188.8.131.52 Risks in Ignoring the Problems of Change
(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents. An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6784.htm)
The preceding sub-sections have focused on how politicians can respond proactively to rapid social change. Sadly, some advocates of neoliberalism have been too focused on its benefits to the majority and have ignored the problems of those who are adversely affected. There was a marked political backlash in 2016 and 2017:
- If a section of society feels that it has been ignored, it is vulnerable to exploitation by authoritarian populist politicians (184.108.40.206) who offer strong leadership and false promises of easy solutions. Donald Trump’s success in winning the U.S. presidency in 2016 can be attributed to his recognition of the problems faced by people left behind by economic change in the American ‘rustbelt’, as shown in the example where one “Ohio Town Voted For Obama By Huge Margins. Then It Flipped To Trump”. Hillary Clinton had been widely expected to win the election but, as noted in a post on this website entitled Hillary isn’t reaching people, she was too easily seen as representing an out-of-touch and uncaring political elite.
- There is a potential for ethnic conflict (4.4.5) where there has been a rapid change in the cultural mix of a population, and this can create openings for political exploitation of ethnicity by ‘alt-right’ politicians (220.127.116.11). People’s anxieties about Germany’s unconditional welcome of immigrants resulted in what the BBC termed a “hollow victory for Angela Merkel” in the 2017 election, with a surge of support for the ‘alt-right’ Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Neither authoritarian populists nor ‘alt-right’ politicians are likely to benefit the population, and democracy itself can be threatened if voters lose confidence in the political system.
Failures to provide an adequate response to change are a dereliction of duty: politicians are elected to serve the people, so they shouldn’t ignore sections of the population who are experiencing hardship.