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November twenty sixteen, just a couple of weeks after the presidential election, US President Barack Obama has departed for Athens and Greece on his farewell tour as the US head of state. I join Barack Obama on his final trip overseas as president of the United States to Greece, then Germany, then Peru. And let's just say it was not the victory lap that we've been hoping for. In Berlin, Angela Merkel's staff was grim trumpet just given the world a preview of what his presidency would be like by appointing the arch nationalist Steve Bannon to his staff.


It made headlines all over Germany. We know Ben and one of them told me and it wasn't hard to figure out what part of German history he was referring to. When Obama said goodbye to Merkel the next day, she had a tear in her eye. And if you know Angela Merkel, you know that never happens. As we got back on Air Force One, Obama said to us, Angle, she's all alone.


I knew what he meant. All across the West, nationalist anti-democratic movements and leaders were making inroads and gaining power. A wannabe dictator, Viktor Orban, ruled Hungary the far right law and Justice Party ran Poland. Great Britain had just voted to leave the European Union. At every stop of Obama's final tour, leaders kept pulling us aside. Would Trump join this tide of nationalism? Obama offered the only reassurance he could give. Wait and see, he'd say, wait and see.


He put on a brave face until our last stop. We were driving in the presidential limousine, riding to Air Force One after our final meeting in Peru, and Obama said, what if we were wrong? About what I asked, we'd all been trying to process how Trump could have won the election, how after tens of millions of Americans got health care with gas prices low unemployment plummeting. Obama wondered aloud if maybe the problem had been the belief that drove his whole presidency, the belief that America was becoming more inclusive, more tolerant, that our diversity could set an example for the world, a blueprint for how people around the world can work together across differences.


Maybe we pushed too far, he said. Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe. I'm Ben Rhodes. Welcome back to Missing America, a look at the political afflictions spreading unchecked across the world in the absence of American leadership.


This week, nationalism, the growing wave of leaders grabbing power for themselves by preying on our need to belong to something bigger than ourselves.


British politician David Lammy literally wrote the book about it's called Tribes from Him.


We'll learn where nationalism came from and where it can lead.


We can get world wars. We can get an extremism that destabilizes major European powers.


But he also has ideas for how to beat back the tide. So do activists and leaders across Europe who are struggling with this virus just like us.


The most important thing is like: Be popular. Like you can be popular without being populistic.


From them, we'll learn a few things about how to act like America again and lead the fight against nationalism, both overseas and right here at home on missing American.


David Lammy was first elected to parliament in the year 2000. He was 27, the youngest MP at the time. They have an unofficial name for that in parliament, by the way, "Baby of the House."


Tony Blair was in power. It was such a different time to now because, at the time, people were talking about apathy, a lack of political engagement. The political parties had converged to some extent because people like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were kind of moving to the right, if you like.


It was boring.


Then, a decade into his career, no longer baby of the house, David felt the tenor of UK politics shifting. It wasn't boring. Instead, he was getting pretty frightening.


I suddenly found about 10 years ago and certainly accelerated in the last five years, people starting to question whether I was British, people questioning my stake in the country that I was born in.


David Lammy, I should tell you, is black. His family is from Guyana. I probably don't need to tell you that the Brits questioning his Britishness were white.


And so I noticed this tribalism growing. And I also it also is consistent with a period in which both of our countries have had attacks and death threats and actually attempts at murder on politicians.


The murder of British MP Jo Cox shocked Britain and the world. Her killer, Thomas Mair, a 53 year old man with extreme right wing views, has been sentenced for life. Updating our top story now, a gunman shot Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others today at an outdoor event in Tucson, Arizona. A kind of growing anger and rage and hate.


So that's what led me to start thinking about what's behind all of that, especially because it wasn't just gun toting thugs expressing all of those grievances. And it wasn't just white supremacist voting for the Brexit party, which was led by Nigel Farage, a dog whistle racist. It was a lot of average middle class Brits, including some of David's friends. Last year, David paid a visit to two of them in the town of Peterborough, a couple of hours outside London.


I get off the train and I met by this wonderful man, Clive, who's known me since I was 11, who's now in his early 70s. He meets me in the car park.


He actually I'm there with one of my senior researchers. And despite the fact that I'm there with my researcher, he greets me in the car park with a big kiss about SHAC as if I were still a young child.


