Conversation Between Melissa Lane, Princeton University and Victoria Preston, strategic communications advisor.

We are publishing a conversation between Melissa Lane and Victoria Preston in which they discuss the challenges of strategic communication that we face after Brexit. By publishing this article we underscore our commitment to bringing top academics and practicioners into conversation with each other.

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Melissa Lane is Class of 1943 Professor of Politics and Director of the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. Victoria Preston is a strategic communications advisor.

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Conversation on August 4th 2016 in London, UK 

 

VP – Melissa, welcome to London. You have a highly distinguished academic career on both sides of the Atlantic and you have been intellectually fearless in addressing some of the most difficult social and political issues of our age including climate change, consumerism, and, most fundamentally, ethics. But you are perhaps best known for your expertise in ancient Greek thought and its applications in the modern age. I’m hoping that we can tap into that today to explore a growing phenomenon that many of us find perplexing and increasingly concerning—the rise of the demagogic voice in the political arena we might broadly call the liberal west.

Over the last decade or more, we’ve seen the rise of populism in countries like Brazil, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In these cases we’ve really been curious bystanders, watching populist leaders such as Lula, Morales, or Chavez with interest, reassured that this political trend was happening elsewhere and unlikely to impact either Europe or the United States directly. But over the course of 2016, the tide of populism has washed up directly onto our own shores. I’d like to explore three manifestations of that, namely the nomination of Donald Trump as US Presidential candidate, the Daesh recruitment drive in Europe, and the UK’s ‘Brexit’ referendum result.

On June 24th, the morning after the UK electorate had voted in a referendum to decide our future membership of the EU, the so-called Brexit vote, we woke up to the realization that a seismic political event had occurred.

 

ML – I was in the UK at that time and what this result brought home was the critical importance of politics: the way that a political decision can change the whole trajectory of millions of people’s lives for decades, in this case first by the leader who called the referendum and then through the collective decision of the voters.

This power of politics to deliver seismic change is easy to forget when you live in a country that has been relatively stable for long periods. And it is precisely this stability that creates the false sense that people will always cling to the status quo. When people face votes thinking that their vote doesn’t matter and they can afford to cast a protest vote for example without expecting it to change the outcome, they need to remember—it does matter. Your vote is not negligible. It matters, and politics matters.

 

VP – In addition to the Brexit result, 2016 also saw the surprising nomination of Donald Trump, and actually by the time this conversation is published, we will know whether or not he is the next US President. But whatever the final result, the fact remains that he was selected by Republicans from a field of seventeen possible candidates to stand in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Looking across from this side of the Atlantic, we see a country with 300 million people and say, ‘many people have chosen this person to represent their values and interests’. This is perplexing in part because of how and what Trump communicates. His specific use of language, tone, vocabulary, and attitude is really contradictory to the liberal narrative. The way he talks about women, the way he talks about ethnic minorities, the way he talks about human rights; none of this conforms to the norms of Western liberalism. And to see such support for a narrator who uses language so at odds with the ‘norm’ has woken us up to the existence of a powerful demagogic voice in our own society.

The third manifestation of this trend is the phenomenon we are experiencing here in Europe, and to some extent in the US and Canada—that of young people responding to the rhetoric of `Daesh’ or ‘ISIS’, either by travelling to Syria and Iraq to fight, or as is now more commonly the case, signing up online to carry out attacks in their home cities and towns in Europe and North America.

And let’s be clear, these are young people who have enjoyed the benefits of a liberal democratic system—free education, freedom of voice, freedom of the press—who are pushing back against the liberal system from within. And it’s proving difficult for us to comprehend, or perhaps acknowledge, why that might be the case.

So there are really two major questions that I want to explore with you.

First, to what extent do you think that the popular pull of these three expressions of the demagogic voice—Brexit in the UK, Trump in the US, and ISIS recruitment in Europe—are part of the same phenomenon?

And second, whether you believe that in this moment the liberalist cause or the liberalist narrative is facing an existential threat through the rise of the demagogic voice?

To begin can you help us think about what we mean by the demagogic voice?

 

ML – These are such challenging and important questions; it’s quite an opportunity to have this conversation.

Regarding the first question, I think there is certainly a common element to these three phenomena. I’m thinking of historical parallels and, of course, many people have been reflecting on to what extent the current situation is similar to the challenges to liberalism that emerged in the late 20s and 30s.

