Liberal left needs to see reality
The liberal left has a massive problem on its hands these days – it misreads the tea leaves.
The broad political left often thinks that what it desires is what the masses want.
Often, now, in elections from Europe to South and North America, we find that voters hanker for something different, something the intelligentsia refuses to acknowledge.
I was in London on the eve of the June 23 2016 Brexit vote in the UK.
London, home of global finance and the intelligentsia, was calm.
Because Londoners believed in globalisation and its positive impacts – which they enjoy – they also believed that the entire UK believed the same thing and would vote accordingly.
They didn’t see defeat staring them in the face.
They discounted the nationalistic, lying, right-wing political leaders who were pushing the Brexit line and their appeal to the baser instincts of voters outside of the metropoles.
Fifty-two percent of British voters supported leaving the EU, taking their cue from the right-wing nationalist and fascist Nigel Farage rather than moderate voices of reason.
Just last week, Brazilians voted for a xenophobic, racist, homophobic, nationalist, rightwing bigot who supports torture, to lead them.
The left was aghast – and caught by surprise – that Jair Bolsonaro won.
Across Europe, with Angela Merkel of Germany exiting left, the populist right is alive and sniffing at power.
This week, the US goes to crucial mid-term elections.
Although all 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be voted on, plus a further 35 seats in the 100-member Senate (members serve six-year terms), these are not just “local” elections.
How things pan out on Tuesday will determine whether President Donald Trump fast-tracks his America First policy (which has emboldened fascists, racists and nationalists globally), or is forced to curtail his agenda.
If the Republicans take the House and the Senate, Trump’s power and legacy will be cemented. Sweeping, long-term change in domestic and foreign policy will be ushered in.
The Democrats would frustrate Trump’s agenda if they win both houses, making him a lame duck.
In liberal enclaves of the US, Democrats are feeling enthused.
They are appalled by Trump and expect the rest of the country to agree with them and vote accordingly.
I think they are once again very, very, very wrong.
Trump is a whirlwind of activity and lies. He believes that no publicity is bad publicity.
Even when he is caught out in a lie, he doesn’t mind.
It just means that you are talking about him.
Over the past week, Trump has promised middle-class Americans a tax cut that even his closest aides did not know about.
Responding to the march of about 4,000 South American immigrants fleeing violence in their countries, he dispatched soldiers to stop what he called the “invasion of our country”. Invasion?
These are largely women and children who are 1,500km from the US border. He lied that there were “Middle Easterners” among them.
Every day he utters a new outrage – and his supporters lap it up.
To his critics and to the intelligentsia, which despises him, these may seem like more of his unhinged utterances.
Yet this is failure to understand the simple reality of how politics has come to be conducted now and Trump’s unparalleled ability to use and misuse this moment in history.
We live in a world which Brazilian journalist and documentary-maker Eliane Brum described perfectly in the London Guardian in October: “The content of what [new Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro] says doesn’t matter: what matters is the act of saying it.
“Aesthetics have replaced ethics.
“By saying everything and anything, no matter how violent, he is labelled truthful or sincere by his voters at a time when politicians are being shunned as frauds and liars.”
This is why Trump – and many of his ilk – are powerful now. It is not just what they say, it is their ability to ram it through again and again and to shamelessly spread lies without consequence.
Trump is a man who has said that Barack Obama was a Muslim illegal immigrant. He got away with it. He knows he can lie as much as he likes about virtually anything and he will get away with it.
So, he does. Meanwhile, his opponents in the Democratic Party wring their hands.
He wins. He may win again on Tuesday.