None of these transgressions matter, though, because once one is a Serious Person, no amount of being wrong can oust one from the Serious Person Club. And one of the more urgent tasks for the club of late is lumping Sanders and Trump together in an effort to discredit the former and apologize for the latter. Thursday in the Washington Post (6/30/16), Zakaria attempted to do just that:
The Obvious Trump Running Mate? Bernie Sanders, of Course
Yes, this is Zakaria’s plan. Sanders should run alongside someone who opposes virtually everything he stands for because on the surface, they have similar criticisms of trade agreements. Ignore climate change, immigration,reproductive rights, civil rights and dozens of other radically different positions. This proposition, presented without any apparent irony, is either made in total bad faith by Zakaria, or else he hit his head on a TED talk lighting fixture.
The piece begins with the claim that Clinton would continue Obama’s trade policies.
Republican leaders such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan have explained that their core rationale in supporting Donald Trump is that only he can ensure the success of conservative, free-market ideas. The alternative, Ryan notes, is Hillary Clinton, who would simply continue Barack Obama’s policies.
This is an assertion of faith, since Clinton has come out against the Trans Pacific Partnership, Obama’s signature trade deal. Zakaria may assume Clinton is lyingwhen she says she changed her mind on this, but he provides no evidence for this supposition.
Zakaria’s next assertion, though, is an outright falsehood:
On these trade matters, US manufacturing, and now Brexit, Trump’s positions are largely indistinguishable from Sanders’.
It’s a subtle but potent lie. Sanders, unlike Trump, has long been opposed to Britain leaving the European Union. How can Zakaria casually claim two opposing positions are “largely indistinguishable”? How could the editors at Washington Post allow such a blatant falsehood to reach print?
And it’s not an inconsequential one, either. If Brexit wreaks the havoc on the UK economy many are predicting, Washington Post’s millions of readers thinking Sanders supported such a measure would go a long way toward damaging both his credibility and that of the broader progressive movement.
The piece, of course, is not really about Sanders or Trump. It’s clear the framing is a gimmick to hook the reader into hearing Zakaria’s boilerplate cheerleading for “free trade” while continuing the long tradition of lazy pundits lumping Sanders and Trump into the same ideological space.
On free trade Zakaria, again, misleads. He writes:
Manufacturing as a share of all US jobs has been declining for 70 years, as part of a transition experienced by every advanced industrial economy.
It’s true that as the economy got larger, manufacturing jobs represented a declining share of all employment–but the absolute number of manufacturing jobs held more or less steady from the late 1960s through the 1990s, at about 17 million. Then in the wake of Bill Clinton’s trade deals, the trade deficitexploded, reaching $760 billion in 2006, and the actual number of manufacturing jobs plummeted, to about 12.5 million. This did not happen in every advanced industrial economy; it happened to the US, because of choices its government made (FAIR.org, 8/19/15). (Economist Dean Baker takes Zakaria to task on this point: Beat the Press, 7/1/16.)
Zakaria went on to say:
Over the past 50 years, the countries that have grown the most are those that have opened themselves up to global markets.
This is an article of neoliberal faith, but it just isn’t true. China, for instance, has had a GDP growth rate of 10.9 percent annually over the past 50 years (based on World Bank figures), but does not have a particularly “open economy”; the International Chamber of Commerce puts it in 59th place out of 75 countries in its Open Market Index. Pakistan and Bangladesh–72nd and 73rd on the ICC’s list–grew by 8.0 and 7.2 percent per year, respectively. India–which Zakaria singles out as a country kept “poor and stagnant” because it “followed economic policies premised on the idea that free trade was disastrous”–has had annual growth of 7.4 percent from 1964 to 2014.
For neoliberal high priests like Zakaria, maintaining the ideological order on free trade is of the utmost importance. To do this, it’s essential they hammer home the myth that “populist” candidates of left and right are simply two sides of the same ignorant, irrational coin.
Meanwhile, calm, scholarly, Serious People like Zakaria will come in and explain why the centrist corporate orthodoxy is the one true faith. That they have to spread falsehoods and half-truths to do so is a testament to how tenuous their position has become.