Today, as then, there was a critique of liberalism, and democracy as a whole, being impotent. 

At that time, the attacks on parliamentary democracy might typically have been expressed in terms of it being ‘just talking shop’, whereas real force or vitality could only be exercised through doing rather than through talking. In the wake of the First World War we saw the rise of violent masculinity that was expressed right across the political spectrum, both on the extreme left and the extreme right. 

And there is an inherent emotional aspect to this, where liberalism is construed in terms of ‘coldness’ and ‘callousness’; where liberal policies are seen as indifferent to the suffering that they either cause or that they fail to rectify. The sort of economic ‘left behind’ phenomenon is felt as a kind of callousness that in some way liberalism isn’t addressing. And then there’s also coldness in the sense of ‘meaninglessness’, where, in contrast to religious value systems, secular liberalism can seem to be meaningless, allowing the erosion of the ties of community and ultimately allowing communities to dissolve.

So I think it’s this sort of ‘coldness’ of liberalism that provokes the search for either a different kind of community, or for turning back the clock, as in the case of those interested in supporting Trump who want to go back to something simpler or stronger, or to a time where there was more certainty and they felt their place in society was more secure. Or in some cases it can mean turning the clock forward, by building a caliphate as a means of bringing about this kind of transformation.

If I had to try to pinpoint the commonalities it would be there, but there are some really important differences that we should also talk about. I would also want to caution that we need to be careful in thinking about demagogues. As I’ve written elsewhere, the ancient Greeks took quite a while before they solidified the concept as meaning someone appealing, possibly through fraudulent means, to partisan ends; in particular the partisan ends associated with the common people or the poor. For a long time in the life of ancient Athenian democracy, there was no single fixed stereotype of a ‘demagogue’, rather the Athenians recognised a wide range of ways in which politics could go wrong. So while I think demagoguery has come to have a more definite meaning (as I outlined above) and I’m willing to talk about the ‘demagogic voice’ on those terms. I think we still do well to remember that demagoguery is one kind of political danger, but not the only kind. Pure intra-elite machinations can be as dangerous as demagoguery, for example.

 

VP – Are you saying that, while at one time the liberal voice was the passionate voice, passionate about human rights, and passionate about a fair society, inclusive democracy, universal suffrage, and so on, liberalism has gone quiet in some sense and the passionate voice is now on the other side? Now it’s the ‘What about us?’ voice that is passionate.

 

ML – Yes, and I think that is part of the great challenge, especially in terms of communication.

The worldview and the problems and the solutions offered by the demagogic narrative are very simplistic. For liberals who are passionate about pluralism and embrace complexity this is a very difficult thing. I think the current media conditions make it an even more difficult thing.

So, a key part of what liberalism has stood for, its recognition of complexity and pluralism, is what I think is threatened by demagoguery.

This brings us to the question of what we mean by the demagogic voice. Demagoguery works through over-simplification: the demagogue claims to speak for a vision of the people which is both homogenous and idealized. Anyone who challenges or opposes that voice is thrust out and seen as an enemy of the people or alien. This can lead to all kinds of nativism, including anti-foreign and anti-immigrant sentiments, and also demonizing the people who disagree with you from within a given community.

Demagoguery also tries to do away with the normal mechanisms of the nation, which themselves involve polarity and complexity. Parliamentary democracy works through having hundreds of people, who claim to speak for the people, having to work out ways of negotiating to resolve disagreement. Whereas the demagogue wants to be the sole embodiment and the unchallenged decider.

We saw Trump say ‘I am your voice’, not ‘we are your voice’ or ‘the party is your voice’ or ‘congress is your voice’, but ‘I’ in the sense that ‘I alone can be the pure voice’. Many times in history we’ve seen demagogic movements emerge, and they work through this kind of exclusion and simplification.

So again, one historical analogy that has often been used and is very relevant is that of the French Revolution. The dynamics of the French Revolution were all about constantly having to purify and exclude in order to hold on power and to explain failure.

As is often the case with these movements, the thought is ‘well of course we failed, because we were infiltrated by elements that were not pure’. This can mean impure ideologically or, in some cases, ethnically. And again this leads us to the narrative of exclusion or separateness. But of course that’s never going to work, because you can never have that view, which is entirely pure. There is always bound to be residual disagreement or difference.

