William A. Galston: Responding to the Populist Threat



so what do we do first of all we have to get the economic story right the real economic story is not something you can read off the income tables it's a geographical story it's a story of a small number of metropolitan areas diverse with growing populations innovation hubs that are responsible for two-thirds of the economic growth in the United States over the past decade there is an increasing disconnect between the growth and major metropolitan areas on the one hand and the smaller towns and rural hinterlands on the other there are used to be a strong economic relationship between big cities small towns and rural areas that has broken down and big cities can make it on their own in relationship with other big cities not only in this country but internationally and the small towns and rural areas of the country feel abandoned and with good reason they have been we haven't paid any attention to them so economic policy and I could go into detail has to focus on an all-out effort to achieve the geographical reintegration of the US economy because if we don't do that in a system of geographical representation such as the United States has this split that we're seeing between places like New York on the one hand and the 2600 out of 3,100 counties that voted for Donald Trump on the other that split is not going to go away because the conditions that gave rise to the split will not go away that's the first part here's the second point our failures of governance have contributed mightily to the populist uprising one of the things that I do at Brookings is to is to help conduct Survey Research and here are some results from a survey taken in April of sixteen that I paid a lot of attention to but I should have paid even more here's the proposition agree or disagree quote because things in the country have gone so far off track the US needs a leader willing to break the rules to set things right hmm this was April of 2016 45% of Americans agreed with that proposition perhaps it's not an entire accident that mr. Trump got 46 percent of the vote in the fall 49 percent of Republicans agree with that proposition 53 percent of white working-class voters agreed with it and 65 percent of self announced Trump supporters didn't so the president the president Trump was not elected on a promise to follow the rules from the standpoint of his supporters he was elected on a promise to break the rules on their behalf why do they want the rules to be broken because they think the rules aren't working and you know what they're on to something right we have to understand that gridlocked ineffective government is one of populism best friends if we want to deal with this we have to figure out both politically and institutionally how to get beyond the party system at loggerheads then we now have I have some ideas about how to do that another part of my life is devoted to trying to put that into practice I'm not going to go through that now but you know the idea that we can simply stare at each other you know across the partisan battlefield like entrenched armies in World War one those of us who are relatively satisfied with the status quo can live with gridlock the people who feel aggrieved by the status quo will not live with it and they have revolted against it and that revolt is against not only the policies but also the rules of the game that's just a fact third I'm gonna make myself probably unpopular in this company in this company but I'm gonna say it anyway we can't deal comprehensively with the causes of populism unless we purge the poison of the immigration issue from our system because it is poisoning the system and in order to do that we are going to have to reach a grand compromise and we are going to have to consider the possibility that those of you who are strongly Pro immigration in this room are not entirely right and the people who disagree with you are not entirely wrong I recently visited Canada they love their immigration system in Canada I can prove that despite the fact that the flow of immigrants to Canada as a share of the native-born population is three times as high as it is in the United States three times we're now accepting about a million a year the Canadian equivalent is three million a year and there's no problem why because they structure their immigration system differently right their centerpiece is potential economic contribution and not family unification nobody else in the world does immigration policy the way the United States does nobody else in the world gives 2/3 of its green card slots each year to immigrants based on family connections that's a fact Canada doesn't do it Britain doesn't do it Australia doesn't do it that's just the english-speaking countries no other country does this I understand why we did it in the past the question is whether we can afford to keep on doing business this way and by the way no other country in the world is as casual about acquiring linguistic competence in the dominant language as we are at the other end of at the other end of the continuum I guess is is Israel where as soon as as soon as you get there get your citizenship you're sent to language boot camp for six months but guess what you know a single language is the single greatest integrating force in a civil society and in a polity if you don't have a single language you have a formula for division and resentment I could go on but in short we have to deal with the real economic problem the real political problem and the real cultural problem if we if we want to do more than wring our hands and you know and and feel morally support superior to the barbarians at the gates




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