So, you know, instantly you're take him back as a kid.


David left his London neighborhood of Tuddenham to study in Peterborough, a move he compares to leaving Harlem to study in Denver. Clive was a parent of one of David's friends today. He's like a surrogate dad.


We got in his car. We drive to the bungalow that he lives in with his wife Cathy, and sitting there drinking cups of tea and eating British scones and jam and cream.


I talk to them on the story that comes across from them in middle England is a story of deep unease, deep unease with the way the Peterboro had changed from safe, homogenous suburbia to a place full of immigrants with ways very different from Clive and Cathy's.


They talk about Eastern European shops suddenly dominating the High Street because of all these European people that are coming in.


They talk about the way in which there are now mosques everywhere, almost more mosques than there are churches. I remember Clive telling a story of how they had to move house because next door moved some young men from Eastern Europe into a house there, obviously working, but people kept coming and going and they just couldn't stand it. Their neighbourhood basically changed. And, you know, obviously I'm sitting there as a progressive, as a Labour politician. I don't agree with all of their views, but I'm listening because I care about these people and having some sympathy, actually, for how they describe change and how change makes them uncomfortable.


But David wondered how that fear of change could lead people like Clive and Cathy to vote for Brexit to side with people like Nigel Farage, a man whose vision of England not only excludes people who look like David Lammy, their surrogate son, but who wants to basically fracture a post-war European society that's given them a pretty comfortable life, not to mention 75 years of peace after two world wars.


You know, and it's ironic, I'm sitting there with Clive and Cathy in their bungalow. They haven't got a mortgage. They've paid it off. They have a good pension. They've worked hard. They have one. They are baby boomers. You know, on one level, their life is great. Their kids have done well, their grandchildren are thriving.


So on one level, you ought to think, well, what's the problem?


David says the problem is that over the past few decades, people like Clive and Cathy have been denied something else, something more important to human beings than money, more important than comfort. It's the cultural need to belong.


There's a lot now of evidence that actually as human beings, we do have an instinctive nature to define our tribe and therefore to look beyond our tribe and define the enemy. You can do experiments with children who are at, you know, they're six, seven, eight, and they're thirty kids in a class. You get fifteen blue shirts, you give the other fifteen red shirts and after a week the children will start dividing alongside the colour of their shirts.


When you didn't even tell them to behave in that fashion, Clive and Kathy feel increasingly alienated from the community and the country they used to feel they belonged to, upset that it's changed and that they're called backwards for saying so.


They're ripe to be offered a new coloured shirt. Ideally, liberal democratic governments would have given them some constructive way to channel their tribal energies, but it's not that easy.


You have to put a lot of effort into that common story, that common belonging, the business of nation building. And what we find is that many countries have had kind of let that slide. Sometimes it's been replaced by kind of consumerism, a water cooler moment. That's the Olympics or a particular moment on television. But even that's changed with the growth of cable TV. So belonging, it turns out, is really, really important. And guess what?


The only political parties that are talking about blogging are on the right right wing nationalist promised Middle England an easy team to belong to and a wealth of enemies to stand opposed to middle and working class people. They're the real Brits versus more educated, cosmopolitan elites versus immigrants versus anyone who worships in a mosque or a temple instead of a church versus a free press that dares to tell you any different and almost certainly versus those who aren't white.


And more than anything else, I think that the the conception of nationhood as an ethnic conception, i.e. a white conception. And that leads you then also to a very sadly, a white supremacy is uplifting. It's emboldening, it makes you feel like, you know, you matter again.


The liberals appear flat footed, unable to talk about culture, unable to talk about country, unable to understand belonging, just really flat footed.


And more than anything, we're yearning for progressive politicians that know once again how to tell stories and evocative ones.


For a long time, the story progressives told was about the advance of liberal democracy and globalization, of being free citizens of a brave new world. But it's a story that a lot of people don't buy anymore. And I can tell you almost the exact date when the bottom fell out, the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered turmoil in markets around the globe. Stocks tumbled in Taiwan, in India, then plummeted in Europe by nearly five percent.


September 15th, 2008, the fourth largest bank in the world went bankrupt that day and the financial crisis officially exploded.


