The 2016 US election and similar trends in Europe all exhibited revolts against global corporate and financial dominance. In the US, Trump supporters, Tea Party members, Occupy Wall Street, Bernie Sanders supporters all targeted the unfairness the of elite Davos-Wall Street-London model of globalization. Many of the hand-lettered signs across this spectrum: “Where’s My Bailout?”, “No Corporate Trade Deals”; “Power to People” expressed the underlying outrage. As Trump and Sanders picked up these signals from across the spectrum, the grandees of both Republican and Democrat parties seemed tone deaf—still offering top-down approaches and think tank remedies from their traditional left and right ideologies.
Nativist Patriotism: This movement relied on nostalgia for the 19th century industrial revolution, the halcyon 1950’s and a simpler society. Trump galvanized the votes of those in pain in rural and rust-belt states, suffering what I described as Jobless Economic Growth “Building In A Win-Win World”.
In 2016, the millions of workers who lost their jobs when manufacturers migrated to Mexico and China became visible. The textbook model of globalization encouraged corporations to offshore.
Economists clung to their “free trade is a win-win” orthodoxy while inadequate re-training programs failed to address jobless manufacturing workers with viable alternatives. The ideology of economic fundamentalism went global in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher promoting deregulation of capital flows, free trade and privatization. Its metrics were taught in macroeconomics, based on currencies, cash flows and GDP. Money measures trumped all other values. Nature’s assets and humans were resources in the race for economic growth. GDP had no asset side in its cash flow accounting, so taxpayers’ investments in education, schools, infrastructure, scientific research and public goods were counted only as “debt” and “consumption”.
Capital was freed from national borders while people still needed passports and visas. Environmentalists, humanists, educators and business people joined with labor unions in asserting other traditional values at the Battle of Seattle against the WTO in 1999. But “Davos Man”, the global casino of stock markets, the rule of money and free trade dominated, typified by President George H.W. Bush’s famous view that it didn’t matter if the USA made potato chips or computer chips!
‘Economism’, as I called this reigning ideology promoted by the economics profession, acted like a knife, cleaving nations into “rust belts” and their “losers” or Wall Street, corporate and knowledge “winners”. The financial meltdown of 2008 and the bailouts of banks and financiers led to the rise of the Tea Party and Occupy movements and Breitbart, auguring the political revolts of 2016 and 2017.
Green Glocalization: Bernie Sanders and the Green Party gathered support of the 99% identified as victimized by corporate control of finance, and healthcare. They shared visions of alternatives: clean green energy, healthy food, communities, affordable education and smart cities, public transport, small enterprises, local decentralized power and fair not “free” trade. This “small is beautiful” vision was not based on nationalism but on global grassroots activism, linked on social media, supportive of the 2015 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, and COP21 climate agreements focused on creating low carbon and more inclusive economies.
This Green-Glocalization movement was harder to describe—-a holistic multi-faceted vision of social transformation. It involved a paradigm shift across all sectors and demographics-which could not be reduced to a bumper sticker. These new trends cut across old political labels and boundaries. Such social shifts, based in deep structural changes in technologies, demographics and geopolitics are too complex for electoral politics. They became simplified in the distorted politics of scapegoating and stoking of deep fears, ancient conflicts and current resentments. Current brain science and behavioral psychology identifies human cognitive biases: tribalism, short-termism and vulnerability to advertising and political manipulation—breaking down trust in current institutions and leadership.
The next four years will determine whether the electoral politics of 2016 will continue dividing people and Congress along obsolete party lines under the “Nativist-Nationalist” agenda. This, paradoxically will try reviving 19th century fossilized sectors, and the special interests of big oil, big pharma, big agriculture and declining 20th century corporations, as described in The Economist, “In Retreat” (Jan. 28- Feb. 3). Yet, broad trans partisan coalitions exist, evident in the movement to overturn the 2010 Supreme Court decision that worsened the rule of money in elections. Can this deeper history of the 21st century re-unite our communities in a healing politics beyond money measures and GDP-growth, toward our shared deeper human values? Despite global big oil’s efforts, the global green transition is on track and is creating opportunities for new coalitions as described by Clint Wilder of Clean Edge: The six states getting the highest percentage of clean electricity are red states, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Idaho. Texas, home of new Energy Secretary Rick Perry is leading the USA in wind power. Democrats can also help steer an infrastructure bill as I describe in “Greening Trump’s Infrastructure Plan“.
The electoral majority who did not vote for Trump can find a common ground for green decentralized economy, along with entrepreneurs and sustainable small businesses beyond corporate and financial goals of GDP. Today’s global paradigm shift is broad and deep as I describe in “Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age (2014) www.ethicalmarkets.com. Ethical Markets continue tracking this in private investments worldwide since 2007 in our Green Transition Scoreboard® currently at a cumulative $7.1 trillion. Responsible businesses need to coalesce around these more positive trends and showcase their own companies in this picture of a future with more jobs in these growth sectors.
Today there is much evidence corroborating our view that this green transition is now inevitable-the next stage in humanity’s technological evolution. You might wish to read the following:
- Green Biz-Trucost State of Green Business 2017
- UNEP Inquiry: “What’s Next for Green Finance” 2017 and reports: “The Financial System We Need“.
Hazel Henderson is CEO of Ethical Markets Media Certified B Corporation and Media Partner member of ASBC.