Monday, November 14, 2016

It's Going To Take Time



Timothy Garton Ash places Donald Trump's election victory in an international context. Throughout the world, he writes, right wing populism is fuelling the development of illiberal democracies:

In Vladimir Putin’s Russia we have something very close to fascism. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey is rapidly crossing the line between illiberal democracy and fascism, while Viktor Orbán’s Hungary is already an illiberal democracy. In Poland, France, the Netherlands, Britain and now the US, we have to defend the line between liberal and illiberal democracy.

All of these movements claim to be the voice of the people. But that's a half truth:

On closer examination, it turns out that “the people” – Volk might be a more accurate term – is actually only a part of the people. Trump perfectly exemplified this populist sleight of hand in an impromptu remark at a campaign rally.

“The only important thing is the unification of the people,” he said, “because the other people don’t mean anything.” It’s not the Others, you see: the Kurds, Muslims, Jews, refugees, immigrants, black people, elites, experts, homosexuals, Sinti and Roma, cosmopolitans, metropolitans, gay Europhile judges. Ukip’s Nigel Farage announced that Brexit was a victory for ordinary people, decent people, real people – 48% of those who voted in the referendum being thereby declared neither ordinary nor decent nor real.

We've been here before:

Nationalist populism now, globalised liberalism (or neoliberalism) in the 1990s, fascism and communism in the 1930s and 40s, imperialism in the 19th century. Two lessons perhaps: that these things usually take a significant period of time to work themselves out; and that to reverse them (if the wave is of a kind you want to see reversed) requires courage, determination, consistency, the development of a new political language and new policy answers to real problems.

It's going to be what John F. Kennedy called a "long, twilight struggle." And, to succeed, we'll have to call on a number of resources:

A great example is the development of western Europe’s combination of market economy and welfare state after 1945. This model, which finally saw off the waves of communism and fascism, needed the intellectual genius of a John Maynard Keynes, the policy know-how of people like William Beveridge and the political skill of people like Clement Attlee. I say “people like” because other names could be inserted for the versions adopted in other west European countries. But what an ocean of blood, sweat and tears we had to swim through to reach that point.

There are no easy fixes. And it's going to take time.

14 comments:

Steve said...

Its clear that xenophoia is deadly. Germany and to a far greater extent Japan face growth extention if they stick with pure blood. However I have to say that both Germany and Japan have pushed far above their weight by being unified. China has copied that manual and its inertia will be difficult if not impossible to overcome and the marginalized white people of the world may take the wrong message from the China model. Yeah they use castration to rule, and that was in the fine print when you voted for the biggest Penis. I am tracking Trump and will report daily, or in Trump terms once in a while but it will be tremendous.

thwap said...

It also took the Great Depression and World War II (when so many "respectable" conservatives and so many "liberal capitalsts" were totally discredited by their devotion to inhuman austerity and their promotion of Hitler as a weapon against communism, so that they produced a World War.

The war at least produced full employment, a stronger labour movement, and validated the earlier claims of socialists and social democrats.

One major thing that causes me doom and gloom these days is how many liberals fail to see that their policies create anger amongst selfish, stupid and/or ignorant people. Or they deny it altogether. "Free markets" and "free trade" apparently aren't making us all happy and prosperous. They're causing job loss, job insecurity, income stagnation, rising debt levels and rising inequality.

Also, rallying behind a lunatic like Hillary Clinton is the opposite of re-building liberal democracy. "Progressives" roared in defiance when dubya spied on them without a warrant but were silent when Obama claimed the right to assassinate them. So long as such people as Clinton and Obama are your champions, so long will your failure be inevitable.

Kirby Evans said...

Indeed we have been here before, and indeed there are no easy fixes. I can't help wondering if there is any fix at all, at least in the present configuration of our nation-states. There is this remarkable split in society between rural and urban and between educated and uneducated, between those who want to look forward and those who are obsessed with the past. I suspect that it is not only going to take time but significant conflict and a shift in what many nation-states look like. I could easily see Trump pushing a racist and conservative agenda so far that states like California start talking about seceding from the nation (in fact they already have started talking about it). I could see other countries splitting up too. I can't help thinking in the face of the renewed racism and xenophobia, people on the left beginning to form new alliances with militant radicalized groups that begin to form for self protection. Meanwhile people like Trump (and a number of the Con candidates in Canada) are simply denying climate change, and this kind of denial could be the source of other progressive alliances. We have been here before, and yet we are in uncharted territory. It's going to be a wild ride I think.

