A complacent elite is to blame for politics being turned upside down: Now what?

This has been kicking around in my files for a month now, seems like the best-laid plans… In any case, as it grew less timely, I wonder if it hasn’t become important. I rather think it has. Seems to me that what he speaks of here is becoming more true in the US, at least, every day. A huge amount of the day-to-day reality of how politics is done is this country has been uprooted, on both sides. And so all is in flux.

How we put it back together to make it work (or not) is likely to be to be a large part of the question going forward. And do remember it’s not just us. Brexit in the UK, much of the turmoil caused by the Islamists in Europe, has much the same cause.

In large measure, I think all of the enemies of freedom around the world are sensing that the system is weak at the moment and that this may be their opportunity. They could be right, but they don’t have to be. How we answer the basic questions going forward will answer that question.

Western political systems are in the middle of a realignment. The way we think of left and right is a relic of the Cold War. Reality is finally catching up with us, several years late, and doing away with obsolete political movements and parties.

We saw direct evidence of this when, on both sides of the Atlantic, ordinary people finally had a chance to circumvent their nations’ political elites. In the United States, Trump used his wealth and high profile to sidestep party donors, special-interest groups and political correctness.

In the United Kingdom, the referendum on European Union membership vested power temporarily in the British voting public, not Cabinet ministers or party whips.

These unusual circumstances exposed profound but long-hidden fault lines in both countries’ political systems. I knew these fault lines existed, but I was surprised by how quickly they devastated the status quo.

The American conservative movement, for instance, at least as we knew it before Trump’s entry into the presidential race last summer, no longer exists. Whether by accident or design, Trump ignored the reference points of left and right, putting together a coalition of Middle Americans who don’t care about ideological purity. Coming from old-fashioned Democratic and Republican backgrounds, these voters are united by a cultural conservatism that used to be standard in both parties. They care about pragmatic action on a handful of issues, mainly immigration, political correctness, crime and jobs.

Something similar happened in Britain. Outside the London cloister, Labour voters overwhelmingly rejected the metropolitan version of left-wing politics. Along with many shire Tories, they have specific views on sovereignty, independence and immigration. Just as in the US, this broad cultural conservatism used to be a given within each party until cosmopolitanism took its place.

We are heading for a politics in which the divisions are no longer just left and right, at least not in the sense we’ve used those terms for the past few decades. The shift is splitting all current movements into nationalist and internationalist wings – or perhaps populist and establishment, middle class and upper class, or urban and provincial.

This is happening because so many of the traditional features of left and right no longer apply to them. A working-class white person seeking representation used to find it in the left. Now what does he get? A movement telling him to check his “privilege”. A conservative used to be able to count on the right to make the case for cultural assimilation. Now he, too, is told to be quiet and make way for “progress”.

via A complacent elite is to blame for politics being turned upside down – CatholicHerald.co.uk

Like so much of what we write here, we have to answer the questions for ourselves. I’m not sure that there are correct answers, in aggregate, you have to answer based on our knowledge and bedrock philosophy. So do I.

‘Mad as hell’?

Mad as hell

There is a palpable anger in our politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Here in the UK, one Labour MP was shot recently, and others have been threatened. This verbal violence is happening in the Labour Party, which preaches equality and social justice. It did not happen under Miliband, Brown and Blair, but it does under Corbyn, who, of course denounces it, but seems incurious about why it is happening on his watch, and quite unable to stop it. One of the problems with being a social justice warrior seems to be that the end justifies the means; demonise your opponents, and then you can treat them as demons; it is not a good way to do politics. There were some ugly scenes and the RNC last week, and there will be at the DNC this week. Meanwhile across the Channel, there have been attacks in Nice, Munich and other places, and the authorities, presumably trying not to stir things up, play down any religious motive in them, which, alas, simply makes ordinary people even more suspicious about what is going on. All of this increases the sense many ordinary people have that politics has become a place where the elites enrich themselves at our expense – and to steal a phrase, it makes many ‘mad as hell’ and they ‘don’t want to take it’.

In the UK the opinion formers and the media were confident that ‘Remain’, their side, would win, and as a ‘Remainer’ I hoped it would. But they ran an ugly and negative campaign, mainly around economics, warning us of the consequences of failing to vote the right way. What they failed to understand was that millions already feel penalised by the system, so they didn’t really see it getting much worse for them personally; the alienated, the simply fed up and grumpy, and the ardent ‘leavers’ were sufficient to overturn conventional wisdom and the predictions of the pollsters, and so the ‘Remain’ side lost.

