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What does the US Presidential Election Mean? Twelve Thoughts on US Politics

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, November 8th 2016

This has been a fascinating election; a true rollercoaster of emotions – of hope and fear, the spectre of bigotry and violence, and the flames of intolerance, and even insurrection, raised in some right-wing circles.

Here are some thoughts and observations based on travels, conversations and attending various political events in the United States over the last few weeks.

  1. In the past fortnight I attended a Hillary Clinton-Elizabeth Warren rally, followed by a Donald Trump event, and an eve of poll Barack Obama rally. There is a scale to such things beyond most UK politics, with sizeable events put on in an ad-hoc, last minute way as campaigns adapt to changing electoral fortunes and maps. That’s impressive, although the Trump event showed the stretch points of his ramshackle organisation. Basic things were badly done, with pre-Trump speakers coping with the PA continually cutting out and there being no overall MC for the event.
  1. Comparing the Clinton and Obama rallies – they had very different feels. There was a sense of seriousness at the Clinton one, of politics as business, whereas at the Obama gathering there was an air of celebration, even of a kind of family affair, with excitement and anticipation. Both of these were on university campuses – but whereas the Clinton event was filled with baby boomers, Obama attracted thousands of students, and this points to one of Hillary Clinton’s big electoral weaknesses – will younger people (along with non-white voters) turn out for her?

Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland the Bold: Making the Case for a Radical Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Herald, November 6th 2016

This weekend I attended a Donald Trump campaign rally in New Hampshire. It was a surreal experience – of a Presidential candidate who isn’t a professional politician, who has a limited conventional manifesto, and is running on what amounts to populist instinct and anger.

Win or lose, this offer has resonated with a sizeable audience of dissatisfied people who are looking for change and who believe that Trump rather than Hillary Clinton best provides it. Last week I was at a Clinton-Elizabeth Warren rally – the one where Warren made her ‘nasty women’ speech, and apart from that, there was much less excitement and energy than follows Trump.

Something is clearly wrong with business-as-usual politics. People across the developed world are looking for new advocates – often of a populist and unattractive kind – from Trump to Farage, from Le Pen to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.

The UK and Scotland isn’t immune to this. The UK faces multiple crises – economic, financial, geo-political. The ‘British economic miracle’ has been shown to be nothing but a mirage, but still hypnotises the establishment. Even more seriously, the Brexit vote undermines British post-war foreign policy, and leaves the country facing its most profound set of international challenges since Munich and appeasement. Read the rest of this entry »

Fear of a Trump Planet

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, November 4th 2016

Could Donald Trump actually pull off the biggest election shock in post-war US politics? One week ago the US Presidential election was meant to be over.

Now the weekend before the election things look very different. For the past week the Clinton campaign has hit stormy waters, aided by FBI Director James Comey, while Trump has in the last stages found a momentum and even belatedly embraced a degree of message discipline.

On Friday I went to a Trump rally in the palatial surroundings of Atkinson Country Club, New Hampshire – one of the key states if Trump is to have any chance of reaching 270 Electoral College votes and winning. One Republican source in the state said that the ‘Republicans are coming home’ and that Trump had a real chance of winning it – and with it the Presidency.

The atmosphere was very different compared to the previous week when I attended the Hillary Clinton-Elizabeth Warren – ‘nasty women’ – rally. Trumpland is a very different place. For a start, this was a much more intimate event – one which felt more like a gathering of friends and family. It didn’t quite match the expectations and stereoptypes I had of Trump supporters. It was a much more mixed crowd than followed Clinton, with many more working class people and individuals who you could tell have experienced challenging economic times. There were more young people, and families, having a day out at the Trump rally than there were for the Democratic candidate. Read the rest of this entry »

Imagination: Scotland’s Festival of Ideas with Electoral Reform Society Scotland

Scotland and the UK after the IndyRef and Brexit

Wiston Lodge, Biggar, Lanarkshire, ML12 6HT

Friday November 25th-Sunday November 27th

Friday Nov. 25th:

6.00-7.00pm: Arrival

7.00-8.00pm: Evening Meal

8.00pm: Welcome:

Gerry Hassan and Willie Sullivan

8.05pm: The State of Britain’s Politics after Brexit

John Harris, The Guardian and Madeleine Bunting, author, ‘Love of Country’

Saturday Nov. 26th:

10.00-11.00am: IndyRef to Brexit: An Overview

Professor John Curtice, Strathclyde University Read the rest of this entry »

An Empire in Decline: Hillary Clinton, Trump, ‘Nasty Women’ and Kabuki Politics

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, October 26th 2016

The US Presidential election is everywhere you turn in the States. That much is familiar and reassuring, but so much else this year – and in the longer-term -points in the exact opposite direction: a country not at ease with itself, a failing economy and imperial over-reach.

On Monday this week I went to an election campaign rally in the beautiful grounds of St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire and heard Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren speak. The latter touched the crowd’s emotions much more than Clinton with fighting talk and calling out Trump on behalf of ‘nasty women’ (which Trump had called Clinton the previous week in the last debate) saying ‘nasty women vote’ and ‘nasty women have really had it with guys like you.’

The atmosphere at this rally was warm and welcoming, but hardly ecstatic for Clinton. The biggest cheers were for Warren’s more partisan, fiery oratory, or for the points various speakers, Clinton included, made against Trump. There wasn’t any sense of electricity or expectation of far-reaching change. Not surprising, perhaps, when the crowd was overwhelmingly white, with the solitary black person, predominantly female overall, middle aged to elderly, and professional. Missing were the old faces and voices of the Democrat coalition such as trade unions and marginalised, poorer America: a fair representation of today’s Democratic Party. Read the rest of this entry »

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