Former Ambassador, Human Rights Activist
It is indeed peculiar that Trump can be elected President on 47.4% of the popular vote. But not nearly as peculiar as that the Conservatives can have untrammelled power in the UK on 36.9% of the popular vote. Both electoral systems need reform, but the UK’s is absolutely indefensible.
There is a tiny blogroll down the bottom right hand margin of this blog, and most of the blogs on it have fallen by the wayside over the 12 years we have been going. But one which goes from strength to strength is Informed Comment by Juan Cole, whom I view as a towering intellectual figure. I have read reams and reams of comment on the direction of politics with the election of Trump, but Juan’s take is the best I have seen and I do urge you to read it.
The fact that death rates are actually increasing among middle aged white males in the USA is truly startling. To my understanding that is not yet the case in the UK, but what is true here is that the life expectancy gap between the rich and poor is growing again after a century of falling.
I think it is pretty common ground that we are seeing a reaction against the political class by the dispossessed former industrial working and middle class. That is scarcely remarkable. Given the vast increase in wealth inequality, against which this blog has been railing since its inception, a reaction is inevitable.
There are two ways the establishment has sought to divert this anger.
The first, and highly successful method is to convince people that it is not the massive appropriation of resources by the ultra-wealthy which causes their poverty, it is rather competition for the scraps with outsiders. This approach employs pandering to racism and xenophobia, and is characteristic of UKIP and Trump.
The second approach employs the antithesis to the same end. It is to co-opt the forces marginalised by the first approach and rally them behind an “alternative” approach which is still neo-liberalism. This is identity politics which reached its apotheosis in the Clinton campaign. The Wikileaks releases of DNC and Podesta emails revealed the extreme cynicism of Clinton manipulation of ethnic group votes. Still more blatant was the promotion of the idea that Hillary being a corrupt neo-con warmonger was outweighed by the fact she was female. The notion that elevating extremely rich and privileged women already within the 1% to top positions, breaks a glass ceiling and benefits all women, is the precise feminist equivalent of trickledown theory.
That the xenophobic strand rather than the identity politics strand won will, I predict, prove to have no impact on continued neo-liberal policies.
The British Labour Party has played identity politics for generations just as blatantly, as I know from my experience campaigning in Blackburn. The resources of state institutions are directed to obtain geographically and politically cohesive ethnic block votes.
Both Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn faced intellectually risible accusations of misogyny from the neo-liberal faux-feminists when they presented an alternative economic policy. This is the most conclusive proof of the appropriation of identity politics to the neo-liberal cause.
Opinion polls both before and after the US election appear to demonstrate beyond doubt that Sanders would have trounced Trump. But to a certainty, the financial and international interests who bankrolled Clinton would much prefer Trump to Sanders.
A number of people have been questioning what Hillary’s banker backers will make of her defeat. The answer is they will not be too disappointed. She earned her money by seeing off Sanders.
It is fascinating to see that the attitude of the salaried establishment, both elected and administrative, of the Labour and Democrat parties to Sanders and Corbyn has been identical.
The Labour nomenklatura tried to defeat Corbyn’s election by disqualifying or barring from voting well over 100,000 voters. The Democrat nomenklatura succeeded in their equivalent task by devices including a rigged count in Nevada, collusion with Clinton in sequencing of primaries to harm Sanders, and passing of debate questions in advance.
While Corbyn has retained his leadership position, he is not in control of the party machinery which daily leaks and spins against him. His leadership has been fatally undermined from day one by humiliating, vicious and continual attacks given to the media by his own party. As time goes by, it is more and more plain he is not able to get rid of the MPs and functionaries whose sole purpose is to promote right wing ideology. There is currently a controversy as to whether Dave Nellist and other old socialists should be permitted to rejoin. I cannot understand why they would wish to be in a party with John Woodcock, Simon Danczuk, Jess Phillips and lest we forget, still Blair, Mandelson and Campbell.
In short, in neither the US nor the UK is a viable radical alternative going to be put before the electorate in the near future. Those who believe either Brexit or Trump presage a break from neo-liberalism will be sore disappointed. They represent the continuance of neo-liberalism, but with popular discontent diverted into added racism.