This time last year we were confidently being told Trump would not survive the summer; then it was the autumn he wouldn’t survive; then it was ‘Super Tuesday’ that would bury him; then it was an agreement among his challengers which would finish him off; then he became the nominee. The media don’t ‘get it’. He does not follow the Clinton playbook. We shall see, with Hillary whether that one still works, but it does not work with the millions who are sick to their back teeth of self-serving, venal and lying politicians. Sure, Trump’s a load mouth, sure he’s rich, but the Americans have never minded rich men, it is politicians enriching themselves to which objection is taken; Trump’s riches mean he can’t be bought; if Hillary were a listed company she’d have a who board of directors running her.

Here in the UK, the new PM, Theresa May, came in talking of her sense of public duty and acknowledging that many people felt they were being left behind; these are good words, but they need to be followed by delivery. There is a palpable sense that the anger currently felt begins to threaten the system itself. The political system is not an end in itself, but it seems to have become one for the politicians and the lobbyists; unless it begins to fulfil the ends for which it exists – the public good  – the public may decide to end it – and if that happens, it won’t be pretty. We need to rediscover a sense of duty and morality in public life – we have gone on too long as though those were mere words – well words alone no longer suffice.

Molon Labe: The European Edition

w1056 (3)Molon Labe is perhaps one of the most famous sayings amongst Americans. We use it most in regard to the gun grabbers, and we use it in exactly the sense that Leonidas meant it, because we know that unarmed sheep-dogs are little more than sheep. But the Greeks remember the Spartans too. Here’s one of them Taki writing in The Spectator this week.

The Brussels dictatorship has enslaved my country; it will not enslave England

The two most beautiful words in the history of the world, in any language, are ‘Molon labe’, the accent on the second syllable of both words, the ‘b’ pronounced ‘v’ in the second. These two little words were the laconic answer of King Leonidas of Sparta to the offer made by the great Persian king Xerxes of not only safe passage, if the Greeks laid down their arms, but also a settlement of lands of better quality than any they currently possessed.

You know what I’m talking about. The Hot Gates, or Thermopylae in Greek. The year is 480 BC, the month is August, and the Persians number more than 1,250,000 fighters, accompanied by 1,800 triremes in support. The rest of the Greeks under Themistocles are praying for time — and gales — further south, and Leonidas has only 300 Spartans he can count on. (The Thebans have already seen the Persian hordes arriving and have left the battlefield.) The Persian scouts who surveyed the Hot Gates’ defenders in astonishment were allowed to gallop around freely.

Later in the day, an emissary from Xerxes approached the Spartans. The offer of safe passage and riches to come if they lay down their arms was made, and Leonidas replied, ‘Molon labe’ (‘Come and get them’). The great British historian Tom Holland called such examples of Spartan sang-froid ‘gems of cool’, and they were the coolest words imaginable in 480 BC.

It’s always reminded me of Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe’s answer to the German at Bastogne, “Nuts“, in fact.

Nearly 2,500 years later, there are no cool responses. Just a lot of moaning and groaning and cries of let’s do it all over again from the losers. […] Screw Juncker and the technocratic dictatorship of Brussels; they’ve already enslaved my country but they will not enslave England. (Scotland will play it like Thebes did in 480, but then again it might not.) All people should say ‘Molon labe’ to the Circe-like offers of money and comfort from the EU technocratic hordes, ‘Molon labe’ until the bureaucracy reforms itself and its rigid, doctrinaire ways.

We Greeks fought off the Persians because they tried to conquer us through force of arms. The Brits said no to the EU because it tried to conquer through stealth and lies. The EU would never reform itself without a push. Now it has been pushed rather hard. Modern Greece chose the easy way six years ago because we have Ephialteses, not Spartans, leading us; Ephialtes being the traitor who led the Persians to outflank the 300 through a pass. Greece is a EU protectorate, so heaven help us. You Brits chose freedom. You should be proud.

via The Brussels dictatorship has enslaved my country; it will not enslave England

You British should indeed be proud, you’ve rejoined the club that you started in 1215, renewed your membership in 1642, and 1688 that we joined in 1776. Remember, though, it’s a hard road, it took us seven years to throw off Lord North’s bureaucracy, not to mention the bloody Hessians. But it’s easily worth it. We’ll be thinking about you next Monday, July 4th

Happy (British) Independence Day!

