Published on Spiegel Online International, February 1, 2012.
Political scientist Francis Fukuyama was once the darling of American neo-conservatives. In a SPIEGEL interview, the author of The End of History explains why he now believes that the excesses of capitalism are a threat to democracy and asks why there is no “Tea Party on the left” … //
… SPIEGEL: Could the Occupy Wall Street movement fill this void on the left?
Fukuyama: I really do not take t//his movement seriously, because its social base is extremely narrow. It consists mostly of the same kids that were protesting in 1999 in Seattle against the World Trade Organization — anti-capitalists. The big problem sociologically for the left in the United States is that the white working class and lower middle class, that in Europe would be reliably social democratic in their political behavior, tends to vote Republican or is easily brought into the Republican camp. Until the Occupy Wall Street people can connect up with that demographic group, there is not going to be a big left-wing populist base of support in the US.
SPIEGEL: Has the crisis simply not been deep enough to achieve that?
- Fukuyama: Ironically, because the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury acted to support the financial sector, the crisis did not develop into a deep depression with unemployment up to 20 percent like in the 1930s. Back then, President Franklin D. Roosevelt could restructure the big banks. I believe that the only solution to our current problems is to restructure all these big banks, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and Bank of America, and turn them into smaller entities that could then be allowed to go bankrupt. They would no longer be “too big to fail.” But this has not happened so far.
SPIEGEL: One could also make the case that President Obama was simply not as tough as Roosevelt.
- Fukuyama: Obama had a big opportunity right at the middle of the crisis. That was around the time Newsweek carried the title: “We Are All Socialists Now.” Obama’s team could have nationalized the banks and then sold them off piecemeal. But their whole view of what is possible and desirable is still very much shaped by the needs of these big banks.
SPIEGEL: In other words, Obama and his influential advisors, like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, are themselves part of the “1 percent” that the Occupy Wall Street movement rails against.
- Fukuyama: They are obviously part of the 1 percent. They socialize with these Wall Street gurus. Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein met with Geithner many times during the crisis. Such close contact clearly influences the world view of the White House.
SPIEGEL: But would you seriously argue that Republicans are any less close to Wall Street?
- Fukuyama: Oh no. Republican politicians are completely bought by Wall Street. But the real question is: Why do their working class supporters continue to vote for them? My explanation is partly this deep distrust of any form of government that goes back very far in American politics, and is today reflected in political figures like Sarah Palin, which holds against Obama primarily the fact that he went to Harvard. There is a kind of populist resentment in US politics against being ruled by elites …//
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