Posts Tagged ‘populism’

May and Trump are in charge – but voters’ wallets still rule

23/01/2017, 07:15:13 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Trump’s inauguration. May’s speech. We are told that Trump is a protectionist and May is for free trade. But they both reject the social market that characterises the EU, making it a golden shower of a week for internationalist social democrats.

The market comes via trade within the EU, while the social is injected by having this occur above a floor on workers’ and consumers’ rights, as well as protections for the environment and other public goods. “We would be free,” threatened the prime minister, “to change the basis of Britain’s economic model.” The social dimension of the EU model would not endure any transformation into Dubai-on-Thames. Nor, according to a former head official at the Treasury, would the NHS.

It is also the market, not the social, that attracts Trump – perhaps better described as a mercantilist than a protectionist – to a trade deal with the UK. He wants a wall on the Mexican border but he doesn’t want, in contrast to a pure protectionist, to wholly encase America behind trade walls. He does, though, seem to view trade as a zero-sum game, not a win-win exchange. And he eyes a win for America in a negotiation with a UK to be stripped of EU social regulations and looking for friends after politically detaching ourselves from our European partners.

Trump perpetuates the myth that America has ever put itself anywhere other than first. Pumping, in today’s money, around $120bn into Europe via the Marshall Plan, for example, wasn’t just about compassion for a continent on its knees after World War II. It was about minimising the risk of American blood being spilt on European soil, opening up European markets for American goods, and creating a European bulwark between the Soviet Union and the Atlantic.

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Smoke and mirrors are no panacea for populism

07/01/2017, 01:11:58 PM

by Julian Glassford

Breathtaking political plot-twists of recent months have left many onlookers decidedly discombobulated and key opinion formers remonstrating amongst themselves. So what do bellwether Brexit and US electoral outcomes indicate? Arguably, a repudiation of neoliberal globalism, elitism, and fear-based propaganda pitched at maintaining an awkward status quo. Hail, the temerarious new age of anti-expert ‘improvpolitik’!

The course runs deeper than our small pool of politically incorrect reductionists and the wave of discontent they ride, however. It flows beyond the poignant picture of inequality emblematised by the castaways “left behind” by USS Globalisation and HMS London: those financially “just about managing” to stay afloat (JAMs). Against a cold, unremitting tide of pervading progressivism and juxtaposed conspicuous consumption, folks feel all at sea. Communitarianism, constancy, and confidence in the system and its captains of change, have plunged to new depths. Old certainties languish on the seabed – hollowed out hulks, shrouded in the deep blue.

Bastions of the established order would love to wish away ‘shy’ (or sensibly silent) voters and the not so shy (if somewhat shadowy) ‘alt-right’. But what was a fanatical fringe has morphed into a formidable counter-cultural force clearly capable of swinging political events, bigly; hence the hasty repositioning of our Conservative incumbents.

If commentators are to remain politically literate they must engage with the unpalatable reality that contemporary social, gender, and intercultural dynamics do not universally translate as sources of profound strength and stability. Contentions ranging from mass immigration exacerbating economic disparity, through work-life imbalance representing a major social ill, to The Clash of Civilisations thesis, cannot be effortlessly extinguished. Contrary to historian Simon Schama’s prescription, the simple introduction of a broadsheet diet will hardly suffice!

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Nigel Farage is a winner. Liberals must learn from him

29/11/2016, 10:07:49 PM

by Samuel Dale

Today Nigel Farage may spend his time glad-handing the US president-elect and partying at the Ritz but it was not always this way.

As he stands down as Ukip leader yet again, it is worth remembering just how far he has come and the impact of his perseverance.

For two decades, Farage has travelled up and down Britain talking to voters, persuading them, standing for office, winning campaigns and losing elections.

He stood up for what he believes is right for the country and tried his best to implement it through democratic and generally respectable means.

It wasn’t always glamorous and it didn’t always feel like he was going to be successful.

I don’t understand why he is mocked for losing so many by-elections. It takes guts for anyone to put themselves on the line and stand for election whether it is Farage, Donald Trump or Ed Miliband.

Ukip has been an incredibly successful political movement. It has shifted debate in Britain significantly whether George Osborne shovelling cash to pensioners before the last election, a harsher immigration policy or leaving the EU.

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Why things are not as bleak as they look for social democrats

30/08/2016, 06:02:14 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Uncanny. That is what Nigel Farage says of the supposed similarities between the EU referendum and the US presidential election. This is not a comparison exclusive to him. Far from it. The excellent Gideon Rachman has made it as articulately as anyone in the Financial Times.

“This similarity is more than an unfortunate coincidence. I would point to three parallels between Brexit and the Trump phenomenon that should worry the Clinton campaign. The first is the potency of immigration as an issue. The second is the way in which the Trump and Brexit campaigns have become vehicles for protest votes about economic insecurity. The third is the chasm between elite opinion and that of the white working class.”

On immigration: In the race for the Republican nomination, Trump favoured a “deportation force” to eject the estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented migrants living in the United States. No more. Trump is watering down his position because he has, finally, twigged that it is a loser.