So that is the challenge—how do you hold on to passion about pluralism and complexity and expertise and all the things that liberalism depends on, and how do you communicate those things in a world that is increasingly employing oversimplified communication strategies?

 

VP – Moving on to the political aspects of liberalism, the West has promoted an agenda of representative democracy as a ‘universal good’. Our common refrain is ‘democracy is not perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got’. And after the Second World War, and more recently since the end of the Cold War, our view of democracy as the best inclusive political system has, to some extent, been vindicated as many former socialist and communist states in central and eastern Europe have joined the EU project.

These are the same principles that led us to take the democratic model to Iraq after the end of the war when we said ‘now the war is over, now come the elections’, and then ‘now a government has been elected by the people and we’ve given the Iraqis the handbook on democracy so now they can get on with it’. It hasn’t been a huge success since, more than a decade on, there is still a civil war in Iraq. And, quite aside from the number of Allied troops who have lost their lives, the numbers of Iraqis that have been killed are so huge that there’s no consensus on how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died since democracy arrived in Iraq in 2004.

So my question is whether you think that that failure of democracy in Iraq has somehow undermined our own implicit trust or faith in democracy and allowed these more demagogic voices to prevail?

 

ML – There are so many tragedies in what has happened in Iraq, and one of them is a profound misunderstanding of democracy—what democracy means, what it requires, and, in particular, the thought that elections alone are sufficient to make a regime count as a democracy. Whereas the work I’ve done on ancient Greece suggests that the accountability of officials is as fundamental to democracy as elections, and elections are only really valuable if they lead to and enable the accountability and scrutiny of people holding power. That we often fail to realize the importance of accountability is a great tragedy.

If you impose democracy in a place where the occupying power still controls the purse strings and the military, at least in the immediate aftermath of war, how do you establish meaningful accountability to the people in the democracy when so much real power is exercised from the outside? The paradox of trying to impose democracy from the outside is that too often it undermines the very possibility of accountability that democracy is meant to deliver.

I think that’s one of the reasons for the failure in Iraq, and there’s a terrible irony about that. This lack of accountability is a problem that also attends foreign aid more generally, whereby foreign donors can, in effect, undermine the conditions for local democracy by undermining the conditions of accountability. That point isn’t meant to rule out all forms of engagement abroad, but it does suggest the need for reflection on how any such engagement is carried out, and on limits to what it might be able to achieve.

 

VP – I’m interested in how this narrative of democratic failure plays back into our own community.

Not everyone agreed that we should engage in that war, but nevertheless the inherent promise of that engagement was that our democratic liberal model would deliver benefit to Iraq. But it didn’t quite work out as planned. The question now is: How does that undermine our trust in the liberal voice and how does it fuel the demagogic voice in our own community? 

 

ML – I don’t necessarily think it has led to a failure of trust in democracy here. I’ve been criticizing the failure to realize meaningful democracy abroad when you have a foreign power bringing it about. But again, I don’t think that that criticism should lead us to recoil from any involvement with the wider world or with troubled regions.

The demagogic voice response, if we look at the example of Trump, was that the failure of the Iraq war has led to knee-jerk isolationism, nationalism, and distrust of any kind of political alliance.

There are plenty of things that a country can do to contribute to a healthier international order, including support other countries’ democracy-building processes. The danger is that the demagogic voice looks at the failure of the Iraq war and then simply recoils from any International responsibility.

Historians have suggested that that is exactly what happened [in the 1930s] when America was so consumed with its own economic and political problems that it withdrew from its concern with Europe and took its eye off the ball. This was a facilitating condition that allowed the right wing movements in Europe to seize their moment.

 

VP – To some extent our failure in Iraq determined a much less interventionist approach to the conflicts that arose from the Arab Spring and brought a second wave of issues that affect the liberal project. Syria’s civil war has given rise to irregular migration to Europe on an unprecedented scale. Our inability to manage that crisis has fueled concern for how it might impact our own personal security.

So my question is to what extent do you think the migration issue, feeding into the Brexit issue, is driving the rise of the demagogic voice in Europe?

 

ML – Again I think it is part of the wider dynamic where the demagogic voice promises a level of political control, offers the kind of security that can never really be achieved or provided in a complex world. It’s this false promise of security that people are seeking because they are frightened by what happening around us.