What we've seen over the last 24 hours is an earthquake which we've been waiting and expecting for some while now. We've got the aftershocks to come and we've got the clearing up to do the day it happened.


I remember I had to pull an all nighter to write a speech about it for then presidential candidate Barack Obama.


I went outside to have a smoke and ran into our top economic policy staffer. He told me that there was a 50 percent chance that the entire global economy would collapse before I finished writing the speech. It didn't collapse barely, but it was the greatest economic shock since the Great Depression, people across the western world lost their homes, their jobs, their life savings. And even for those who didn't, it was obvious who to blame. Banks that made reckless bets with people's mortgages, deregulation and tax cuts that helped the wealthy and well-connected, never the masses.


And instead of rectifying those mistakes, many leaders, especially in the European Union, compounded them.


We had a period following the 2008 crash of real austerity in whole swathes of the world where books have had to be balanced and instead of more taxation for those who can afford it, we've actually seen a cut to services and more taxation for those who can least afford it.


Banks were bailed out and people weren't. For many in the middle and working classes, it was the ultimate betrayal, a feeling that was shared on our side of the Atlantic to not only had globalization caused their neighborhoods to be changed by strangers, the trade off hadn't been worth it. Liberal democracy in a globalized economy hadn't created a tide, lifts all boats. They seemed just like another way to fleece the little guy.


And peculiarly, these folks seduced by the idea that it's the liberal elite that did this.


Or maybe not so peculiar, because starting right after the crisis, a new wave of nationalist leaders seized the opportunity to plant exactly that idea. In a lot of angry people's minds, the idea that the institutions that brought us globalization needed to be replaced by an older sense of belonging.


Viktor Orban was one of the first leaders to ride this wave in 2010, he was elected prime minister of Hungary. At the time, it was a young democracy. Now it's basically a dictatorship. My friend Chander letterer watched it happen from Budapest. He runs KEH Monitor, an NGO that keeps tabs on Hungarian government corruption.


I think our prime minister is a door open or pioneer of, you know, how you exploit these tendencies in politics. So I think a lot of leaders in the region and probably also at other places of the world learn from him.


Shandor says that after the Cold War, democracies became complacent.


Democracies and democratic leaders became too comfortable when they saw that, OK, communism, the Soviet Union is over, we won and now everything will work perfectly because the system is good that it is.


But after the financial crisis, Orban sensed people's anger and an opening, he said, a plan in motion that might seem eerily familiar to Americans. First, he gave the angriest Hungarians a team to belong to. He glorified an older vision of a white Christian nation. He lined up a shifting cast of enemies that he claimed were undermining that vision. Immigrants, refugees, Muslims and George Soros. He befriended Vladimir Putin, who wants to see nationalist politics spread across a divided west and yes, even built a border wall to keep migrants out.


Usually the president of the United States would see the danger of a leader like Orben.


Instead, Orben got an invitation to the White House, thank you very much. It's a great honor to have with us the prime minister of Hungary and Viktor Orban has done a tremendous job in so many different ways. Meanwhile, the same brand of nationalism has spread next door to Poland, it's infected Great Britain, the United States, India, nationalist parties across Europe have been on the rise. Shandor letterer knows that this sort of thing historically has not ended well for me.


One thing I remind myself very often that actually we had in the region of war in the 90s in Yugoslavia and people who managed to live peacefully for decades together started to kill each other based on nationalistic arguments and being fueled up by politicians who actually just strive for power. So I think that's a huge danger.


David Lammy puts it even more bluntly what we call in Europe, a white working class community of people now now living in a world where they're seeing huge inequality opening up and their children are not going to get the same crap that they even got.


When these people get angry, shit happens. We can get world wars. We can get an extremism that destabilizes major European powers. And I'm afraid that's where we are.


But it doesn't have to be that way. Who we elect in November will help determine whether we let nationalism continue to spread unchecked with all of the risks that poses.


Or we can take a different path, one that can make the last few years a detour instead of a destination. To do that, we can learn from activists and leaders in places like Poland, England and even Switzerland who are coming up with ways to push back.


Coming up, we'll hear their stories and learn how they're turning the tide against nationalism when missing America continues.


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Dotcom sloganising to make your first donation today, which will provide immediate relief to those in need. Love anyway. Dotcom again missing. Students around the world are skipping school today and taking to the streets to protest global warming in this broad ruling by Justice Kennedy. He says the right to marry is a fundamental right.


