Posts Tagged ‘American Politics’
How Trump Shook America and the World: My Letter from America
Scottish Review, November 10th 2016
America has shaken itself and the world. Something seismic has happened which has compounded experts, the political classes, and observers all round the world. But in this year of revolt and surprises – from Leicester City and the Cubs to more seriously Brexit and Trump – the question is why should we be surprised anymore?
I spent the last three weeks in the States, attending rallies, speaking and listening to people, and trying to understand what was going on. It was clear this was a change election, one where people were losing patience with business as usual politics and Washington, and one where at least two Americas talked and shouted past each other – one conservative and angry, one liberal and conceited, both believing in their own moral superiority. All of this has produced one of the most electrifying electoral shocks in American history: a victory with no real comparison in recent times and remaking the political mood.
Trump ran an unprecedented campaign by any modern standards. It was terrible and offensive, giving voice to a ragged, confused anger and fury at the state of contemporary America and the world. That much was said all the time, but it represented much more in ways which should have been more obvious and discussed. Read the rest of this entry »
What does the US Presidential Election Mean? Twelve Thoughts on US Politics
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.
- 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.
- 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?
Fear of a Trump Planet
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 »
Donald Trump may be a one-off but his politics are not a one-off
Scottish Review, March 16th 2016
Donald Trump may seem like a throwback to earlier, uglier times, but he is actually a very modern phenomenon.
He is easy for opponents to hate, ridicule and throw insults at – from ‘fascist’ (which he most certainly isn’t) – to racist, misogynist and demagogue which, whether they are right or wrong, get in the way of understanding his politics and their widespread appeal.
Donald Trump is favourite to win the US Republican nomination to be President of the United States, the most powerful nation in the world. This wasn’t meant to happen. The Republican establishment thought he would blow himself up, or go away after he had his fun and enlarged his fame. With it more than likely that he will face a damaged, discredited Hillary Clinton on November 8th, there is a chance next January will see the inauguration of President Trump. Did someone say season four of ‘House of Cards ‘was unrealistic? It hasn’t got anything on reality.
How did the United States end up in this mess? First and foremost, Trump cannot be seen in isolation. Instead, he is the cumulative creation of thirty years of toxic Republican rightwing delusion and fantasy. Once upon a time in America lunatic paranoia was the preserve of the revolutionary left: think the Black Panthers and the generation of 1968. Now it is anchored in, and has taken over acres of, the right, won large parts of the Republican grassroots, and has support in numerous shock jocks and outlets such as ‘Fox News’.
It is impossible to comprehend the degree of right wing extremism which has tainted and tormented the Republicans since Ronald Reagan. It vilifies and refuses to understand opponents, stigmatising welfare, poorer people, and black and ethnic minorities. Government is seen as an organised conspiracy, taxes evil, while almost anything is legitimate to win elections – from depriving millions of citizens of the right to vote, blatant gerrymandering, and stopping a state count via the Supreme Court (Gore v. Bush 2, 2000). Read the rest of this entry »
What are politicians for today? In Defence of a Different Politics
Scottish Review, March 9th 2016
For all my adult life, I have defended the potential of politics and politicians to aid a better world.
I have defended politics as the means to bring about change, for people to come together collectively and exercise power, and to aid the art of living together well. I have defended politicians as both a necessary evil – not all being the same and tarred with the same brush – and as people undertaking an activity in which many try their best.
I have stood up for politics and politicians against the taxi driver view of the world, the cynic’s perspective, and negativity – prevalent everywhere. In recent years, the actions of many politicians have not made advocating their case easy: the parliamentary expenses scandal, the banker’s crash followed by the war on the poor and vulnerable, and before that, the Iraq war to name glaring examples.
The clamour of denigration has grown. Publicly expressed beliefs that ‘they are all in it for themselves’, ‘they are all the same’ and ‘they will tell you anything to get elected’ has become the backdrop of most mainstream politics. While cynicism is unhealthy, it has become a byproduct of our dysfunctional semi-democracies which reinforce the shortcomings of politicians. Our collective disengagement from them mirrors their withdrawal from the public in all but the narrowest definition (trying to get our votes), as they become part of a self-contained power elite, along with corporate media, business and opinion formers. Read the rest of this entry »