If there is a regnant consensus among the men and women who steer the Western world, it is this: The globe is flattening. Borders are crumbling. Identities are fluid. Commerce and communications form the warp and woof, weaving nations into the tight fabric of a global economy. People are free to pursue opportunity, enriching their new homes culturally and economically. There may be painful dislocations along the way, but the benefits of globalization heavily outweigh its costs. And those who cannot see this, those who would resist it, those who would undo it—they are ignorant of their own interests, bigoted, xenophobic, and backward.
So entrenched is this consensus that, for decades, in most Western democracies, few mainstream political parties have thought to challenge it. They have left it to the politicians on the margins of the left and the right to give voice to such sentiments—and voicing such sentiments relegated politicians to the margins of political life.
No longer. In 2016, the consensus crumbled, torn apart by a failure of empathy, and a failure of imagination.
In Britain, Boris Johnson led the Brexit campaign to victory—and perhaps to 10 Downing Street. In the United States, Donald Trump will ride his message of “America First” to Cleveland—and perhaps to the White House. And they are not alone. In Austria, Norbert Hofer advanced to the threshold of the Hofburg Palace. In Hungary, polls show growing support for the far-right Jobbik party. Across the Western world, populist ethno-nationalism is rising, and unscrupulous politicians have spotted the opportunity, and are eagerly riding it to power.