The Center Is Not Holding, and Trump Is Our Proof

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As the world's preeminent heads of state gather in Buenos Aires, Argentina this weekend for the annual G20 summit, the post-war order has never looked more fragile. War threatens to break out at any moment between Russia and Ukraine, Britain is staring into the abyss of a failed Brexit negotiation and the U.S. faces a rising tide of ethno-nationalism, reinforced in no small part by Donald Trump's presidency. Compounding this larger crisis, new research indicates we have just 12 years to radically reduce carbon emissions or risk climate catastrophe.

The center is not holding, and if a devastating new report from the New York Times is to be believed, the falconer's falcon is but one of the innumerable creatures wiped off the planet just in the past 50 years. As Jonathan Aronson argues in his new book "Digital DNA: Disruption and the Challenges for Global Governance," we are living through a period of profound social and economic upheaval—one that threatens the very foundations of our political system.

"Last week, Sears declared bankruptcy," he tells Robert Scheer in the latest installment of Scheer Intelligence. "Sears, in many ways, was the Amazon of another age. They were the ones who distributed everything; they changed everything. So what has happened is the world has changed; the economies have changed; the companies have changed; but as usual, the rules have lagged behind."

A professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Aronson examines what he refers to as a "hollowing out" of the working class and our elected officials. While the former has seen its jobs shipped overseas, the latter has grown increasingly beholden to multinationals, many of which now underwrite its campaigns. This, in turn, "pushes people left, it pushes people right. And at the same time you have an economic dearth in the middle...The people who were in the middle in politics are also gone."

That the United States and the West at large have arrived at an inflection point seems undeniable. Rather than give into pessimism, however, Aronson argues we must view this historical moment as one of tremendous possibility.

"If we don’t get our act together and improve things for everybody—including your workers, your middle class, your poor, and not just the one percent—we could really descend into chaos," he argues. "But there is an opportunity, if we can get things right, which can only be done through bringing diverse groups with different interests together, and sort of finding ways to build a coalition among them, not against them—that there is still some hope."

Photo credit: Maggie Taplin.



Joshua Scheer