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Thanks, but No Thanks

eric_schnurer_elections_2016_1In the two weeks since Election Day, I’ve been trying to explain to various audiences what I think it all meant. Just before the polls closed that evening, I moderated a panel of experts from a half-dozen countries on what the election would mean for the rest of the world. As I discuss in a piece out today in US News & World Report, “The New Old Nationalism,” the Russian pollster on the panel

made an interesting comment to me in advance of our session: Russian citizens have more sympathy to Trump, he said, because he is an “American nationalist, not globalist.” Not that long ago, “an America nationalist” would have been a damning epithet coming from the Kremlin, basically a longer version of the word “imperialist.” Now, it’s … something that both foreigners and “conservative” Americans alike embrace[:] They see global economic and social integration as a perversion of the rightful natural order, in which different peoples hold discreet territories, separated by walls.

… All of this – the tribalism, the illiberalism, the eternal struggle – its proponents would say, is simple realism. It is, in any event, the “alt” view of the future that the 2016 elections (and those coming in 2017) are elevating to global policy. I believe that, in the long-run, it’s a view that will lose. But in the long-run, we’re all dead.

One of my greatest regrets about 2016 is an article I didn’t write: When I returned from a European conference in May at which the dynamic duo of Kristina Wilfore and Stephanie Berger presented polling data on attitudes toward women, I began to write a piece predicting that misogyny would become the central fact of this campaign. My editors persuaded me to split the resulting diatribe into two parts, one of which became the first of several I’d write on how Hillary Clinton needed to overcome some of this by addressing the concerns of white working class men – but the argument on the coming wave of misogyny got sidelined, at least during the campaign. After the piece I wrote a few weeks ago complaining that discussions of “morality” have been largely hijacked by the subject of “sex,” the folks at Aspenia asked me to expand the argument for an issue on “Women & Power”; an abridged version was published online yesterday in Italian – until the English version is published, you’ll have to make do with this synopsis, building off Newt Gingrich’s outburst late in the campaign to Megyn Kelly: “You are fascinated with sex, and you don’t care about public policy”:

But the description – fascinated with sex, don’t care about public policy – might best fit the American public as a whole. One major subtext of the 2016 election has been sex and America’s ambivalent relationship with it…. Issues involving women and power – whether political leadership, their broader place in society, or their preponderance on the receiving end of all forms of violence from the physical to economic exploitation and poverty – aren’t really about whether they are strong or intelligent or emotionally stable enough to lead others or to protect themselves. They are, rather, about women’s position as gatekeepers of men’s access to the reproductive process – and sex – and men’s desire to wrest away that control for themselves.

In case all this leaves you unduly depressed headed into Thanksgiving – at least, any more so than most people I know already are – I argued in my main assessment of the election itself that you shouldn’t be, although not perhaps for the reasons most people might think:

Yes, there are some authoritarian, reactionary people amongst both Trump’s supporters and his advisers – but that’s not the majority, amongst either them or the rest of the American public. So put on your big-boy pants….

The future belongs to the decline of the nation-state. That sounds just as scary to liberals as it does to the reactionary, anti-globalist “nationalists” of Trumpworld. The real challenge for progressives is whether greater equity can be created within, not ignoring, this reality. Trump’s victory ironically provides the opportunity to explore the possibilities today rather than, as would otherwise be the case, sometime later this century in (as I described here just before Election Day) an even more troubled environment.

You can read the full piece, “Party Will Be Irrelevant,” here. As always, I welcome your comments. Meanwhile, a Happy Thanksgiving to all!


It’s a Tie!

eric_schnurer_elections_2016_itsatieWhich will it be?

Veterans of campaign work know that the slowest day of the year is, ironically, Election Day with its long wait for the results. For those of you counting the hours to poll closure, standing at a polling place waiting for voters to show up, or simply trying to find someone with exit-poll results or the latest turn-out rumors, here’s some reading material to while away the time. My last pre-election piece ran Friday in US News, and, in it, I pulled together my thinking over the past year on the future of government, the Trump phenomenon, Brexit, my visits to six countries and meeting political leaders from several more, and evolving technologies. If you want to know what happens starting tonight when the polls close, here’s my best guess:


Looking back at the turn of the 22nd century, the collapse of the nation-state system, which had existed for roughly 400 years, now seems obvious and long-overdue. But historians agree that the critical point, when the outcome went from unimaginable to unstoppable, was the disputed United State election of 2016, which ignited what has come to be known as the “Disunited States” Period.

Rumblings had been coming for decades: The collapse of empires throughout the 20th century. The increasing frequency and severity of global financial crises. The rise of nonstate challengers to the major states. And the geometric growth of technologies that simultaneously undermined the two defining elements of the “modern” nation-state – control over (1) the monopoly of force, and (2) a defined geographic territory.

