It didn’t take long for the racist and misogynist horrors of Trump World to emerge, but despite this, much post-election punditry has focussed on the economic suffering of the Rust Belt states that delivered him victory, on what this says about the American national mood, and on how the Democrats and the world should account for it. In the Guardian, for example, Thomas Piketty wrote: “Let it be said at once: Trump’s victory is primarily due to the explosion in economic and geographic inequality in the United States over several decades and the inability of successive governments to deal with this.”
There’s only one way in which I can see the implications of such a statement as tolerable, and it isn’t that Democrats should pander to misogyny and white racism. It’s that economic and geographic inequality has become a feedback loop driving people from depressed regions to the metropoles—the ambitious, the educated, the young, the persecuted, attracted by a more welcoming culture and more opportunities to get ahead—and that this has increased the cultural and political differences between states and regions over time. If the major cities of the Midwest and Rust Belt were twice the size they are today and the coastal metropoles were correspondingly smaller, we wouldn’t see these extremes of opportunity and opinion. This is just as true of Britain or Australia as it is of the US, and I suspect of many other countries as well.
But this explanation of difference doesn’t explain the mood of the American people as seen last Tuesday. It’s frustrating to see so many analyses that try to explain why the Democrats failed to capture it when we know that Hillary Clinton will end up way ahead in the popular vote, and this despite legislated voter-suppression and suspicions of interference in key states favouring Republicans. Hillary won the vote and lost the election, which means that she spoke more to the mood of the American people despite all the obstacles in her way, and it’s the electoral system that’s broken. Talking about how we need to pay more attention to the people in small states because those are the rules of the game effectively accepts that a person living in California or New York is worth less than a person in Wisconsin, and screw that. And I say that as someone born and raised in a small state.
The right is already attempting to rewrite this history, because although they’re happy to reap the spoils either way, they want the legitimacy that appearing to have won the popular vote confers. The only dismal consolation of last week’s result is that they don’t have it.
America, I’m afraid, has thrown away the right to stand as an example of democracy and how it should be done, no matter how peaceful a transition the Obama White House attempts to effect. I say “I’m afraid” because I’m genuinely fearful that no country anywhere is now capable of holding that democratic authority (or at least of having a reasonable claim to it), and we’re all now stumbling around in the dark.
Adapted from a MetaFilter comment.
17 November 2016
My son drew this on the whiteboard in my office when he visited it a couple of months ago, and I’d kept it there ever since.
Read More · 10 November 2016 · 2 Comments
I was born in January 1968. I’ve lived through two Nixon victories, two Reagan victories, and two George W. Bush victories, albeit at a remove.
This is the worst US federal election outcome of my lifetime. The worst in the English-speaking world, probably, considering that only one other of those countries has nukes. At least Thatcher was passingly sane.
Racism and misogyny won. Now we have four more years of hearing that man speak, and all his deplorable surrogates, when I was so hoping never to hear from them again after today.
There isn’t much more to say right now. Maybe another time.
9 November 2016
It’s all too depressing, but here are some links from the past month about the other Atlantic ship-of-state-wreck. One highlight was Theresa May’s claim that “if you’re a citizen of the world, then you’re a citizen of nowhere”. As an immigrant to the UK, I wonder if that makes me a dual citizen of nowhere.
Read More · 6 November 2016
Americans have Cheetos, but the Australian brand-name of Cheezels is so much more assonant for describing the aspirational Commandant-in-Chief. Thankfully it looks as if the debates will be his undoing, but it’s horrifying that it’s got this close.
Read More · 29 September 2016
A poetic reflection on the man who’s done more than anyone to set back progress in my home and adopted countries, written post-EU-referendum. More than I would ever actually advocate, but it sure was cathartic to write.
Read More · 12 July 2016
A threaded comment on Twitter highlights another nightmarish aspect of the prospect of being left out in the WTO cold for several years post-Brexit. Not only would WTO tariffs on UK exports kill our markets within the EU (which take almost half of UK exports), but:
In order to enter the EU, goods must conform with EU regulations. As you’d expect. At the moment, this isn’t a problem because the bodies which regulate conformity in this country are recognised by the EU. Upon ejection from the EU, this recognition would cease. Which means that UK goods entering the EU would be held up at every border point, while their conformity to regulations was tested. This would make selling to the EU virtually impossible unless our regulatory bodies could be certified by the EU. And they’ll be in no hurry to do that.
