Tony Blair: Against Populism, the Center Must Hold

Source: The New York Times, March 3

Tony BlairToday, a distinction that often matters more than traditional right and left is open vs. closed. The open-minded see globalization as an opportunity but one with challenges that should be mitigated; the closed-minded view sees the outside world as a threat. This distinction crosses traditional party lines and thus has no organizing base, no natural channel for representation in electoral politics….

The center needs to develop a new policy agenda that shows people they will get support to help them through the change that’s happening around them. At the heart of this has to be an alliance between those driving the technological revolution, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, and those responsible for public policy in government. At present, there is a chasm of understanding between the two. There will inevitably continue to be a negative impact on jobs from artificial intelligence and big data, but the opportunities to change lives for the better through technology are enormous.

Any new agenda has to focus on these opportunities for radical change in the way that government and services like health care serve people. This must include how we educate, skill and equip our work forces for the future; how we reform tax and welfare systems to encourage more fair distribution of wealth; and how we replenish our nations’ infrastructures and invest in the communities most harmed by trade and technology.

Progressives must reach across the party divide, making a virtue of nonpartisanship. Those who feel dispossessed within existing party structures should make common cause, and do so unashamedly. This is exactly what those of us are doing in Britain who are making the case for staying in a reformed European Union.

The politics of the progressive center has not died, but it needs re-inventing and re-energizing. For liberal democracy to survive and thrive, we must build a new coalition that is popular, not populist.


One response to “Tony Blair: Against Populism, the Center Must Hold

  1. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world conceptually into two, and those who say “Nope. Move to another system level to understand the other two.”