Together, these changes had opened up a wide cleavage between two broad classes globally, cutting across traditional national borders: the so-called “Globopolitans” – sometimes denounced in the ensuing wars as the “elites,” but really people of all economic backgrounds in the interconnected global metropolitan centers, where incomes generally were rising – and “Remnants” of the less globally integrated regions of every continent, whether within single countries (like the interior of the former United States) or across multiple countries (like the Middle East or Horn of Africa). Differences in income levels between countries had narrowed – but incomes within them severely diverged worldwide. Globopolitans, regardless of location, saw a world of opportunity growing ever wealthier and more equitable; the Remnants saw a world of stagnation, widening unfairness and, perhaps as importantly, “cultural extermination” due to post-modern global change.

Remnants believed their salvation lay in eradication of this globalist threat through a return to earlier cultural, economic and national structures. They failed to recognize, at least initially, the twin ironies of their anti-globalist grievances: This actually connected them with similarly aggrieved peoples globally – the gods they worshiped and cultures they defended may have differed, but the worldviews were much the same. And it triggered the ultimate destruction of the traditional “nations” on which their traditionalist ideological agenda became increasingly fixated.

Working class revolt, fueling populist politics of both left- and right-wing varieties, simmered across Europe and other regions to a lesser extent in the wake of the global financial crisis that struck in 2008, but the first clear flare was the surprise “Brexit” vote in Britain to leave the European Union in mid-2016. This was hailed as the triumph of traditionalist, nationalist values over a condescending globalist elite – but it led in quick succession to the break-up of first the United Kingdom, then of England itself: Globopolitan London jettisoned the anti-globalist regions holding it back, pegged its currency to the American dollar and reunited informally with Scotland, Wales and Ireland to rejoin the European economy. In many ways, this presaged the (typically) larger and more violent developments in America.

The 2016 U.S. presidential election was widely perceived to be the nastiest in well over a century, with underlying themes of fraying racial, sexual, religious and national identity. But most historians today ascribe the uprising, and ensuing crack-up, to the tectonic economic forces described above.
The actual winner of that election was lost to the historical record in the disorder that followed. But we do know that the results were so close that they triggered months of unrest, refusal to accept defeat by the losing side and bitter paralysis of the government. In a notable departure from the country’s long-standing norms, both presidential contenders were subjected to post-election prosecution and ended up jailed. A deep, worldwide recession resulted, exacerbating the underlying tensions even further.

If you want to know what “happened” after that … click here to read the rest of the piece. Whatever you do, exercise your right as an American: Get out and vote! And as for the results, register your prediction below: Which tie will I being wearing on Wednesday?


Looking to the Post-Election Future (And None Too Soon)

us_election_tour_2016This week’s update is a multi-media report: As election day approaches, I’ve been getting more requests not just for articles but also for live appearances to discuss a range of topics. Last week, I conducted an “intergenerational conversation” on Millennials, Technology and the Future of American Politics at Civic Hall in New York with Aviva Rosman, a recent graduate of the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, where I currently teach. You can listen to some highlights of the conversation below:

While a student, Aviva launched an award-winning tech venture called BallotReady, that lets anyone find all the candidates and referenda appearing on their local ballot, along with useful information on each. She and I discussed with an audience of NYC-area UChicago alumni not just how she started the business, but also how Millennials view politics, how technology is changing attitudes about government and privacy, and how American politics is likely to realign in the wake of this year’s election. We’ll be repeating the experience in Chicago on November 30.

That’s one of several November engagements I have scheduled. I’ll be in Washington all of next week for a series of events, starting with the U.S. Election Tour 2016, which is bringing several hundred political consultants and observers from around the world to the U.S. to see the final days of the campaign in action and attend seminars with many of America’s top campaign consultants from both parties. I’ll be moderating the final panel, just before the polls close on Tuesday, discussing what this election means to others around the globe, with Vladimir Putin’s favorite pollster, a pro-Brexit consultant from the UK, and leading consultants from Sweden, Mexico, and Turkey. The day after, I’ll be discussing the results and what comes next with a delegation attending from Sweden. On Thursday, for a change of pace, I’ll be moderating another roundtable, this one with experts from around the world on the future of non-violence, at a conference led by my friend, Martin Luther King III.


I was also busy in print this past week, starting with my usual contribution to US News & World Report. This time, I took a look at some of the pluses and minuses of a likely Hillary Clinton presidency. Given the wide-ranging responsibilities we place on presidents, all come up short on some measure; in foreign policy, for example, I’d give Barack Obama high marks for vision, but a low grade for execution. As discussed in the piece, I expect the opposite of Clinton:

Last year, I was asked to read and review Clinton’s “Hard Choices.” (You can read the full review here.) While the book starts with an ambitious-seeming take on the need for a broader, futuristic rethinking of the aims of foreign policy, it soon becomes clear that as both an intellectual and operational matter Clinton is not broadly, futuristically focused (like, say, Obama).… [W]hile most liberals fear Clinton’s tendency to intervention, my concern as a “liberal interventionist” is not that Clinton is an interventionist – it’s that she’s a conservative, backward-looking one.

