are defeated and will retreat forever, thus rescuing and strengthening the globalist, liberal democratic ideals.
A word of caution—it’s too early to celebrate and let your guard down. The hyper nationalistic, ultra-conservative and tribal forces are still alive and well. In fact, they are still getting stronger despite Biden’s win by a very thin margin in most contested states. He just squeaked by, but no landslide to indicate a reversal of the tribal, racist and staunchly populist forces. This is not just in the U.S., but all over the world. Brazil, Turkey, the Philippines and Hungary are just a few examples. Even a big country like India continues its journey on the same ultra-right-wing hyper nationalistic path that is accelerated by a majoritarian, religious tilt.
Liberal democracy and globalism all over the world are in a precarious, steady retreat, being replaced by the ultra-right-wing forces rooted in the hyper nationalistic, populist tribalism. Technology has accelerated that tilt. They can access and benefit from global technological tools and resources while at the same time be a tribal, inward-looking, majoritarian society. Thus, they feel that they have the best of both worlds—the benefits of globalism without being global and preferring a closed-minded, majoritarian, hyper nationalistic society. The fact that all these authoritarian leaders came to power through a democratic process is a telltale signal of this deeply rooted phenomenon in the general population.
With the notable exception of Western Europe, liberal democracy is defeated and in retreat all over the world. More and more countries are following the anti-globalist, tribalistic model led by charismatic strongmen. That cannot happen unless a significant part of the society—the common man—wants such hyper nationalistic, tribal model where all minorities are hated and relegated to a second class citizen status. This attitude comes more from the fear than a stern belief in the concept of tribalism.
Globalism brought the economy of scale and technology that benefited most countries. So the general population initially liked it and welcomed globalization and liberal democracy as a good model to follow. Over the time though, the other side of globalization became apparent to them and some or most common people viewed that as an existential threat to their cultural and national identity, and even disruptive to their way of life.
Free movement of people, money, technology and jobs certainly corrected the inherent inefficiencies in the global economic system. As the capital and jobs went to the countries with cheaper labour and large scale, organized manufacturing—like China, this sudden and wholesale export of jobs and intermingling of people with diverse cultures, languages and beliefs in such short time was a shock to the systems based on established cultural, socio-economic and a way of life all over the world. The loss of jobs and economic security just compounded the feeling of insecurity, anxiety and marginalization within their own countries. The natural human reaction to such shock is, of course, the resentment, fear and confusion. Such people seek solace within their community—or simply put, tribalism, where all different or “other” people are perceived as a threat to their identity and the way of life.
Shrewd authoritarian oligarchs took full advantage of their large scale feeling of insecurity that naturally seeks a Savior who will magically restore the “old” order and the way of life, while still benefiting from the technological advantages and advances brought about by globalization. Cunning demi dictators like Trump freely promised such “have your cake and eat it too” solutions. His “I alone can fix it” sounded like a brag, but hit the chord in the minds of most vulnerable common people like the Blue Collar workers, rural folks and farmers and less educated masses. The proof of this phenomenon is the fact that even in defeat, Trump’s Base is solid with him and even still growing!
We see the same trend all over the world. A good example is India, where Modi is perceived as almost a mythical God who can do no wrong and the only Savior.
The solution to this phenomenon and a glimmer of hope comes from the economic plan laid out by Biden wherein the manufacturing of clean energy and similar products will be done locally—where the ordinary people live. This solves two problems in one masterstroke. Increased globalization and the knowledge-based economy demand urban concentration where the good-paying jobs are. This is good for the economy of scale, but very disruptive and unsettling for the ordinary people in small towns and rural areas and even in small to mid-size cities. For those who are used to a lifestyle, cultural life and a sense of community for generations. That breeds insecurity, apprehension, fear and anger. Such people look for a Savior who will promise to solve all their problems and make their life secure and whole again.
The Biden solution addresses all these problems by bringing good-paying jobs to local communities such as the Green Energy-related manufacturing projects and the manufacturing of the essential products. This is eminently possible with the government involvement in terms of proper economic incentives for the businesses, R&D support and skills re-training for the local workers. Tesla making high tech batteries for electric cars in smaller communities in Texas and Arizona by hiring and training high school-educated workers is a good example of this. Even in the Mid West, the coal miners can be retrained to manufacture green energy products like the solar panels, insulations and many products that address the future, not the past—like the coal.
Good paying jobs close to the communities where the workers live will change the vicious cycle of disrupting people’s lives into a virtuous cycle of building the communities with futuristic products manufacturing and good-paying jobs right where the people have lived for generations and feel comfortable. Simply put, it’s the migration of jobs to the people, not people to the jobs.
Implementing the Biden economic plan might change the current “Divided States of America” with acrimony, suspicion, hate and ultra-right-wing nutty behaviour to a more normal “United States of America” with hope, confidence and a feeling of oneness again.
That is the hope and the way forward. Will it be easy? Of course, not! The ultra-nationalistic tribal forces and the ultra-right-wing militants will try their best to be a stumbling block and impediment. Trump has already promised to be disruptive and his actions speak louder than his words.
Even globally, where dozens of Trump “Mini Me”s and semi dictators who foment and feed on division, distrust and despair will oppose this normalization tooth and nail.
Hence, let’s be cautiously optimistic, but there is a steep road ahead for all democratic, liberal forces. So, it’s too early to celebrate the Biden win!
- Sunil Deshmukh
(The author is a US-based philanthropist and corporate leader of Wall Street. He is the Originator of the prestigious 'Maharashtra Foundation Awards for Literature and Social work'. )