Monday, 21 November 2016

Tackling the Trump Phenomena?

How the liberal left fails to get it!
by Brian Bamford

ON the morning of the US presidential election the New York Times ran a leading article by a team of its journalists entitled 'With Trump, a storm below the calm' in which it was claimed ''Donald J. Trump is not sleeping much these days'.  As the US voters were turning out this New York Times' leading story reported:

'In the final days of the presidential campaign, Mr Trump's candidacy is a jarring split screen:  the choreographed show of calm and confidence orchestrated by his staff, and the neediness and vulnerability of the once-boastful candidate now uncertain of victory.'

This crack team of reporters then tell us under a headline 'FALLING INTO DESPAIR' that:

'The closing phase of Mr. Trump's campaign has been punctuated by swaying poll numbers and dizzying mood swings.  It started on Oct. 7 with the release of a recording in which Mr.Trump was caught bragging about forcibly kissing women and grabbing their genitals.  Many Republicans decided that Mr. Trump's already shaky campaign was over.  Some despondent young staff members at the Republican National Committee on Capital Hill.... took to leaving their desks early, in time for happy hour at bars.  They complained that Mr. Trump had not just lost the election but was dragging down House and Senate candidates, dooming the entire party.'  

After Mr. Trump won, one political pundit sympathetic to M. Trump seeking to make sense of the Trump phenomena urged us to re-read George Orwell's essay 'Wells, Hitler and the World State'  in Horizon in August 1941 .  What Orwell wrote of H.G. Wells in 1941 was that 'He was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than what he himself would describe as sanity.'

What we could call the Anglo-Saxon liberal left in the UK and the USA today, in the main, suffers from what Orwell had to say about H.G. Wells.  On this NV Blog we published a post-election report from the Avaaz team: a global campaign network that claims it 'works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people shape global decision making'. 

The Avaaz team says it is a '44-million-person global campaign network' and that 'Avaaz members live in every nation in the world; our team is spread across 18 countries on 6 continents and operates in 17 languages.' 

The Avaaz team in their analysis say:  'We wanted to write from the heart about what just happened in the US, and what's happening around the world', and of Mr. Trump they write '..... the most powerful nation in the world will be led by a breathtakingly ignorant, bigoted, violent, pathologically lying, sexually predatory, vengeful, authoritarian, corrupt reality TV star.'

The Avaaz team conclude in their study:

 'It's the Media Stupid -  Despite ALL the evidence to the contrary, the American public overwhelmingly sees Hillary Clinton as MORE dishonest and corrupt than Donald Trump.  This, by itself, is the reason why Trump is president.  And it's the media's fault.  ....  On the one side, we have ruthlessly sophisticated partisan propaganda media pushing Trump, and on the other an 2impartial” media that chases fake scandals and ratings and suggests false equivalence between the sides in the name of appearing balanced.  This is the dynamic that gave us Brexit as well.  We desperately need a smarter media...'

That is not something I can recognise from my own reading of the New York Times in the run-up to the US presidential election, consider the quotes above which were very typical of that newspaper's attitude to Donald Trump before the election.  It does seem to be true that there are similarities between the Trump victory and Brexit.  There seems to be a strong reaction against a kind of global mentality which has existed on both the left and the right.  The nationalistic spirit of our times as expressed by Trump and Brexit may not be a sane and sensible development, but it represents a powerful cultural force which the liberal left often underestimates.  The reason the left fails to grasp the importance of Trump and Brexit is that the left is too optimistic and too locked-up in the kind of mind-set that comes from the kind of Whig Theory of History that claims that things are always improving. 

The Avaaz team analysis falls back on :

'This (situation) is a HUGE opportunity, let's rise to it – change doesn't happen in a steady, linear way.  We human beings learn best from crisis and calamity.  Our brightest lights emerge from our deepest darknesses.  World War II gave us human rights and the United Nations.  And the darkness of Trumpism could help us build the most inspiring movement for human unity,....'

It is a quote that perhaps best illustrates the clear gulf that lies between the mind-set of the working-classes and the politically-minded classes in this country and seemingly the USA.  The Avaaz team idea is that 'the darkness of Trumpism could help us build the most inspiring movement for human unity and progress the world has EVER seen, to not only beat back Trumps in each of our countries, but to do so with a new, people-centered, high-integrity, inspiring politics that brings massive improvement to the status quo.' 

In a curious way the above analysis is a more optimistic version of how George Orwell in his essay on 'Catastrophic Gradualism', describe how some left-wing intellectuals explained away the crimes of the Stalin regime in the USSR thus:

'History necessarily proceeds by calamities, but each succeeding age will be as bad, or nearly as bad, as the last.  One must not protest against purges, deportations, secret police forces and so forth, because these are the price that one has to be paid for progress: but on the other hand “human nature” will always see to it that progress is slow or even imperceptible.'
(Common Wealth Review, November 1945)
Orwell in his correspondence with Dwight MacDonald in 1946, wrote 'If people think I am defending the status quo, that is..... because they have grown pessimistic and assume there is no alternative except dictatorship or laissez-faire capitalism.'  
Today, in the November issue of 'The Word - The People's Paper' - we can read the pessimistic thoughts of Tariq Ali and his verdict on the Trump victory: 
'A huge defeat for the liberal extreme centre establishment.  Read Friedman, Krugman in the NYT and Freedland in the Guardian for virtually identical grief:  it makes comic reading.... Many White workers who voted Obama did not vote for Clinton.  He failed them and she offered nothing new.  Nothing.  Unliked and untrusted, all she wanted was power.... The US Left has lacked a political party since Eugene Debs's time... '
Despite the best efforts of those on the left it is hard to see much to cheer about so long as the progressives fail to appreciate the nature of social change among working people in both the USA and the UK.

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