Donald Trump at WEF NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Davos Man Kowtows to Trump

By so easily betraying the values that have long underpinned the rules-based liberal world order – such as multilateralism, democracy, and the rule of law – the toadies in Davos have put the lie to the entire system. This is bad news for everyone, because, while that order certainly is in need of reform, it remains our best hope.

MADRID – It has been a confusing couple of years for “Davos man” – the members of the global hyper-elite who gather each year for the World Economic Forum’s flagship conference to mull over the challenges the world faces. After decades of reveling in broad global acceptance of the rules-based liberal world order, the stewards – and, in many cases, key beneficiaries – of that order have been forced to defend it from high-profile assaults, most prominently by US President Donald Trump. Rather than fight, however, they seem to be giving in.

Last year, participants in Davos were shaken in anticipation of Trump’s inauguration, which occurred on the final day of the meeting. With the United States about to come under the leadership of a president who loudly touted an “America First” outlook, they looked desperately for a new champion of globalization. As their gaze settled on Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first cracks emerged in their commitment to putting ideas and values above expediency.

This year – the year of Trump’s Davos debut – the dam burst. Before the event even began, one could hear rationalizations of Trump’s destructive past behavior, myopic approach to issues like trade, and populist impulses. Trump’s is not an unhinged presidency, they said; it is a pragmatic one.

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