Thursday, November 10, 2016

Don't Panic

So, have we all calmed down?  Yes, I know that Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States.  I know that he's a right-wing, misogynistic demagogue unafraid to employ racism and homophobia to whip up support.  I'm also aware that he is petty minded and vindictive and will undoubtedly be tempted to abuse his position of power to pursue personal vendettas.  But hey, life goes on.  I know that there have been large numbers of people out on the streets in some US cities, protesting against Trump before he's even taken office, but it's a bit late to be protesting now. I can't help but feel that it's a pity they didn't channel all that anger and energy to more effectively oppose Trump during the campaign.  But that was part of the problem, as it seemed to me that parts of the anti-Trump brigade seemed equally intent upon undermining Hilary Clinton.  I know that she wasn't anyone's ideal candidate, but if you really didn't want a Trump presidency, then supporting her was the only alternative.

I've already written at length on the subject of Trump's victory and the current onslaught on our political institutions being mounted by the extreme right in the UK in my latest editorial over at The Sleaze, so I won't repeat myself here.  Other, that is, to reiterate that panic really isn't the best reaction to this latest development.  The fact is that, on both sides of the Atlantic, the left has no one else to blame than themselves for this current ascendancy of the right.  Ever since the financial crash in 2008, there has been a simmering resentment amongst those at the bottom, who have been hit worst not only by the recession but also its economic 'cures', toward the establishment.  Sometimes it has boiled over into the sort of civil unrest we saw in the UK back in the summer of 2010.  Back then I suggested that if the Labour party wanted a path back to power, it needed to harness that anger to form the basis of a radical political campaign.  Instead, they first of all tried to out do the Tories in terms of promising spending cuts and economic austerity, before lurching into some half hearted barely left of centre policies for the 2015 election. Now it has lumbered itself with faux socialist Jeremy Corbyn who, like most middle class 'radicals', has no real grasp of the issues which really concern real working class people, let alone having any idea of how to address them.  He just peddles the same dusty old backward-looking 'socialism' which has failed to find favour with voters over and over again since the seventies.

In the absence of any leadership from the left, the extreme right have stealthily stolen a march on them by presenting themselves to the dispossessed and disaffected as some kind of politically radical populist movement.  They offered simple solutions to people's problems - leave the EU to free up all that money we're paying them to finance British public services; create jobs for British workers by kicking out all the immigrants - which appealed to ingrained fears and prejudices.  Just as New Labour captured the traditional Tory middle class vote by convincing them that they could achieve economic success through a mythical, non-ideological, 'third way', so the 'New Right' have captured the traditional Labour working class vote by convincing them that being racist isn't ideological.  Somehow, the left has to find a way of addressing the fears and concerns of these voters without resorting to this kind of bigotry and crude xenophobic rhetoric.  Of course, that will require a wide-ranging debate,  But we aren't going to get that as long as old school political diktats like Corbyn and McDonnel hold sway.  Before we can hope to get rid of the likes of Farage and Trump, we have to get rid of them. 

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