Owen Gray said...

The expectation was that the Republican Party would blow itself apart, thwap. It's the Democratic Party that is in tatters. Time will tell if the party is wise enough to right itself.

At the moment, the conventional wisdom is that the Democrats didn't pay attention to voter anger. That's true. But it's not that simple. Angry people often make stupid decisions -- and stupidity is its own curse.

In the United States, third parties don't have a chance. Either they rise from the ashes of one on the two parties or they are consigned to history's dustbin. We'll see whether or not the Democrats can remake themselves. But it will take time. Unfortunately, the clock -- and the climate -- are ticking.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Kirby. It's going to be a wild ride. And, given the phenomenon of climate change, the time we have is limited.

Owen Gray said...

Japan and China -- when compared to North America -- are relatively homogenized, Steve. We have always had the problem of dealing with different races and cultures. Trump's victory signals that -- on that score -- we haven't been very successful.

Dana said...

We don't have time.

Owen Gray said...

We have a little time, Dana. But, because Trump has appointed Myron Ebell -- a climate denier -- to head the transition at the Environmental Protection Agency, it will be squandered.

The Mound of Sound said...


Garton Ash predicts a generational struggle to save liberal democracy. That assumes we have a couple of decades to spare for the cause. I don't think we have anywhere near that amount of time when the first step would be the restoration of social cohesion. Societies, from the United States to much of Europe, are being carefully and quite deliberately riven along multiple fault lines - political, racial, religious (even sectarian), economic, ethnic, regional and more - fodder for any number of demagogues that have risen or are waiting in the wings. Where we need, more than anything else, social cohesion we have incoherence, resentment, suspicion and anger. There is a powerful spillover effect that weighs on our prospects of meeting even greater challenges such as climate change, resource exhaustion and over-population. Even if Trump lasts just one term (or even part of one), the damage he wreaks may persist for decades. There was more at stake in this election than most people, including Trump voters, imagined.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Mound. This election has been an international tsunami. The clock is ticking. We are working against time.

Steve said...

Myron Ebell is a Harper like appointment. Reagan was the first to start appointing contrarians to cabinet. The secrectrary of labour anti union, etc etc, however we have never had similar appointments as CIA or Sec of Def. I can only hope the mainstream press has learned and will fill the airwaves with the single indisputable fact about global warming. 400ppm CO2. You cant talk about ice ages and other camo science when you see the trend only started in 1950.

Owen Gray said...

Unfortunately, Steve, some people still believe the world is flat.

the salamander said...

..as always, Owen.. thanks for your stimulating posts..

The salamanders believe we are already in an era of 'experiments'..
Canada has emerged from a bizarre 10 year era when a guy from Toronto conducted his personal economic & governmental experiments on the country called Canada.. as well as testing a theory that he could lie and mislead and nobody would be able to keep track of the ever growing pile of deceit.. All of his experiments worked!

Now we can watch as the gasbag asshat Trump the Front.. conducts his insane 'economic' & narcissistic with a willing able and motivated House of Reps, Senate.. and his hand picked toxic pool of madmen. Its not that I liked Mrs Clinton.. its that the way elections run in North America are now set up to elect Parties.. which are closer to being widespread covens than any thing else!

As the Moind of Sound pointed out in the past, Stephen Harper took control of CSIS, the Mounties,vthe Armed Forces, police entities.. and turned Ministries into his experimental fiefdoms.. Don't expect less from the Trump experiments.. expect the worst.. The 1st four years will be the GOP aka the new ReTrumplican Party entrenching.. to take hold for a 2nd 4 year term..

You won't recognize the United States.. when they are through experimenting on it..

Owen Gray said...

When Nixon resigned, salamander, I believed that Churchill was right. Americans eventually did the right thing. I no longer believe that.