On economic insecurity and the white working class: up to a point, Lord Rachman. Nate Silver has exploded the myth of Trump’s “white working class support”. Similarly, having reviewed the evidence, Zoe Williams has concluded of Brexit that: “The very most we can say is that leave had some popularity with the disaffected and the disenfranchised; but it was not limited to that group, and the people who swung the vote were affluent, older southerners.”

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The lessons for Labour from Bill de Blasio’s New York success are limited

24/09/2014, 07:00:50 AM

by Rob Philpot

New York mayor Bill de Blasio is not a man for understatement. Since taking office in January, he’s described everything from his own election to the opening of a new park in Brooklyn as ‘transcendent’. Alongside ‘historic’, it’s a term he has used over 80 times in the last nine months to describe the changes he is bringing to the city.

No doubt he’ll apply one of his two favourite accolades to his address to the Labour party conference in Manchester today. As the party’s guest international speaker, he is, after all, following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Hamid Karzai.

But Labour should avoid getting too carried away by de Blasio’s lofty rhetoric. Take that ‘transcendent’ election last year. De Blasio’s populist campaign, with its focus on inequality, promise to govern on behalf of the ’99 per cent’ and pledge to raise taxes on the very rich, certainly appeared to ‘break every rule in the New Labour playbook’, as Diane Abbott crowed the day after the Democrats beat the Republicans by a near-50 point margin.

However, de Blasio didn’t exactly storm a citadel of conservatism.

New York is a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one, which awarded Barack Obama 81 per cent of its votes when he ran for re-election in 2012, and which no Republican presidential candidate has carried since Calvin Coolidge in 1924. In his piece trumpeting the election as proof that ‘a different kind of progressive politics can capture the imagination of a public ground down by economic crisis’, Ed Miliband’s strategy adviser, Stewart Wood, admitted that ‘New York City is not the UK, and a mayoral race is not the same as a British general election’. Slightly more fundamentally, New York can’t even be said to be the US; its politics are representative of virtually nowhere else.

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The Euros are the elections that don’t matter. Except they do.

14/05/2014, 08:50:50 AM

by Rob Marchant

It’s complicated. Next week’s election will not change very much in itself. We will send members of our favourite parties off to Brussels again in greater or lesser numbers to vote on things that, we tell pollsters on a regular basis, we care little about. Everyone’s eyes will be on the greater prize of a general election, less than twelve months away.

And you can forget the polling around this election; it means very little. Rarely has there been an election with so much of the electorate avowedly committed to protest voting, often for parties they don’t even really like.

A friend of mine, traditionally to the left of me, is voting UKIP. Why? Not because he likes them. Because he’s fed up with both right and left. “Because there’s a chance, just a chance”, he says, “that something might change”.

Now, I believe him to be wrong. But his vote forms part of an anti-establishment effect, which transcends right and left and which has blossomed in recent troubled times right across the developed world. It is not just UKIP, but Respect. It is the People’s Assembly, UK Uncut and other anti-austerity groups. The Occupy crowd. The other nationalists and secessionists. The Spanish “Indignados”. The Tea Party. The list is long.

The principal common trait of all these groups is being against the political establishment and, with the possible exception of the nationalists, if ever confronted with the tedious demands of actually having to do something in office, most would surely run in horror in the opposite direction.

So, forget the Euro-election polling and results. They tell us nothing. Things will blip up for UKIP and punish the main parties, and then in all probability blip back down by the end of the year, well in time for a distinctly lukewarm performance at the general election.

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Sunday review: “Populism in Europe and the Americas: threat or corrective for democracy?” by Cas Mudde and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser

25/11/2012, 08:00:25 AM

by Anthony Painter

Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, has granted himself sweeping new constitutional powers over the constitution, democracy and the legal system. Hugo Chavez did the same in Venezuela and suppressed political opposition and voices of dissent in the media. Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, has changed voting rules and given himself power over the judiciary and a wide range of protections against legislative change unfavourable to Orban – constitutionally enshrined.

Ideologically, Morsi, Orban, and Chavez could not be more dissimilar: a political Islamist, a socialist, and a radical conservative. Something does link them though: they are all, in different ways, populists. Straight away we enter the realm of confusion. Populism has become a dirty word, synonymous with impulse, emotion, charisma, authoritarianism, fundamental institutional change and destruction of minority rights. From Morsi, Orban and Chavez it can be seen as some if not many of these things but it’s something even deeper than that and where there is democracy then there is populism – yes, even in the case of the UK as we shall see.

Cas Mudde and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser take a look at the impact and nature of populism in their important new work, Populism in Europe and the Americas. In this edited volume, experts look at Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Austria, Venezuela, Peru, and Slovakia. They might well have added the tea party in the US and euroscepticism in the UK for they define populism as a battle between “the pure people” and “corrupt elites.” In the case of the former, the “corrupt elite” is, of course, Washington and the Wall Street. For eurosceptics they are “eurocrats” or ECHR judges and all who conspire with them.

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