But even if you could close the door on all migrants tomorrow, that doesn’t address the question of homegrown radicals. So again this a kind of fantasy where the real threat is seen as being outside and that it is therefore possible to control the threat completely.

The real threat is of course a much more fine-grained, complex, and difficult challenge. Yet the demagogic voice with its broad-brush narrative is probably so effective because it offers an oversimplification that is more appealing than the difficult realities.

 

VP – Earlier, I was looking at your book Greek and Roman Political Ideas and your reference to Herodotus observing ‘that all men cling to the belief that their laws and customs are the best’. We certainly fit that description in that we have a kind of moral superiority complex, especially in how we think about humanitarian issues. The migrant crisis is a fundamental challenge to our self-view because of our seeming inability to resolve the moral dilemma at its heart. There are people drowning in the Mediterranean in their attempts to escape either from the conflict in Syria, or from Eritrea’s hideous regime, or from countries where the standards of living are so much lower than they are in Europe that people are willing to take these huge risks. And then there are people being washed up onto the shores of Europe. And our political response to this has been on the one hand ‘this is a Greek tragedy’, and on the other hand ‘what if all those people come and live in our country?’. 

This threat of civilian invasion and our inability to deal with the attendant ethical questions has given rise to a certain political hopelessness. Do you think this creates space for the demagogic voice that says ‘We can protect you. We have the answer. It’s very simple.’?

 

ML – Yes. This is such a profound challenge. I think what has been so striking is the response of the Greek islanders on Lesbos who were dramatically overwhelmed until the EU made a deal with Turkey. And we’ve yet to see how that will work out. The people on the absolute frontline were the most humane, and this was a tremendous burden for the community, which itself had been suffering terribly economically.

Wherever there is a really profound economic or security gradient that differentiates between two places, people will always try to get from one to the other. In the case of the US it’s with the land border to the south, and in the European case it means either crossing water or land barriers.

When there’s a profound gradient like that, you just have to accept that it’s going to be impossible for political controls to be wholly effective. We’ve seen that when people are desperate enough, relatively difficult barriers can be overcome.

 

VP – Do you think that the EU Brexit vote was in some way the equivalent of Donald Trump promising to build a wall right across the US, between the US and Mexico? Do you think voting to leave the EU is tantamount to saying that we want to erect a barrier between this set of islands and continental Europe?

 

ML – I think there was that kind of aspiration in many people’s minds, but at the same time some people were saying ‘oh, if we cut down on EU immigration we can have more non-EU immigration’. So some people were voting because they wanted the ‘wall’, and others were voting because they wanted different immigrants. And of course what wasn’t resolved by the vote for Brexit is how and whether to reconcile continued membership in the single market with what’s going to happen with the free movement of people.

More broadly, if there is continued ecological or civil war devastation in parts of the world that are within reach of Europe and of Britain, there is going to be a continuing desire for migration, which will ultimately be difficult for politics to withstand.

 

VP – Coming back to your point that the appeal of the demagogic voice is its simple broad-brush promise that it can solve even seemingly intractable problems—do you think that it’s the same with respect to the appeal of Islamic extremism to young European Muslims?

 

ML – You’re right to distil my general point about oversimplification versus complexity. This is not my particular area of expertise, but there are some interesting academic studies and some pilot projects that show one can decrease the chance of religious extremism by acknowledging or embracing complexity. For example, there is a project I’ve been reading about called ‘Being Muslim Being British’, which has been developed by a team that includes some Cambridge academics. One of the ways this project works is by not setting about to change the values these young British Muslims hold, but rather by finding ways to express how they relate to the wide range of values they have. That’s done through a kind of integrative complexity, where the key is to create the conditions that enable people to live with multiple identities in a way that can be constructive and has the effect of greater tolerance and an acceptance of pluralism. This model does suggest that the antidote to oversimplification is complexity. But that brings us back to the challenge to communicators—how do you communicate complexity in a world that is increasingly rewarding oversimplified media soundbites.

 

VP – Yes, particularly where you have horizontal peer-to-peer communication that is typified by thumbs up, thumbs down symbols to signify endorsement or disapproval of ideas or actions.

I want us to explore the question of why some young Europeans are attracted by the narrative of radical Islam and to go back to a point you touched on earlier—is it the ‘passionate’ nature of the demagogic voice that drives its appeal, or is it the promise of prestige and identity?