Whether you look at women taking combat positions in the military or fathers staying home, almost nobody is living out the kind of gender scripter marriage script that their parents did. Robots, artificial intelligence are going to change the way we interact with technology. There's no question. Economic disruptions, a warming planet, changing social norms, the rise of Asia. It's a lot for anyone to process. And when it all seems to hit it, once there are political consequences, we have a big challenge with the amount of change that people are experiencing in the world.


And I believe that when change is overwhelming, it makes people conservative, it makes them change averse. It makes them want to pause and stop and have a little bit of a break of all the change. That's Morigi Sharqiya for a decade starting in 2009.


She was a Dutch representative in the European Parliament, and so it puts us progressives and progressive politicians in a sort of corner in terms of, you know, what is the positive agenda for change? How are we going to navigate this change?


How are we going to give people the confidence that we can come together and deal with the sharp edges, shave off the sharp edges of the change that's coming, but not allow the fundamentals that have created our quality of life, our fundamental freedoms, to actually be sort of washed away with with the change that's also happening.


American progressives have seen some of those fundamentals washed away for the last three and a half years. We've watched Donald Trump, enabled by his party, appeal to the angriest members of society and turn them against democratic norms and institutions. Day after day after day, we're building a wall between here and Mexico.


He is giving us very unfair rulings. They said it was fake news. So which is exactly what they said.


Excuse me, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You know what I am?


I'm a nationalist, OK? For us, it can feel like a shock, something we've never experienced before.


But as we go through it, we should remember that there's a whole community of progressives in different countries who are fighting the same battles.


I'm very optimistic that there is a big wake up call among young people, among many people in Europe and I think in the U.S. as well, that politics really matters.


That is not just a place for protesting or giving protest votes against the system, against the establishment, but that it can really lead to a fundamentally different government, for example, which has consequences.


So I I'm hopeful that people perceive their own agency.


Again, there is so much we can learn from each other about how to resist and how to win.


OK, so why don't we just start? Because you could say your name.


Yes. I'm Flavia Kleiner.


Flavia Kleiner is an activist in Switzerland where you may be surprised to learn a right wing nationalist party has dictated the political agenda for 25 years. They're called the SVP, the Swiss People's Party, over coffee at a Zurich cafe, she told me about them.


They're the biggest party in our parliament, and they really shape the public debate and they influence other parties strongly with what they do. And what we see now in the past years is that it's really thre's a systematic attack on liberal institutions, on our judges, on our government, on our parliament, on separation of powers, on international law, on human rights and so forth. And that's why actually we see we need to step up.


For her, the moment of truth came in 2014. That year, the SVP deployed one of its favorite tactics. It put an anti-immigration anti-EU law up for a popular vote in the form of a national referendum. By the way, that's a tactic that Nigel Farage would copy a couple of years later to get Brexit passed.


This SVP referendum put a cap on the number of immigrants who could enter Switzerland each year. If it passed, Switzerland would be forced to violate its own immigration agreements with the European Union.


So what happened is that it was accepted by a really close margin of like fifty point three percent. It was about 20000 votes. So to me, it was like twenty thousand students who didn't get up in the morning, you know, um, and it was accepted at this protest like three years of heavy and difficult negotiations with the European Union to somehow save our bilateral treaties we have with the European Union. And to us, it was sort of a Brexit moment. We said, OK, this is not the Switzerland how we see it. This is not this open, prosperous, cosmopolitan country as we want our country to be seen.


The "we" she's talking about were a few of her friends, students in their 20s, none with much of a background in politics. They organized anyway into a group called Operation Libero. Crowdfunded all volunteer. It had a single goal, deploy a grassroots campaign to defeat SVP referendums. They didn't have to wait long to put that to the test.


So after the elections in October 2015, only like one month later, we learned that we are going to vote again on a really dangerous popular initiative. The so-called "Enforcement Initiative" was about expelling foreigners even for for petty offenses. And this would have caused some sort of a two-class legal system in Switzerland where Swiss would be treated differently than foreigners.


Early polls show the initiative would win close to 70 percent of the vote. Flavia's group campaigned against it pretty much on their own.


