Saving the Center
To commemorate its founding 25 years ago, PS is republishing a selection of commentaries written since 1994. In the following commentary, Tony Blair argued that only a strong and revitalized centrist politics could defeat today’s populist surge.
LONDON – There is no doubt about the waves of discontent and anger sweeping Western politics. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union after four decades of membership, jeopardizing all the intricate trading and political connections that such a long relationship created. Against all forecasts by political pundits, Donald Trump won the United States presidency, something the political class thought virtually inconceivable. Throughout Europe, new political parties are springing up, all based on variations on the same theme: the political establishment has ignored us, and we will throw them out in protest.
One defining feature of this uprising is that the impetus for change has become more important than any consideration of what change might mean in practice. The things said by leaders riding this wave can be wildly out of kilter with normal rules of political conduct; but none of it matters. What matters is that the revolt is happening, and whoever happens to catch the wave will be borne aloft.
By contrast, politicians who make reasoned arguments of a conventional kind merely irritate rebellious voters, arousing impetuous dismissal, if not contempt and derision.
Project Syndicate celebrates its 25th anniversary with PS 25, a collection of our hardest-hitting commentaries so far.
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