It’s a terrible feeling to discover that your country is full of strangers. For some in India, the election of Narendra Modi in 2014, with a majority that India hadn’t seen in three decades, was that moment. Everyone knew there was discontent with the status quo; everyone knew that Modi was doing well, better than anyone had expected before he became a candidate – but to win an unprecedented majority? It meant that far more Indians than imaginable were willing to trust a leader with so disquieting a record.
Since then, I have seen that feeling of shock replicated elsewhere, and often. In Britain, for example, in the summer of 2016, as the country voted narrowly for Brexit. And again, in the U.S. that fall.
After a while, you refuse to believe what happened. It was special circumstances that led to this shock result, you’re told. Voters who should have known better were carried away with anger and enthusiasm, responding to a government floundering in corruption, or to years of feeling left out and ignored by mainstream parties, or to economic policies that didn’t sufficiently take their interests into account. Voters are sensible, people say; when they see how their choices aren’t working out as hoped, they will come around. Of course they will, that’s how democracy works.
In India, Narendra Modi’s premiership was certainly not working out as hoped. The jobs he had promised to create weren’t there. Rural distress was spreading, as the government’s tight control on food prices kept farmers from making the sort of profits they wanted. The prime minister took controversial, indefensible decisions like the overnight ban on 86% of India’s cash. And he lost several crucial midterm provincial elections, some by unusually large margins. Yes, he remained popular, but politics seemed to be snapping back to normal.
And then came May 23, 2019, when — instead of voting out Modi, or chastening him by reducing his majority, Indian voters instead rewarded him with an even greater majority. His party’s share of the vote jumped by more than 6%. Instead of seeing his term as a disappointment, his supporters retained their allegiance — and gained converts. Losing once to the populist might be bad, but you just have to look at India to realize twice is infinitely worse.
It’s been a tough few years for the New Class all over the world, but it’s still mostly in denial.
Flashback: Donald Trump is a symptom of a new kind of class warfare raging at home and abroad. “But the New Class isn’t limited to communist countries, really. Around the world in the postwar era, power was taken up by unelected professional and managerial elites. To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements. And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change.”