All the other parties said, "Oof. We're just tired, we don't have money. The elections are just past again. Thee right-wing populists became the strongest party in Switzerland. Why should we even try?


Operation Libero tried. And amazingly, they won. The referendum failed the most powerful political party in the country had been beaten by a bunch of student volunteers. What was their secret? For one thing, their media campaigns have short videos and memes were designed to be upbeat, funny and actually entertaining.


The most important thing is like: Be popular. Like you can be popular without being populistic and I think that's really important. Sometimes we...like liberals...we tend to be too intellectual to be a bit afraid of finding simple words for big issues, you know?


And sure enough, these simple memes did serve a bigger purpose. They changed the political narrative. See, the nationalists had tried to make the conversation about dangerous criminal foreigners threatening patriotic Swiss society. But Operation Libero didn't take the bait. Their media campaign didn't even mention foreigners or crime. And importantly, they didn't attack the SVP. Instead, they told a patriotic story of their own about a Swiss society that is great because of its constitution, the central tenet of which is the rule of law, the idea that laws apply equally to everybody. It's an idea that the SVP referendum would have shredded.


We spoke about Swiss values as we see them in our constitution, as they were founding Switzerland and making Switzerland to what it is today. And it was a really patriotic campaign.


Proudly so. Libero even adopted a super patriotic mascot.


Helvetia, who's like an allegorical figure, like the mother of all the Swiss, said she represents all these values of democracy, of rule of law, of inclusiveness. What we managed to do through this is like to regain the sovereignty of interpretation over what Switzerland stands for. And the biggest compliment that the right-wing populist leader could give me after the vote was when he said, "I don't know what happened but at some point we all spoke about rule of law." And that's where we thought, "OK, we managed to somehow get some on our battlefield." Nobody spoke about criminal foreigners in the end. People spoke about rule of law and what this initiative would do to it.


A few months after losing this campaign, the SVP tried to pass another anti-immigrant referendum. They lost that one too. And a few months after that, they lost again. So lesson number one, organize, go on the offense against nationalist, tell the progressive version of your national story instead of letting it be defined by the right, as David Lammy's seen in England.


You know, in the U.K., the English flag, the flag of St George has become a symbol of the far right, the National Front, the BNP. It is not something that mainstream politicians, certainly not in my party, feel comfortable talking about or feel comfortable putting a flag up in their home. How could that be that your national flag, you've allowed it to be taken over by sinister forces on the far right? We need to get into this cultural zone. We need to start talking not just about inequality and economics. It's a way to win people's hearts and minds.


Here's his idea for how to do that. Call it lesson number two. He says governments need to do positive nation building, the kind of thing that could make the Clydes and Kathy's of the world feel that sense of national belonging. So he calls for a required national civic service like a draft. But instead of serving the military, young people from all walks of life spend a year improving communities around the country.


Why do I do that? I call for it because in the UK and this is a similar in the United States, if you go to university, you will meet young people from different parts of the country, different backgrounds, studying. But if you don't go to university, that's that's still the majority of young adults in the U.K., how are you going to meet--if you live in Sunderland, the far north east or you live in Peterborough, how are you going to meet a young person from Tottenham in London where I represent? The truth is you're not. And you can live and share very, very different visions of this country and we need to be bringing those people together. Now, Clive and Kathy love that idea, but progressives hate it. The reason they hate it is not the National Civil Service. They're up for that. But what they hate is compulsion--is the idea that all young people should do this. Um and so we we need to be clever and we need to we need not just to have an economic account of life, but to have a cultural account of life, to get into a cultural zone, to get into a place where we are fostering what we share as a country.


And that idea investing at the community level, that plays into another lesson. Before we get to it, I want you to meet Adam Bodner.


So my position is the commissioner for Human Rights of the Republic of Poland. And the traditional name for my position is the is the ombudsman, which means that I'm the highest state official that is responsible for protection of rights and freedoms in Poland. That's a tough job because for the last five years, Poland's nationalist law and Justice Party, led by Yaroslav Kazinsky, has been busy delegitimizing democratic institutions like Boehner's own office. So what the current government is doing is basically repeating the Hungarian scenario, which means that we are on the road towards so-called illiberal democracy, which means that this government is restricting powers of different independent institutions such as prosecution service, civil service, public media or courts.


