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It’s Time for the Elites to Rise Up Against the Ignorant Masses Foreign Policy .pdf



Nome del file originale: It’s Time for the Elites to Rise Up Against the Ignorant Masses _ Foreign Policy.pdf
Titolo: It’s Time for the Elites to Rise Up Against the Ignorant Masses | Foreign Policy

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VOICE
It’s Time for the Elites to Rise
Up Against the Ignorant Masses

About James Traub

The Brexit has laid bare the political
schism of our time. It’s not about the
left vs. the right; it’s about the sane
vs. the mindlessly angry.
BY JAMES T RAU B

JU NE 28, 2016

James Traub is a contributing

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James Traub is a contributing
editor at Foreign Policy, a fellow at
the Center on International
Cooperation, and author of the
book John Quincy Adams: Militant
Spirit.

@JAMESTRAUB1

I

was born in 1954, and until now I would have said

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that the late 1960s was the greatest period of

political convulsion I have lived through. Yet for all that

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the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggle changed
American culture and reshaped political parties, in
retrospect those wild storms look like the normal
oscillations of a relatively stable political system. The
present moment is different. Today’s citizen revolt — in
the United States, Britain, and Europe — may upend
politics as nothing else has in my lifetime.
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It’s Time for the Elites to Rise Up
Against the Ignorant Masses
JAMES TRAUB

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JAMES TRAUB

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In the late 1960s, elites were in disarray, as they are now
— but back then they were fleeing from kids rebelling
against their parents’ world; now the elites are fleeing
from the parents. Extremism has gone mainstream. One
of the most brazen features of the Brexit vote was the
utter repudiation of the bankers and economists and
Western heads of state who warned voters against the

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dangers of a split with the European Union. British Prime
Minister David Cameron thought that voters would defer
to the near-universal opinion of experts; that only shows
how utterly he misjudged his own people.
Both the Conservative and the Labour parties in Britain
are now in crisis. The British have had their day of

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reckoning; the American one looms. If Donald Trump
loses, and loses badly (forgive me my reckless optimism,
but I believe he will) the Republican Party may endure a
historic split between its know-nothing base and its K
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Street/Chamber of Commerce leadership class. The
Socialist government of France may face a similar fiasco

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in national elections next spring: Polls indicate that
President François Hollande would not even make it to
the final round of voting. Right-wing parties all over
Europe are clamoring for an exit vote of their own.
Yes, it’s possible that all the political pieces will fly up
into the air and settle down more or less where they were

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before, but the Brexit vote shows that shocking change
isn’t very shocking anymore. Where, then, could those
pieces end up? Europe is already pointing in one
direction. In much of Europe, far-right nativist parties
lead in the polls. So far, none has mustered a majority,
though last month Norbert Hofer, the leader of Austria’s
far-right Freedom Party, which traffics in Nazi

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symbolism, came within a hair of winning election as
president. Mainstream parties of the left and right may
increasingly combine forces to keep out the nationalists.
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This has already happened in Sweden, where a right-ofcenter party serves as the minority partner to the left-ofcenter government. If the Socialists in France do in fact
lose the first round, they will almost certainly support

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the conservative Republicans against the far-right
National Front.
Perhaps these informal coalitions can survive until the
fever breaks. But the imperative of cohabitation could
also lead to genuine realignment. That is, chunks of
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to form a different kind of center, defending
pragmatism, meliorism, technical knowledge, and
effective governance against the ideological forces
gathering on both sides. It’s not hard to imagine the
Republican Party in the United States — and perhaps the
British Conservatives should Brexit go terribly wrong —
losing control of the angry, nationalist rank and file and
reconstituting themselves as the kind of Main Street,
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pro-business parties they were a generation ago, before
their ideological zeal led them into a blind alley. That
may be their only alternative to irrelevance.
The issue, at bottom, is globalization. Brexit, Trump, the
National Front, and so on show that political elites have
misjudged the depth of the anger at global forces and
thus the demand that someone, somehow, restore the
status quo ante. It may seem strange that the reaction
has come today rather than immediately after the
economic crisis of 2008, but the ebbing of the crisis has
led to a new sense of stagnation. With prospects of flat
growth in Europe and minimal income growth in the

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well as economics: Older people whose familiar world is

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United States, voters are rebelling against their dismal

vanishing beneath a welter of foreign tongues and
multicultural celebrations are waving their fists at
cosmopolitan elites. I was recently in Poland, where a
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far-right party appealing to nationalism and tradition has
gained power despite years of undeniable prosperity
under a centrist regime. Supporters use the same words

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again and again to explain their vote: “values and

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tradition.” They voted for Polishness against the

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modernity of Western Europe.

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Perhaps politics will realign itself around the axis of
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pragmatists on the other. The nationalists would win the
loyalty of working-class and middle-class whites who see

globalization and the poor and non-white and marginal

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citizens who recognize that the celebration of national

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themselves as the defenders of sovereignty. The
reformed center would include the beneficiaries of

identity excludes them.
Of course, mainstream parties of both the left and the
right are trying to reach the angry nationalists.
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Sometimes this takes the form of gross truckling, as
when Nicolas Sarkozy, who is seeking to regain France’s
presidency, denounces the “tyranny of minorities” and
invokes the “forever France” of an all-white past. From
the left, Hillary Clinton has jettisoned her free-trade past
to appeal to union members and others who want to
protect national borders against the global market. But
left and right disagree so deeply about how best to
cushion the effects of globalization, and how to deal with
the vast influx of refugees and migrants, that even the
threat of extremism may not be enough to bring them to
make common cause.
The schism we see opening before us is not just about
policies, but about reality. The Brexit forces won because
cynical leaders were prepared to cater to voters’
paranoia, lying to them about the dangers of
immigration and the costs of membership in the EU.
Some of those leaders have already begun to admit that
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they were lying. Donald Trump has, of course, set a new
standard for disingenuousness and catering to voters’
fears, whether over immigration or foreign trade or
anything else he can think of. The Republican Party,

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already rife with science-deniers and economic realitydeniers, has thrown itself into the embrace of a man who
fabricates realities that ignorant people like to inhabit.

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Did I say “ignorant”? Yes, I did. It is necessary to say that

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people are deluded and that the task of leadership is to

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un-delude them. Is that “elitist”? Maybe it is; maybe we
have become so inclined to celebrate the authenticity of
all personal conviction that it is now elitist to believe in
reason, expertise, and the lessons of history. If so, the
party of accepting reality must be prepared to take on the
party of denying reality, and its enablers among those
who know better. If that is the coming realignment, we
should embrace it.

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Photo credit: SCOTT OLSON/Getty Images

Correction, June 28, 2016: The leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party,
Norbert Hofer, narrowly lost the country’s presidential election. A previous
version misstated that he was running for the position of prime minister.

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CONT ACT U S

WORK AT FP
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