Michelle Obama v.s. The Populists

As I was driven this evening into New York City for the first module of the Advanced Management program in Media & Entertainment, the taxi driver asked me if Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.

While Donald Trump’s shortcomings as a political leader are very clear and have been discussed in this space on a regular basis, the prevalence of a populist narrative in so many places at once gives us reason to pause and try to figure out what is going on. Some data points that may appear unrelated but I fear represent a pattern are as follows:

  • Victor Maduro continues to hold onto power xx years after the death of Hugo Chavez. While Chavez, initially,  may have had the Venezuelan people’s interest at heart, Maduro clearly represents what Foreign Policy magazine has called a mafia state that only exists to enrich itself and its cronies in the name of the people.
  • In Peru, Keiko Fujimori is close to becoming the next President of the country as a result of yesterday’s election despite the fact that her father is convicted of mass murder and kidnapping in his efforts to turn around what he felt was a chaotic period in Peru’s history.
  • imgresIn the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte is moving into the the Malacañang Palace  and has said that he will oder the police to shoot to kill criminals without the idiocy of due process.
  • In Egypt, the Arab Spring has come full circle with a new military leader,Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has declared war on the Muslim Brotherhood and squashed all political opposition.
  • Spanish political parties failed to form a coalition government and are moving to new elections as a result of new populist movements upsetting the normal political calculus of left v.s. right.
  • Alexander Van der Bellen, a mild mannered green managed to win the Presdiential election in Austria by a razor thin margin against Norbert Hofer a far right, populist politician thanks only to the vote of Austrian0’s living abroad

As discussed in a recent column in La Vanguardia, which seemed to be partly inspired by the blog in this space comparing Trump’s political rise to that of Adolf Hitler, there is something remarkable and very disturbing going on in international politics.

Faced with a very complex and confusing world, people seem drawn to politicians offering an easy way out. Someone to hate. Someone to blame. The promise of being great again.

The current geo-political situation is at its most complex since the end of the World War II and the pace of economic change, largely caused by globalisation and digitalisation has left many people e perplexed, scared and ready to hear the words of the populists on the left or the right

The challenge for people who understand the complexities of this world such as Hilary Clinton is to be able to articulate a positive vision of the future despite its complexity. Although she is not running for office in this election cycle, Michelle Obama did just that in a recent commencement address at the City College if New York which was sent to me by one of my daughters.

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In my view only if all of us who see the world’s complexity as an opportunity rather than a threat and our diversity as our greatest strength. 

About Mike Rosenberg

Professor Mike Rosenberg Professor of Strategic Management, IESE http://www.iese.edu/en/faculty-research/professors/faculty-directory/mike-rosenberg