The goal, of course, if you delegitimize the institutions that could check your power, you can seize more power. Bodner says that Kaczynski learned this from Viktor Orban in Hungary, literally, they actually met and exchange strategies, including one that Bodner calls the salami tactic. You are cutting slices of the of the salami sausage, which means that you are cutting step by step independence of different state institutions. So basically, that is what Orban did in Hungary over the last 10 years, less than 10 years.


And basically Kaczynski repeated this.


So Boehner's office is constantly under fire, always about to be sliced away sometimes.


You know, I make this comparison to the Minecraft video game that, you know, in Minecraft, you have this so-called survival mode where you have all those creepers that are running around you and all the time you have to fight them back in order to survive. So so there were moments in my time that basically I felt a little bit the same, that all the time I had to respond to different attacks on me or different ideas how to dismiss me.


Yet for years he's fought off the creepers. He's still in office. Well, other checks in the government's power have been silenced. How did he do it?


Being in this mood for surviving in my role as the ombudsman. I've understood why to think that in order to survive, you have to prove to people that you are needed to them that you are the state institution, which is not just abstract to their lives, but the institution which is really needed for the daily needs of people.


So that's the lesson go local strategy that has worked for a lot of American Democrats across the country since Trump's election. As much as Boehner wants to fight the big political fights for human rights these days, he prioritizes different battles. The ones that help people understand government and safeguarding human rights actually make their daily lives better. So he helps the elderly or people disabilities get the state benefits they're owed, he makes sure people get relief when they complain to local factories stinking up their neighborhood, not hot button social issues, but important nonetheless.


You know, over my term, I visited more than 200 Polish cities and I had discussions with citizens in all those 200 cities talking about their daily cases. And it appears that almost nobody wanted to talk to me about, you know, LGBT rights, women's rights or migration crisis or access to reproductive rights. So about those issues that are high on the political agenda on a daily basis. But we are talking a lot about patients rights, rights of persons with disabilities, rights of elderly people, homelessness about environmental damage caused by some factories in their community, about all different problems that people experience locally.


It might not be how all progressives define human rights, but it's a way to make human rights matter to more people. And that is essential to every cause. We care about none of the progressive goals that we have fought for civil rights, women's rights, LGBT rights can move forward while millions of people question the legitimacy of democratic government itself. We're in survival mode. But here's the good news, the nationalism that we struggled against can't solve people's local problems or really any problems.


Samantha Power is the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. It's not a coincidence that you're seeing many of these illiberal forces riding concerns about globalization, riding the gross inequality that plagues so many societies to power. But then as voters realize that their paychecks are not going up, that their health care prices are going up, that the quality of schools is deteriorating, they know the facts of their lives.


State propaganda can only take these leaders so far.


So now what the U.S. needs, first of all, is a president who isn't taking cues from the nationalist, a president willing to demonstrate what democracy can do and the Nationals cannot do, and in a post trump U.S. foreign policy for the president of the United States to be delivering that message, to be defending the democratic and rights respecting model, not as an abstraction, as some, you know, morality play, but as the only system that can deliver returns for citizens, because the only system in which citizens have an equal voice in who governs them and how they get governed.


And then we have to cooperate across borders and win the argument against the nationalists.


Together, the next president will inherit a community of democracies around the world who are hungry to come together as democracies.


Remember that question that Obama posed in the limousine? What if we were wrong? We still don't know the answer. That depends on the choices we make in this election and those to come. Next week, another threat to democracy and human rights, the authoritarian model from China, which, unlike Europe's nationalist, has shown results. The fact that the China model is out there is a powerful force, you know, and is going to become ever more potent unless democracy gets its act together.


Missing America is written and hosted by me, Ben Rhodes. It's a production of Crooked Media. The show is produced by Andrea Gardner Bernstein.


Rico Gagliano is our story editor.


Austin Fisher is our associate producer, sound design and mixing by Daniel Ramirez, production support and research from Nimmy Bori and Sidney Rapp.


Fact Checking by Justin Kozko. Original Music by Marty Fowler.


The executive producers are Sarah Geissman, Larry Smith and Tanya Nominator special thanks to Allison Falsetto Tommy Vietor, John Lovett and John Pepper. Thanks for listening.