Populism Keeps Rattling the Globe. Elites Have No Idea What to Do.

by NAHAL TOOSI at politico.com

DAVOS, Switzerland — For more than a decade, forces on the ideological extremes have torn at the global political fabric. And for just as long, the luminaries at the World Economic Forum have fretted about how dangerous that phenomenon is — for the businesses they lead and the countries they govern.

But years into the transnational struggle with resurgent populism, the corporate leaders in Davos appear to have no serious solutions.

In conversation after conversation here, I detected resignation and helplessness among business executives when it came to their counterparts in government. There’s a desperate desire to see the world’s political leaders appeal more to moderates instead of capitalizing on extremes, but there’s also recognition that the political market doesn’t easily reward the people in the middle.

C-suite types fear the polarization will only deepen as half of the global population, in more than 60 countries, votes in 2024 — everywhere from South Africa to the United States. For them, financial consequences can be stark, especially if the results of an election threaten shipping lanes or when campaign rhetoric leads to violence in a place they’ve invested.

“The biggest concern is instability,” the CEO of a private equity fund told me.

These 12 months may well be the biggest election year in history. Many of the campaigns are unfolding in hotbeds of populist and nationalist sentiment, including major democracies such as India.