 

ML – As an observer, not an expert on these matters, it seems that often when people become involved in extremist movements, they are invited to join a community, possibly online or in some cases a real-life community, which offers a sense of prestige in being the select, the ‘few’, who are dedicating themselves to the cause. That often goes with the idea that one can force some kind of final catastrophe where one helps to bring about the beautiful future that would otherwise never be. Of course such ideas are not unique to one religion; these are elements we have found in the past in many different religions, as well as in secular movements. The strategy has often been successful, because it’s a very appealing story. The promise is, again, of being able to cut through the long slow haul of parliamentary change and administrative regulation and all those things which seem to be the deadening in contrast to the charismatic promise of radical change.

Earlier I was characterizing liberalism as being perceived as cold and callous. Of course this has to do with the fact that liberalism is partly expressed through bureaucracy. There is a cold impersonality to it, which is at odds with the passionate voice of demagoguery; but that impersonality brings with it fairness and impartiality. In saying that, I draw on Max Weber, who highlighted the struggle between democratization on the one hand and charisma on the other. The charismatic leader is always a threat to bureaucracy. But even charisma itself becomes routinized, as does the business of terrorism. After Al Qaeda introduced bureaucratic accountancy, for example, we began to see new groups arising that challenged it on that score. The tension between charisma and bureaucracy is a widespread and difficult dimension of modernity. 

 

VP – The ‘brand challengers’ so to speak?

 

ML – Yes. At the moment when a charismatic community is powerful and effective, it’s very hard to challenge it from the world of routinisation.

 

VP – Let’s move on to the question of liberalism and economics. As a starting point, I have a figure here from the World Bank, which estimates that from 1981–2012 more than 500 million Chinese people were lifted out of poverty. This is a testament to economic liberalism, but it has also affected jobs in the US and Europe as manufacturing has migrated eastward.

If we come back to your point, where you say the liberal voice is dispassionate, we can also say that it’s fairly elite. In the US, the Pennsylvanian coalmining community has been backing Trump, and the farming communities in Wales and Cornwall, amongst the poorest in the UK, voted to leave the EU.

To what extent do you think that the rise of the demagogic voice in the debate around Brexit and the US primaries can be traced back to liberalist economic policies that have allowed Western jobs to migrate to China and India?

 

ML – I think that there’s been a profound and calculated misrepresentation of what liberalism should mean in the economic sphere. The idea that liberalism in the economic sphere means minimizing the role of the state should more rightly be called neoliberalism.

If we look at one of the great figures of liberalism and the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, Adam Smith, we see that Smith was profoundly concerned about such dangers; that groups of merchant would try to collude and exploit the state in some way, for example. Or John Stuart Mill, who absolutely saw the need for workers to be able to unionize to prevent their being exploited as individuals. So the idea that liberalism requires a weak state is a fundamental misrepresentation.

In reality, in a market economy you actually need a state which is strong enough in the right ways and the smart ways. The free market has always relied on sufficient state power to make the market fair, in the right ways, so that it can continue to be free.

The paradox is that the active promotion of deregulation by neoliberals, setting out to serve their own economic interests, has weakened the state and the economy. And then the people who feel abandoned or left behind by these transformations may buy into the neoliberal claim that the state is too strong. But what they are really suffering from is that the state has been too weak and has failed to promote the kinds of economic transformation that were needed to include them, and to prevent what Smith was concerned about, which was the use of wealth to corrupt political processes, including using money to pull the strings behind the scenes.

There’s a profound need to recognize that it is the self-imposed retreat of the state that has led to much of the real suffering and hardship that is leading people to follow demagogues. And the promise that the rollback of economic regulation, which would ensure everyone benefited from the rising economy, has failed. But those under the sway of the nostrums about deregulation continue to deny that.

 

VP – In Europe, part of our political narrative was that, in contrast to communism, free market capitalism was an effective way to run an economy to the benefit of the workforce, the economy, and society more generally. When the Soviet Union broke up, we said ‘we knew communism couldn’t work for long’. But we haven’t been as reflective about the failure of free market capitalism, its impact on jobs, and the extent of state intervention needed, both in bailing out the rich and subsidizing the poor. Given that for the Welsh farmers much of that subsidy flows from the EU, the question is why did the Welsh vote to leave Europe? Did they vote for an idealized past in which they didn’t have to hold out their cap and tug their forelock to Europe, as your imagery around the appeal of demagoguery suggests?  