 

 

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Brexit won’t hand victory to the SNP. A unionists’ breakdown just might.

From the Spectator’s Coffee House Blog.

There’s a lot going on the UK right now, much of it has to do with the Tories looking around trying to find something approaching a leader, while labor is having a fairly civil war on itself. That means that Nicola Sturgeon is making hay while the sun shines, pushing for another referendum on Scotland leaving the Union. That this is on the face of it, ludicrous, makes no difference at all. First, how likely is the EU to welcome another failed state? Spain has already said they’ll veto. Then there is the fact that England has subsidised Scotland since, I don’t know, 1707 maybe. Anyway, here’s the article.

Over the last few years, Scots have had to get used to Nicola Sturgeon telling them what they think. When the SNP had its majority (one the voters stripped away in this year’s Holyrood election) she was keen to present herself as the voice of the country: l’Ecosse, c’est moi. If the SNP wants X, then Scotland wants X. She’s at it again, saying that the UK has voted out of the European Union and Scotland has voted in – so the UK was voting ‘against the interests of the Scottish people’ and finally provided the provocation needed to launch a new referendum.

In fact, two-in-five Scots – and even a third of SNP voters – supported Brexit. Last week, a TNS poll suggested that 72 per cent of Scots would vote to Remain: the end result was 62 per cent. Yes, far higher than the 48 per cent in England. But it does not automatically follow that Scotland loves Brussels so much that she’d break the Union with England to stay in the European Union. A Sunday Times poll today, taken after the Brexit vote, shows 52 per cent of Scots would vote to Leave. That figure would need to be consistently at 60 per cent for Sturgeon to risk a second referendum, as she has always said. As Hamish Macdonnell tells me in our Coffee House shots podcast (below), Brexit may have changed her calculation. But it absolutely does not follow that Brexit means the SNP triumphing in a new referendum.

Before last week, there were eight polls asking Scots if they’d want to separate from the UK in the event of Brexit. As the below chart shows, it’s far from conclusive: Brexit made ‘yes’ a bit more likely (on average, increasing ‘yes’ by about four points) but it’s just not a transformation. As John Curtice says, these eight polls were dealing with a hypothetical: now, it’s real – and that could change things. A Sunday Post poll today, for example, puts support for separation at 59 per cent.

But Sturgeon is one of the most formidable politicians in Europe, let alone Britain. She senses that she can change the political weather, especially given that almost all her main opponents were against Brexit. And that a lot of people in London are going a little bit mad right now. The whole vibe of Andrew Cooper’s Project Fear meant that David Cameron and others had to predict the end of the union, amongst other signs of societal collapse, if Britain voted out. It’s now as if they’re half-willing it to be true.

Cameron’s unexpected decision to quit on Friday, rather than stay on for longer and provide a period of stability, has created a vacuum in Westminster. It’s a stunning development, which nationalists in Scotland and Ireland are now exploiting. A lot of Remainers, even in the Cabinet, are now actively on the lookout for the meltdown that they promised: keen to point to the arrival of the plague of locusts, etc. Many Scottish unionist politicians commentators, who also were strongly against Brexit, locked themselves into the same line of argument. So now, it’s as if some of them would half-welcome a nationalist residence as vindication.

via Brexit won’t hand victory to the SNP. A unionists’ breakdown just might. | Coffee House

Britain must reconnect with its Christian roots to heal post-referendum divisions

Out brexitFrancis Phillips wrote today in The Catholic Herald a most interesting article, and yes, I know her slightly, and like her, from Jess’ site (and a few others). She’s an eminently sensible person and a very nice one. She may be, alone of my British friends, the lone supporter of Brexit, which isn’t as surprising as it sounds, my friends tend to be of the establishment, and quite highly educated, which are the two of the areas that Remain drew its strength. Luckily for me, they tend to be more tolerant of dissent than the actual left there, or here, as well as very good friends, indeed. I agree with Francis that Britain (and America, for that matter) need to get back to our Christian roots, but that isn’t what I found so interesting. here’s some of her article.

