What causing political change?
In America today the political landscape is shifting. That is the natural result of polarization. The underlying truth is that over the last few decades a billion people worldwide have lifted themselves out of poverty. This happened because capitalism was deployed with globalization of markets. The greatest benefits accrued in China and the emerging markets of Asia. This is a good thing. But a lot has changed in a short period of time.
In America and many Western countries the incomes of the average person has stagnated or even declined over the same period. Many Americans voted for Trump because the global economy has not been working for them. Their standard of living is being reduced. Pretending that this is a false perception ignores reality. There are clear divisions today between those who can live anywhere, and those who live somewhere; a point made by Stephen Harper, author of “Right Here, Right Now: Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption”.
Are you an anywhere?
If you work for Big Tech, an international bank, or a multi-national firm you can wake up in New York, London, or Singapore and feel equally at home. Your work is not threatened by import competition. You are the disruptor unaffected by technological dislocation. You support all international trade agreements. High levels of immigration and worker mobility work to your benefit and seem the norm. You are part of the group who can live anywhere. You are affluent and your standard of living has been going up. Make no mistake; there are a lot of these people.
Are you a somewhere?
But there are a lot more of us completely unlike them. We work in a factory, own a small business, or are in retail sales. Outsourcing, cheap imports and technological change have disrupted our work. Our children attend the local schools. Nearby we have aging parents. Our social life is connected to a local church, sports team, or community group.
When things go badly at our company we can’t just shift our life to somewhere else. If policy choices by politicians turn out to be wrong we cannot just pick up stakes. Like it or not, we depend on the economic policies of our state and national governments. When they don’t come through, we’re not happy. And when they ignore us, we get angry. A lot of us are feeling pretty angry.
Can’t we all just get along?
It’s easy for anywheres to dismiss these concerns. But the anywheres’ faith in global solutions and multi-national political bodies is based more on fantasy than fact. What we know is the fact of our daily reality. The critical functions of laws and regulations, monetary and fiscal stability, among other things, are provided by nations, not global institutions. Therein lies the rub.
America, with all its flaws, is a concrete reality. The global community is a concept. But it has been the anywheres, with their faith in globalization who have been dominating politics. That is, until now. The somewheres have started to awaken. There’s a change coming and it is not limited to the United States. The same dynamic is playing out all across the Western world.
Populists are not the misguided, ignorant “deplorables” depicted in media. They are us, our family, friends, and neighbors. The populists represent the interests of ordinary people. In a democratic system, the people are supposed to be our customers. We the people are the reason there is an America. We tend to be conservative.
So what is conservative?
Conservatism is grounding ourselves in tried and true values, things that have been tested and found to work. The issues that concern the somewheres and their families must be addressed. These are the ordinary people. Their issues include market economics, trade, globalization, and immigration because they affect putting bread on the table and a roof over their head.
In addressing these issues, the conservative approach is pro-free market, pro-trade, pro-globalization and pro-immigration, legal immigration. We are for the rule of law and innocent until proven guilty. Due process is necessary not just nice. We are logical and consistent. We love people and life, all life, born and unborn, young and old.
Being pro-market does not mean that all regulations should be dismantled. But it does not accept that all regulation is beneficial. Conservative does not mean governments should never intervene to protect workers. Nor does it mean every government subsidy is a necessary expenditure. Being pro-trade does not imply that every trade agreement is a good one.
Abdicating loyalty or responsibility to our country and our local community is not required for being pro-globalization. Being pro-immigration should never mean sanctioning illegal immigration, erasing our borders, or ignoring the interests of our citizens. Conservatism is about seeing the world as it is which tends to be populist because it is about serving the people we know rather than social theories. Are you a closet conservative?