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Posts Tagged ‘Populism’

Why the power of loss and not imagining the future aids populists and demagogues

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 5th 2020

The UK – and with it Scotland – have left the European Union after 47 years. In human terms, this is a substantial length of time – the equivalent of a lifelong adult marriage or relationship, but in that comparison the British political classes and large swathe of public opinion never fully committed themselves to the European project, making the eventual divorce unsurprising.

This is a watershed moment for all of us – the 31st of January 2020 being the equivalent in importance of 1 January 1973 when the UK joined the EEC along with the Republic of Ireland and Denmark. Taking into consideration the complications of the Brexit divorce – the pro-EU majorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland – and the fact that the UK is not realistically going to be rejoining the EU in the near-future, we are living and making history of a profound, lasting kind.

For many leavers this is a time for celebration, for affirming the triumph of democracy, and the power of the people in asserting the importance of an independent, self-governing UK. For lots of remainers there is exactly the opposite array of emotions – of feeling cheated and betrayed; sensing that the UK has become a mean spirited, bitter and divided country, and that they have lost something precious and important in being part of a set of independent nation states uniquely co-operating together. Read the rest of this entry »

Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban: This is not an Age of Fascism Yet

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 31st 2018

A spectre is haunting the modern world: fascism. All around the world people are talking about and identifying fascists. Newspaper headlines abound in the US such as ‘Is Donald Trump a fascist?’, ‘How fascist is Donald Trump?’ and even more emphatically, ‘Donald Trump is actually a fascist’: all from mainstream liberal papers.

The threat of fascism is now a worldwide phenomenon. We have just seen in the Brazil the victory of ‘strongman’ Jair Bolsonaro; the Hungarian authoritarianism of Viktor Orban; the rise of France’s Front National, led by Marie Le Pen; Germany’s Pegida and AfD; and Austria’s Freedom Party. All have earned the description at points ‘fascist’. If that were not enough there is another dimension, with some talking about ‘Islamic fascism’ and frequent comments such as ‘the terrorists are the heirs to fascism’: that last quote from George W. Bush, but it could have been any Western leader of recent times.

Trump is a cheerleader and mobiliser, whether you are for or against him, by dint of being the President of the USA. The thoughtful Robert Kagan wrote before the 2016 US election: ‘This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster … and with an entire national political party … falling into line behind him.’ Read the rest of this entry »

How do we have public conversations in the age of rage?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 15th 2018

Has the world of politics and public life ever been so messed up? And at a time of global confusion, disruption and challenge when intelligent politics is more needed than ever before.

British politics in the last week has seen stormy arguments over the rights and wrongs of Tory Boris Johnson and his comments about Muslim women wearing the burka. At the same time, Labour’s discomfort and problems over anti-semitism, which I wrote about last week, refuses to go away, continuing to plague the Corbyn leadership.

We are living in an age of bizarre cultural wars which show no sign of going away, that test the boundaries of what is and isn’t permissible comment, tolerance, and free speech. Read the rest of this entry »

How Trump Shook America and the World: My Letter from America

Gerry Hassan

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 »

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 »

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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