More crucially, … her critique of WikiLeaks is, essentially that it – along with everything technological that is democratizing information, power, and the use of force – is a threat to the nation-state more generally. Well, duh. But that doesn’t inherently mean it’s bad (unless you head up a nation-state) or, more importantly, that you can stop it. I’d like to know what she’s going to do about that. I don’t think she knows – which is part of a larger critique that Clinton lacks a vision (or, less charitably, values) generally. …

Meanwhile, Obama is already worrying about what happens to all of us when the robots take over. Maybe she should keep him on to head strategic planning while she runs the day-to-day.

I also received an invitation from the multi-talented Turkish politics and media guru, Necati Ozkan, to write a piece on the US elections for his glossy print magazine, MediaCat. In it, I answer the “Top Ten Questions After the US Election,” ranging from #1, “Is there a Republican Party after this?” to #10, “What does this mean for the Middle East?” You can’t otherwise find the piece online (and you can’t read it, anyway, unless you know Turkish), but the full piece is posted – in English — below.

US elections_ MediaCat


As always, I would love to know your thoughts. Feel free to leave your comments below. 

Top Ten Questions After the US Election

by Eric B. Schnurer

Unless the polls are grossly inaccurate, Hillary Clinton is headed to a sizeable victory. What does this mean for the future – for American & for US relations with the rest of world (including Turkey)?

  1. Is there a Republican Party (GOP) after this? C’mon: The US electoral system pretty much ensures there always will be two major parties. Donald Trump’s racist & xenophobic appeals aren’t really different from how GOP has cobbled together its majority since Richard Nixon – he’s just less subtle about it. His candidacy simply has revealed that such appeals – not conservative ideology – are what most GOP voters care about.
  2. So where does the GOP (Business) Establishment go? Trump has broken with standard GOP ideology: He’s against free trade. For large-scale spending on middleclass (like rightwing populists around the world). Isolationist, dismissive of “American exceptionalism.” Turned the party into a howling mob of the less-educated instead of its usual Country Club veneer. The Elite thinks it gets its party back after Election Day. Wrong. My guess: Extractive industries in the country’s interior employing low-wage workers (like those owned by the Koch brothers) become the mainstay of the Party; the rest of the Elite swallow hard & join tech, finance & Hollywood as Dems, provided Dems ease off on taxes & big government.
  3. Do Dems ever talk to blue-collar America again? Dems have been headed in the pro-business, less-government direction since (Bill) Clinton. Hillary only exacerbates that. She’s shied away from Obamacare expansion & taxing the rich to pay for Social Security. Even in victory, she’s ignoring Trump’s Angry White Guy base – voters who used to be Dems. Trump & GOP hardly represent their interests: trade restrictions won’t save the Old Economy, & tax breaks for billionaires are part of the problem, not the solution. So will anyone speak for the disposed?
  4. Where do the “Bernie bros” go? Sanders’ young supporters don’t trust Clinton – in part see above, in part because they’re mainly male & misogynistic. But they’re not racist, anti-immigrant or homophobic so can’t join Trump’s blue-collar party. Can a new progressive party emerge from this mess, or are left- & right-wing populists doomed to remain separated by cultural issues & thus marginalized?
  5. What does Donald Trump do after the election? Looks like he’ll start a new TV network, out-fox FOX, keep the hard-right insurrection going, & remain de facto leader of the opposition.
  6. Does the US split apart? Trump has signaled he’ll reject the election results; about a third of his supporters say they’ll stick with him post-election – surprisingly few, but a growing faction who reject the US government. The bigger issue is the growing economic and cultural divide between those connected to the global economy & those left out of (or rejecting) it – as elsewhere in the world. Those two sets of voters are increasingly separated geographically. Volatile recipe for a new Civil War? Possibly – but more likely a slow separation (like oil and vinegar), not just in the US but across the world.
  7. Does Washington change at all? In fact, it gets worse. GOP digs in against Clinton more than Obama. Smaller GOP House caucus is more dominated by extremists who try to impeach Clinton from Day 1, & split between majority “crazies” & a small minority willing to work with Dems to avoid total shutdown – foreshadowing the realignment in #2, above.
  8. What happens to the economy? Government will deadlock for another 2 years and constantly battle GOP-induced defaults and shutdowns. Winter (and a recession) is coming. The shame: US economy is fundamentally sounder than anyone else’s, but our political system won’t take “yes” for an answer.
  9. And US role in the world? All the foregoing obviously weakens the US as world leader – but not as much as critics say, doubters fear, & Putin hopes. Clinton is more interventionist and assertive than Obama – but also more conservative tactically (i.e., cautious) and strategically (i.e., backing institutional players).
  10. What does this mean for the Middle East? More aggressive policy in Syria, political need to knock out ISIS. Turkey: More tolerance for Erdogan’s domestic politics, but continued support for Kurds. Turkey has the potential to be a major power this century – but faces a serious choice between (a) Putin & (b) US, as both international partner & domestic political & economic model. Correct choice: (b).