Yes, the exit polls got it wrong. Sorry folks, I meant the exit polls in Australia. They predicted a victory for the Labour Party. But, the ruling Liberal Party might have won the elections there. Some pro-Bharatiya Janata Party sympathizers in India worry if the Australian exit poll failures hold lessons for India. Well, they do. It depends on which lessons one reads. The first lesson is for the losers.

Most folks who vote for conservatives do not reveal their choice to pollsters who might, for the most part, be “left" or liberal. It is considered “wrong" to vote for conservatives because that is the narrative that is considered politically correct. The problem is that the ordinary folks do not share that narrative. So, they don’t reveal their preferences to pollsters.

While it is easy to argue that exit polls could be notoriously unreliable, it is important to note that the direction in which the results swung in Australia was against the Labour party that promised higher taxes, among other things. Higher taxes may be inevitable for many advanced nations, but people resist them.

The truth is that deep down, people—especially those who are classified as middle class and above—want to preserve what they have. They are weary of drastic change. Especially, as they age, these tendencies become even more pronounced. Further, religious agnosticism and atheism do not appeal to most ordinary people.

Simply put, elites—most of whom hold liberal views—must not talk down to ordinary folks and must not think that the world ought to share their views and values. That lesson endures as much as the failure to absorb it. The following tweet by Rory Medcalf on the comment by The New York Times that it was “another swell in a global wave of populist fervour" confirms that such failures are thriving: “We’re still unpacking precisely what drove the surprise election result in Australia, but ‘another swell in a global wave of populist fervour’ looks like a glib misreading, not up to the standards of @nytimes." Whether it is not up to the standards of The New York Times or if it is indeed the standard is debatable, of course. But, self-righteousness is usually counterproductive. That came through in the exercise over the weekend that Financial Times participated in with 15 other organizations in Europe called “Europe Talks", bringing together citizens from different nations to talk to each other one-on-one. At least three participants said they were tired of “far-right" bashing and expected something more positive and constructive.

Even if reading through the full book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion is a big ask, the interview that its author Jonathan Haidt gave Nautilus in March 2019 is worth perusing. As he mentions in the book and in the interview, humans have six taste buds of moral sense: Care, fairness, loyalty, liberty, authority, and sanctity or purity. People who call themselves progressives or Leftists usually focus on the first two and sometimes on liberty, selectively.

We need intelligent policy discourse and media commentary on the Left. At the moment, that is either a scarce commodity or an oxymoron. The Left is angry at being left out by the voting public in many countries. They are simply crying foul when they lose the game. That used to be standard practice among children and teenagers in street cricket in India. One is not sure if it would be effective in national or international politics. Nor is it clear if it would endear them to the voters. That is important because the Democratic Party in the US is likely repeating the mistakes it made in 2016 or worse, as the party prepares for the presidential election of 2020.

Indeed, as Srinivas Thiruvadanthai, director of research at the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center in New York, tweeted perceptively—as he does more often than not—in December last year, “Brexit, Trump election, trade tensions, Merkel announcing retirement, Macron’s troubles, arrest of Huawei CEO, US self-sufficiency in oil—may be coincidence but the confluence suggests end of globalization era. Can’t put humpty dumpty back together."

The question is whether economic policy could find the missing middle ground between a fair return for risk capital and fair compensation for hours worked and productivity. The question is also whether social policy can be imposed on the voting public in democracies on matters such as immigration in the context of ageing populations to a degree that is seen as a cultural invasion.

The second lesson is for the victors. It is in the interest of global and local stability that intelligent alternative points of view are available. As I wrote last week, capitalism hurt itself because the US, representing the most capitalist society on earth, appeared to vanquish its communist rival, the former Soviet Union. Competition among ideas and a dialogue on these are prerequisites for societies not to degenerate into eventual chaos and anarchy through the route of authoritarianism.

There are more lessons for winners. But, that can wait until they win the real polls, not just exit polls. In India, that is.

V. Anantha Nageswaran is the dean of IFMR Graduate School of Business (KREA University. These are the author’s personal views

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