Donald Trump

Understanding the Failure of 'Globalism' Is Key to Understanding Donald Trump's Appeal

Us vs. Them author Ian Bremmer says that worldwide populism is a response from people who are being left behind economically.


All around the globe today, voters in democratic countries are electing populist leaders rather than presidents and premiers who pledge loyalty to the international community and global institutions. In significant ways, Brexit in England, the yellow vest movement in France, the rise of Viktor Orbán in Hungary, and the election of Donald Trump in America represent the triumph of nationalism and populism over globalism. Many people in advanced economies feel as if they are falling further and further behind while people at the top of society get more and more money, prestige, and opportunity.

Donald Trump invoked these concerns as a candidate and is acting on them as president. Globalists, he says, are elitists who care more about their own well-being and international institutions such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and NATO than they do about their fellow citizens who are being left behind. Globalists believe in open borders and free trade because their quality of life isn't threatened by low-wage migrants or cheap goods produced overseas. Nationalists such as Trump say they care first and foremost about taking care of their countrymen. They show their commitment to this by pulling out of international accords they believe don't serve American interests and limiting the type and number of people who can come to the United States. Since taking office, Trump has stuck to his nationalist guns by withdrawing from international agreements such as the Paris Climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Iran nuclear deal, as well as by restricting immigration and laying tariffs on Chinese goods.

Today's guest says it's absolutely imperative not only to understand this, but also to empathize with the concerns of nationalists and populists in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. A political scientist by training, Ian Bremmer heads up the Eurasia Group, the world's largest political-risk consultancy. He's also the host of the weekly PBS show GZERO World, which investigates how economics and politics are playing out in a world in which the United States is retreating in significant ways from the global stage. His most recent book is Us vs.Them: The Failure of Globalism—a bracing, provocative analysis of why political polarization is growing and how we might best address the anger and alienation that is fueling nationalist and populist sentiments around the globe.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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