Read More · 1 July 2016 · 1 Comment
BBC Newsnight staffer Mark Urban is tweeting some terrifying stuff on the prospect of a Brexit Britain striking a trade deal with the EU:
@MalmstromEU tells me EU/UK trade talks won’t start until Art50 exit complete then UK will trade on WTO terms until a deal is done
That’s Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner in charge of trade policy.
Read More · 30 June 2016
Four working days into life in Thethickofitstan, I can’t shake off the fear that all parties need to proceed extremely cautiously or risk Britain becoming a quasi-fascist state; not the full Third Reich, perhaps, but potentially Pinochet’s Chile. The fact that polls are suggesting that Regrexit is a statistical blip suggests that a large population in England and Wales would be perfectly happy if a strongman (or woman) emerged from the political chaos to enact Brexit in Full come hell or high water. And not any soft Brexit that keeps freedom of movement intact: something that closes the borders and sets the timer ticking on when EU citizens who are already here must leave.
Read More · 29 June 2016
If I read the phrase “pour encourager les autres” one more time, I’ll... I’ll... briser mon ordinateur in impotent rage.
The only hope now is that Parliament votes immediately to reject the referendum result as having been secured under false pretenses and ban any PM from triggering Article 50, to take us back to the status quo ante-February. Yes, the UK would never be seen the same way in Europe again, which is true either way. Yes, the UK would have drastically weaker influence over the development of future EU regulations, as opposed to none if we’re in the EEA. Yes, we would lose some businesses to Europe, which is already happening. None of that is worse than what we face if we stay on this path. We’re three working days into this mess, and look at where we are already. Britain’s latent racism has already been unleashed. At least we’ll be fighting it out in the open.
Read More · 28 June 2016 · 1 Comment
From The Independent site yesterday: ‘I Bregrexit’: I voted for Brexit—and now I realise what a terrible mistake I made.
A crucial part of what tripped up such voters is that they’re used to General Elections fought under first past the post, where again and again their vote makes no difference, and in safe seats they can muck about with protest votes and what have you. They totally misunderstood the nature of a national referendum where every vote towards either side counts.
Read More · 27 June 2016
Brexit has now completely displaced all of the other important stuff that’s supposed to be filling my head right now, and promises to do so for months if not years. The same must be true for countless others in the UK and elsewhere. The opportunity cost will be enormous, and is only going to get worse; other crises don’t stop happening simply because Britain’s voters have self-inflicted the biggest crisis of them all—they compound one another.
Read More · 27 June 2016 · 1 Comment
A few reflections, now that I’ve gathered my thoughts.
Read More · 25 June 2016
Say Brexit breaks it.
Boris’ll fix it?
Will he, bollox.
Read More · 22 June 2016
Without knowing it, I posted yesterday’s entry around the same time MP Jo Cox was being shot and stabbed in Yorkshire by a right-wing extremist. I first heard the news later in the afternoon, and hoped against hope that she would pull through; it was awful to hear the police announcement of her death on Radio 4, and her colleagues being asked for their reactions moments after they heard that news themselves (they were in the studio to talk about the attack). The presenter sounded just as upset.
Read More · 17 June 2016
A week or so before a referendum seems to be when I finally steel myself to post about it here. As my comments over the years have made clear, I’m as pro-EU as they come, which none of the pro-Brexit arguments I’ve read has changed; most are driven by native-born British or English feelings I don’t share, by stereotypes of the EU that misunderstand or misrepresent how it works, by arguments for democracy that dismiss any evidence of EU democracy and ignore any evidence of problems with British democracy, by notions that saving a few pounds a week per household on EU contributions will give us untold riches to spend elsewhere without making any allowance for what those few pounds buy us, by a misguided sense that the struggles of austerity are the fault of EU immigrants or bureaucrats, or by, in some ugly cases, outright racism. I’ve appended some links that rebut these points better than I have time to do here today.
Read More · 16 June 2016
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