 

ML – I think there is something here about people wanting to be self-sufficient and independent, and against what was seen as a kind of arbitrary alien power. I think your language is very evocative, and in an important way there is a vision of a republican (small ‘r’) political project that is exactly about this idea of arbitrary power and not having to doff your cap to the will of a master or dominator. I think that there are many people who voted against the so-called Project Fear for that sort of reason. ‘We will be poor, but free’ is a powerful vision. And again, in this simplified construct, they may not have realized how poor they would be, and how challenging life would become. It’s one thing to make a gesture about it, but it’s another thing to experience the implications. 

To go back to your broader point, it’s important to remember that profoundly different degrees of economic inequality have arisen in different capitalist economies, which have very different labour and union regimes. So it’s not enough just to say ‘we want free market capitalism’; there are still important political choices that are possible to make, including having a state that is strong enough in the right kinds of ways.

The 1970s state in Britain was not perfect by any means and of course there were ways in which it was also dysfunctional and needed reform. But many of those reforms, for example weakening labour unions and privatizing railways, were not required by the free market as if it were a divine commandment—they were particular political choices. And so, again, it’s a question of simplifying the message. This has led people to buy into certain beliefs about what the free market requires and that has then left them high and dry. The narrowing of state resources and the state’s willingness and capacity to step in has, paradoxically, driven support for the fake political solutions being offered by the demagogues.

 

VP – And the contradiction is that here in the UK we have a huge disparity in wealth, which has grown larger and larger since the reforms of the 1980s, and now we are told that we also work the longest hours in Europe. So within that economic landscape it’s unsurprising that ordinary people feel discontent.

 

ML – Setting aside the question of foreign billionaires in London, in terms of domestic inequality, there is no need for the inequality to have become as great as it is. That isn’t a requirement of economic flourishing. In fact it may well militate against such flourishing in the future.   

Just one more thing on Brexit. It was very ironic that the EU appeared to some voters as this arbitrary overlord that can’t be controlled politically. Of course many people think that there were levels of EU dysfunctionality and overblown bureaucracy, clearly, but at the same time I was shocked by how quickly people had forgotten the UK parliamentary expenses scandal, for example. The idea that domestic parliamentary control would solve the problem was again an over simplification. The message was to some extent, ‘once we get rid of the EU, then we will have a political nirvana’, when actually you’re going to have all the same problems about control only writ on a smaller scale, because controlling power is difficult at whatever level. And it requires a free press, and a press that asks the right questions, and citizen accountability. So it comes back to scrutiny and accountability. Brexit by itself isn’t going to give people the powers of scrutiny and accountability that they actually want.

 

VP – My final question is whether you can offer us some hope that the rationalist voice of liberalism will ultimately prevail over the fearful voice of demagoguery, despite the complex political and security challenges that we face now, and the fear provoked by the present political climate?  

 

ML – Again I think this comes back in part to communications. I said at the beginning that there are some commonalities between Brexit and the other situations, but I think there also differences. For example, showing some promises or ideas to be fraudulent, seems to be something that is well within the powers of modern communication to do, and yet it failed in the case of Brexit. Somehow the media failed to expose claims that were actually false, like the 350 million per week that would be spent on the health service, even though it was acknowledged to be false, even by the ‘out’ campaign the day after the vote. And in the case of the Trump campaign, there are promises which are not just false, but contradictory or incoherent. This poses an even greater threat to a common political community when language can be made meaningless in that way.  

More generally, there is a difference between elements that are clearly a con and some of the more deeply rooted inchoate aspirations, which are going to be harder to address. I think the good news is that clever communications strategies can be effective in exposing frauds in populist narratives and demagogic claims, but I think the much harder challenge, which goes beyond just communications challenges, are the real concerns, the real grievances, and the sense of loss or harm in some sections of the community. That requires a much richer political imagination to formulate ways forward, as well as the ability to communicate them.

 

VP – Just one final note on your point about complexity versus simplification: how can the liberal project effectively communicate or debate what is currently happening politically, socially, and economically in the face of a very simplistic demagogic promise of ‘leave it to us’?

 

ML – Exactly. In some ways I think that is the most fundamental challenge.

 

VP – Melissa, thank you so much.