America / Politics in America

“Not long ago in America, there was a widespread belief that some things were good for everyone”

Not long ago in America, there was a widespread belief that some things were good for everyone. Never mind balancing competing interests: Why should anyone have to lose? Back then, you often heard the phrase “win-win,” business-speak for an arrangement that could benefit all parties involved. Barack Obama, always keen to pitch his policies as a product of well-reasoned consensus, applied this phrase to everything from international relations to solar energy; in 2014, he even described new fuel standards for trucks as a “win-win-win — you’ve got three wins.”

You do not hear “win-win” much lately. One of the loudest political messages of the past year, across the entire ideological spectrum, has been that all promises of balance and mutual gain are actually humiliating traps, set by exploitative people still snickering in secret over how easily you fell for the last one. And so we have barreled instead into the realm of pure “winning,” where there is no such harmony of interest. Either exert your power or slink home ashamed.

Nitsuh Abebe, “Power Games”, The New York Times Magazine (25 June 2017), 11.