Examining Neoliberalism’s Role in Modern Far-Right Politics

The world is seeing a rise in far-right politics, from Italy, to France, to Brexit, to President Trump. So, how did we get here? And, where exactly are we? Is this authoritarianism, fascism, populism, or something else? These are the questions political theorist Wendy Brown addresses in her talk, Neoliberalism’s Scorpion Tail: Markets and Morals Where Democracy Once Was.

Brown begins by outlining what she sees as the classical liberal thinking on the subject. The story goes like this: neoliberal economic policies devastated rural and suburban areas taking away decent jobs, pensions, schools, services and infrastructure as social spending dried up, and capital began to chase cheap labor and tax havens in the global south. At the same time, a cultural gap grew between those rural and suburban communities, and urban centers. Rural families were alienated, left behind, and felt like strangers in their own land. This feeling was coupled with enduring racism as immigrant communities transformed some suburban neighborhoods and the politics of equality appeared to the uneducated white male, to favor everyone but him.

Brown says that story is incomplete. She argues it fails to address a key component of neoliberalism: the idea that society and robust democracy disrupt the natural hierarchy of markets and traditional morals. Brown argues that classical neoliberalism seeks to disintegrate society and universal suffrage, leading to a world where those who were historically dominant – the white male in particular – feel that dominance fade. What is left, are feelings of rage and resentment. Brown imagines two possible futures for those feelings, one bleaker than the next. First, she describes world in which politics are based solely on spite and revenge. The second option? A reversal of values, where those who have lost the world they feel historically entitled to seek to destroy it. But, she leaves some room for hope if humanity can draw deeply from our imaginations, courage and grit.

Watch Neoliberalism’s Scorpion Tail: Markets and Morals Where Democracy Once Was

Working with Artificial Intelligence to Keep Americans Employed

We have all heard the dire warnings. Artificial intelligence is predicted to decimate job sectors already hit hard by outsourcing. Some studies suggest up to half of all work could be automated by 2030. That means factory workers, drivers, even some accountants may find themselves without a job.

Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, knows the pain of job-loss all too well. She witnessed the closing of factories in towns like Greenville, where three thousand of the town’s eight thousand residents worked at the same plant. But, Granholm remains optimistic about the future of employment in the United States. She believes we can make artificial intelligence work for us, not against us.

Granholm uses the autonomous vehicle as one example. While the technology could put five million drivers out of work, it could also create millions of new jobs. We could see the rise of new industries such as mobile motels, or pop-up shops. Driverless cars could eliminate the need for massive parking lots, creating space for affordable housing. But, new industries require a workforce with new skills.

Granholm has five suggestions for creating that workforce. Three of those suggestions focus on investment in training, including apprenticeships and internships. She suggests diverting funds currently used to subsidize unemployment. She also says we need to come up with a way to create portable benefits for people with alternative jobs, such as Uber drivers and other app-based workers. The final suggestion: pay people for their data. Granholm says the tech sector is making billions off our personal information, and there may be a way to share that wealth.

Watch Shaping a 21st Century Workforce – Is AI Friend or Foe?

Workforce Frontiers

We know that the future of work is upon us–AI, robotics, global markets and online innovations are driving massive changes. So, what about workforce development? This event explores the boundary-busting, outer reaches of workforce development where job quality, equity, outcomes and opportunity take center stage.

The program is presented by The San Diego Workforce Partnership which is committed to advancing new ideas and trailblazing daily to remain on the cutting edge of these critical shifts that shape how we work and thrive.

Watch Workforce Frontiers Symposium

Looking Toward 2020 with Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown

Willie Brown has spent his life in public service. He served over 30 years in the California State Assembly – 15 of those years as Speaker – before becoming the first African American mayor of San Francisco. For the past 10 years, he’s been writing a column for the San Francisco Chronicle on politics, movies, art, and anything else on his mind. When he took the podium at the Goldman School of Public Policy recently, he touched on lessons from all those experiences. But, his main focus was the 2018 midterms and the upcoming general election.

Brown began by looking back to 2016, explaining why he predicted Donald Trump would win the presidency. Brown, a lifelong Democrat and friend of Hillary Clinton, says Clinton could have been one of the best presidents in history. But, Brown knew that Trump had the skill and ability to connect with voters in a way Clinton could not. Brown also traces Clinton’s loss across several election cycles, when Democrats lost the House and the Senate during the Obama years.

Trump’s victory however, could be the key to the Democratic Party’s recovery, Brown says. He says Trump has failed to build a coalition beyond his core supporters that voted him into office. That helped Democrats win in states like Michigan and Wisconsin in 2018, where Clinton lost in 2016. Brown also credits Nancy Pelosi with organizing the party to help take back the House. But, in order to keep that momentum going and defeat President Trump in 2020, Brown says Democrats have to identify a strong candidate with the same ability to move voters. He says there are three strong options from California, and one in particular he hopes to see on the ballot.

Watch The Honorable Willie Brown on the 2018 Midterms and Strategy for 2020

Beyond 2018: What’s Next for Congress and Country as a Whole

The results of the 2018 midterm elections are in, but what’s next? Will a Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate be able to work together? What do the results mean for 2020? And, what should Democrats do to capitalize on midterm gains? Professor Emeritus Sanford A. Lakoff shared his thoughts on those questions and more at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC San Diego Extension. He begins by looking at midterm turnout, changing demographics, and increasing political polarization. He notes that many point to the Gingrich Revolution as the beginning of modern-day polarization, and suggests President Trump has only added to the trend.

But, there is also division within the Democratic Party. Several newly-elected representatives have pledged not to vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. Lakoff argues that would be a mistake. He cautions that the coalition risks becoming a “Tea Party of the Left” if they are unwilling to compromise, especially without holding either the Senate or the Presidency. He suggests Pelosi should pledge to only serve as Speaker until 2020, and prepare new Democratic representatives to take on leadership positions in the future.

Lakoff then lays out what he believes should be the top priorities for Democrats over the next two years. His list includes healthcare, immigration reform, climate change, and gun control. While he admits it’s unlikely Democrats will make significant progress on the issues, Lakoff says the effort would show voters what they can expect should Democrats take the Senate and White House in 2020. Lakoff also suggests lawmakers go beyond legislation, and set up think tanks and non-partisan commissions on the major issues of our time. Those include electoral reform, medical coverage, gun violence, the national debt, and ensuring employment with the development of artificial intelligence. But, the ability to make any progress on any of these issues may rest on an unpredictable variable: the Robert Mueller investigation.

Watch Breaking Down the 2018 Midterm Election Results with Professor Emeritus Sanford Lakoff — Osher UC San Diego