Tuesday, December 24, 2013

middle-class don't like it when po folk in charge?


WaPo | We live in an era in which globalization is said to be benefiting elites in countries around the world while leaving behind the masses who lack the education or skills to compete. And yet, 2013 will be remembered as the year in which the streets of many a capital were filled with angry and dispossessed elites.

The crowds who called for revolution in Cairo, Istanbul, Bangkok and Kiev this year are not the impoverished losers of globalization. They are, for the most part, the economic winners: middle-class, educated, secular, English-speaking. They’ve had the backing of big businessmen who have been enriched by trade, and, as often as not, the sympathy of the Obama administration and other Western governments.

So why are they rebelling? Because globalization is not merely an economic story. It is accompanied by the spread of freer and more inclusive elections to dozens of countries where they were previously banned or rigged. That has enabled the rise of populists who cater to globalization’s losers and who promise to crush the old establishment and even out the rewards. In country after country, they’ve succeeded in monopolizing the political system. Hence, the elite revolt.

Hugo Chávez, elected in Venezuela in 1998, was a pioneer of this trend. He was followed not just by other Latin American caudillos, but also by Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand, Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine and Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, among others. Yes, these rulers have many differences. But they have some big things in common: Their support comes disproportionately from poorer, less-educated and more rural voters, while their opponents are concentrated in cities, especially capitals. The populists are also good at winning elections, but bad at governing — except when it comes to delivering spoils to their followers.

Most troubling, democracy’s winners all too often turn out to have little respect for democratic institutions. Like Chávez, they are prone to rewriting the constitutions they inherit to concentrate their power. In the name of ousting the old order, they purge courts and the media and repopulate them with their own followers. They then subject peaceful opponents to political prosecutions, fill the airwaves with their propaganda and shut down civil society groups, especially those with connections to the West.