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Posts Tagged ‘American Politics’

Donald Trump may be a one-off but his politics are not a one-off

Gerry Hassan

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

Gerry Hassan

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 »

Donald Trump’s appeal tells us that something is wrong with America and the West

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, December 13th 2015

Only a generation ago, just after the Berlin Wall fell, liberal democratic opinion across the West was confident about the future.

This was the era of the long boom across the West, the Clinton era of ‘Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow’ in the US, and the Blair’s ‘Dreams Can Only Get Better’ in the UK. All of this hubris and hype was brought down to earth by the banker’s crash of 2008, but this was only the start of things going wrong.

Today a very different mood exists across the developed world – one of anxiety, foreboding, fear and nervousness. The top issues in the UK according to Ipsos MORI are immigration at 49%, the NHS on 34% and the economy on 27% with defence, foreign affairs and terrorism on 13%. After a spate of recent terrorist attacks, people are feeling insecure, looking for quick answers, and open to the allure of populist politicians.

It isn’t a surprise that Marine Le Pen’s right-wing Front National won the recent French local elections. Or that UKIP has ongoing appeal and resilience – Scotland and London apart. Across Europe, racist, xenophobic parties have won significant support such as Golden Dawn in Greece. The Hungarian PM Viktor Orban says that we must ‘keep Europe Christian’ in response to the refugee crisis, while the Polish Law and Justice Party government promises an era of authoritarianism and curbing immigration. Read the rest of this entry »

‘You’re Fired’: Jeremy Corbyn and what Voters Want to Say to the Political Classes

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, July 26th 2015

This week Tony Blair compared Scottish nationalism to ‘cavemen’ and told supporters of Jeremy Corbyn who wanted to vote with their heart to ‘get a transplant.’

You always know something is up when the political insults start flying. Labour have no idea what has happened in Scotland, and to compound matters for the party establishment, this week saw the rise of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership challenge.

The trigger was a poll which put Corbyn not just ahead of the other contenders in the Labour leadership contest but actually winning it. Now this will not, in all likelihood, happen. Corbyn in many senses has already ‘won’ – by forcing the debate leftwards. He does not want to ‘win’ in the formal sense, knowing this would be counter-productive both for him and the party.

All of this says legions about the state of Labour and politics. First, both Labour and the Lib Dems are heading leftwards post-election. Second, neither is any nearer in working out how to do credible opposition. Both are in the midst of what can only be described as identity crises. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Flag and the Union Jack: An Alternative History of Britain and the Labour Party
Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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