Posts Tagged ‘Politics and Social Mood’

GE CEO Immelt Deplores “A Terrible National Mood”

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

At a dinner recently with top Italian executives in Rome, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt blasted the Chinese government saying they were hostile to foreign multinationals, and becoming increasingly protectionist. Immelt went on to say that GE was looking at other countries as potentially better bets for GE’s products. He declared that resource-rich countries don’t want to be “colonized by the Chinese. They want to develop themselves.”

In his remarks at the dinner, GE’s chief executive also launched some barbs at President Barack Obama, saying that there was a “terrible” national mood, stating “People are really in a bad mood [in the US]. We are a pathetic exporter.” Immelt claimed that  business didn’t like Obama and Obama didn’t like business, praising German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to defend German industry.

This diatribe about national mood, protectionist policies and the like is familiar ground for readers of Mood Matters, as it is exactly what one would expect to see in a period of increasingly negative social mood. In such times, the operative words describing the sorts of geopolitical and global economics events that one can expect to see are “separating”, “localizing”, “fragmenting” as opposed to their opposites “joining”, “globalizing” and “linking” that characterize times when a society is welcoming rather than fearing the future.

Chapters One and Four of Mood Matters discusses this point in the context of globalization. Additional evidence mounts as each day goes by. For example, in the recent primary elections in the U.S., a headline in the Washington Post states,  GOP’s Utah and Maine Conventions Show a Party Coming Unglued. The story then opens with the sentence, “Future historians tracing the crack up of the Republican Party may well look to May 8, 2010, as an inflection point.” Similar headlines from the primaries echo this fragmenting sentiment: If You Think the Center is Lonely Now, Just Wait (The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2010), Primaries from California to SC Measure Voter Anger (Associated Press, June 5, 2010), Confidence Waning in Obama (The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2010).

These are all straws in the wind of a huge storm brewing that will ultimately change the face of the global, not just American, political landscape. And the driving force behind all of it is the progressive rolling over of the positive social mood that began in the mid-1970s to its negative counterpart that started around the year 2000, a process that has a long, long way to go

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It’s Getting Lonely in the Center

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

The May 18 US congressional primary elections illustrate perfectly two of the polar opposites arising from an accelerated negative social mood, separation as opposed to togetherness, opposing in contrast to supportive, the political center where compromises are forged took it on the chin. Candidates hand-picked by national leaders and incumbents from both parties were thrown out by voters hungry for a change, any change it seems, to give somebody else a chance. As voter Edith Cornelius, 69, of Arkansas said after casting her vote the Democratic nomination for governor, “I’d like to see a change and let someone else have a try.” She wasn’t the only one.

Even prior to the elections, the Republican party convention in Utah kicked out conservative Senator Robert Bennett for not being conservative enough in favoring rightist positions in the Senate “just” 84 percent of the time. On the same day on the other side of the country, the state Republican Party in Maine dumped its mix of free economics and conservation in favor of a platform abolishing the Federal Reserve, terming global warming a “myth”, closing the US borders and “fighting efforts to create one world government.” How’s that for “opposing” in contrast to “supporting”.

And the US isn’t the only part of the world where such sentiments are being expressed at the ballot box.

In early May, voters in Germany’s largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, resoundingly spoke out against the incumbent Christian Democratic Party (CDP) of Chancellor Angela Merkel in a backlash against her reluctance to take any potentially unpopular decision on German participation in the bailout of Greece in the run-up to the election. As a result, the GDP received about ten percent less votes than in the previous election in 2005, resulting in their loss of a coalition they led with the Free Democratic Party.

As another even more striking example of negative social mood in the political arena, in early April the center-Right Fidesz Party in Hungary took nearly 53 percent of the vote in a blow to the Socialist government, while the far-Right Jobbik Party received over 16 percent. By way of contrast, the ruling Socialist Party managed to garner a scant 19 percent. Ominously, the country’s largest Jewish organization warned that the vote was “the first occasion that a movement pursuing openly anti-Semitic policies” has taken a step to power since the Nazi era.

All these cases illustrate the point made in the opening chapter of Mood Matters that when voters are frustrated (i.e., in a negative mood), that frustration has to find an outlet somewhere. And “somewhere” in this context almost invariably means the incumbent or his/her party takes it on the chin.

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