DEC Library: The Right Way to Help Declining Places

POPULISM’S wave has yet to crest. That is the sobering lesson of recent elections in Germany and Austria, where the success of anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation parties showed that a message of hostility to elites and outsiders resonates as strongly as ever among those fed up with the status quo. It is also the lesson from America, where Donald Trump is doubling down on gestures to his angry base, most recently by adopting a negotiating position on NAFTA that is more likely to wreck than remake the trade agreement.

These remedies will not work. The demise of NAFTA will disproportionately hurt the blue-collar workers who back Mr Trump. Getting tough on immigrants will do nothing to improve economic conditions in eastern Germany, where 20% of voters backed the far-right Alternative for Germany. But the self-defeating nature of populist policies will not blunt their appeal. Mainstream parties must offer voters who feel left behind a better vision of the future, one that takes greater account of the geographical reality behind the politics of anger.

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