Hillary And Trump, Brexit And Bernie: Is Anybody Listening?

Hillary And Trump, Brexit And Bernie: Is Anybody Listening?

by ​Richard Brodsky Senior Fellow, Demos

The first thing you learn after winning an election is that you have to listen. Listen to colleagues, opponents, critics surely. But you must listen to the people who put you in power. Intelligence, energy and honesty are required, but a refusal to listen is a fatal flaw. And the system will inevitably self-correct.

The message of Brexit, the message of Trump, the message of Bernie, and of popular outbursts everywhere is that the leadership cadres have not been listening.

Both right and left establishments embraced new technology and the internationalization of commerce and culture. Call it inevitable, or a choice, there was little difference in the policies of Reagan, Clinton, Bush or Obama. And it may even have been the smart thing to do.

But it created winners, and it created victims. The victims were industrial workers and their communities. Their good-paying, unionized jobs fled and were replaced by service jobs that provided neither the income nor the satisfaction of bygone days. And nobody listened.

The Right was constrained by traditionalist social concerns about ethic and social minorities, women, abortion and guns, and by economic policies that favored the rich and concentrated wealth and power. The Left focused on the historic oppression of those minorities, and the plight of the poor and re-distributive economics.

If you were in Akron, or Manchester, or Detroit, or Glasgow you were mostly invisible.

And now for the correction. It first appears to be a mixture of resentments, hostilities and anger. But it’s also a demand for attention and action. We, Right and Left, largely abandoned these folks to the consequences of change. We could have engaged them and supported them and didn’t.

The immediate question is “Who’s listening now?” Trump has a shrewd understanding of people as customers. He appears to be listening, but only insofar as he repeats their resentments, hostilities and anger. His persona makes it hard for him to admit that he listens.

Hillary seems to understand, but hasn’t made room for these folks on her crowded list of folks she pays attention to. When she ran for Senate in New York, the first thing she did was a “Listening Tour”. It established her in voters’ minds in just the right way, and made her agenda the product of popular concern. She should do the same thing now.

Either Hillary or Trump need to spend some quality time listening to voters in a very public way. The policy prescriptions can come later. The candidate who can re-connect with voters, who can undo the ruptured bond between governed and government, who can visibly listen will benefit politically. And will reassure a jittery world that democracies can adapt and function, that strongmen, nostrums, and slogans are not the wave of the future. I hope.

Via the Huffington Post

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