St John Paul II once pleaded with the EU to recognise its Christian traditions, but unfortunately his appeal fell on deaf ears

I was going to start this blog with a cliché like, “Now that the dust has settled on the referendum vote to leave the EU”, but then it struck me that the dust hasn’t settled at all. As anyone who read my blog for last Thursday will know, I voted for Brexit. This brought divisions within the family: one son actively campaigned to leave; one daughter voted to remain (while her husband, from Northern Ireland, voted to leave); another son-in-law, who is from an EU country, now feels he is unwelcome in the UK. My youngest daughter’s carer, who is in her 40s, has voted for the first time in her life: for Brexit. And so on.

Living in a village in Buckinghamshire I did a small bit of leafleting for Brexit on a former council estate across the road. Four out of five people made it clear to me that they were fed up with Brussels; “We want to have our country back” was their view – not so different from the highly educated Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. I only met one dissenting voice, an annoying lady who, whenever I tried to put a statement of fact to her, such as “When we joined the Common Market in 1973 we saw it simply a trade agreement”, or “The euro has been very bad for Greece”, glibly replied, “That’s your opinion”. You can’t argue with people like that.

It is a slur from the disappointed Remain camp to infer that those who voted for Brexit are “racist”. One of the keenest people who worked for my son’s campaign in a London borough was an 18-year-old Pakistani youth, the son of immigrants, who believes passionately in our country’s sovereignty. Three French people, two Italians and a Pole also helped him spread the Brexit message. Yet the members of my Book Club – middle-class, older women graduates and Guardian readers – all voted to remain, apart from me. So it is a complicated picture and it will take time, generosity and tolerance for the deep divisions in the country that the Referendum has opened up to be healed.

As Charles Moore wrote in the Telegraph on Saturday, “Democratic self-government – parliamentary democracy – is what the modern British nation is founded on… It was slipping away from us. Now we have reclaimed it.”

via Britain must reconnect with its Christian roots to heal post-referendum divisions – CatholicHerald.co.uk

I think that may be a key thing with the vote. It seemed to me that many people let their education, or their economic interests override the very fact that control of their government was slipping away. In fact, one of my friends, who is both Headmistress of a girl’s school and trustafarian, told me that she was voting based on the advice of her financial advisor. One can’t really argue with that reasoning, if they don’t have the basis that we’re arguing from. And that is why, I think, that so many American

And that is why, I think, that so many American conservatives were so overjoyed at the results. We saw what maybe the British were too close to see, that Britain was quickly becoming a province of (nondemocratic) Europe, rather than the force of nature and freedom that produced the modern world, and America as well.

There is a lot of commentary that many voters were ill-informed, and it may be so, but what I saw here was Britain, and yes, especially England, reclaiming its heritage, and its government. That goes far deeper than the issues, it goes to the heart of what many Americans and Britons proclaimed on Friday, Independence Day, the British 4th of July. And in dealing with the Brexiteers, reading and commenting, I loudly claim that I saw very little racism, xenophobia, or little Englandism, I saw people who wanted what conservatives always want, to save the good and change the bad going always forward. As the Speccie said, “Out, and into the world.”

Yesterday, we quoted Christopher Monckton of Brenchley who said,

The people have spoken. And the democratic spirit that inspired just over half the people of Britain to vote for national independence has its roots in the passionate devotion of the Founding Fathers of the United States to democracy. Our former colony showed us the way. Today, then, an even more heartfelt than usual “God bless America!”

We pray God that it will be so. We also agree with that famous quote of William Pitt the Younger from about 200 years ago.

“England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example.”

Still again.

Britain’s Elites Can’t Ignore the Masses

Megan McArdle wrote the other day about her experience in a European airport and spending a day in Luton. if you would know the real reason that England specifically voted for Brexit, I think she found it, as well as anyone can sort out the many and varied reasons why the Brits decided to leave. None of it strikes me as racist, really, nor would I have expected it of the Brits. It merely strikes me as a feeling that the lifeboat is full, and that to swamp it will do no one any good.

The airport was short on seats and power outlets even before flight-delayed travelers were stacked eight-deep along the floors. Perhaps a dozen of us middle-aged folk had wrested a single power outlet from the teenagers who had tethered themselves to all the other sources of battery-life-giving energy in the vicinity. We huddled around this small electric flame in the manner of travelers everywhere, taking what sustenance we could, drinking wine and swapping stories of our homelands. I was asked to explain Donald Trump. And by way of getting my own back, I naturally asked about the referendum on Brexit, which is now just days away.

The folks I talked to were from all over Britain, but they had middle age in common as well as, mostly, membership in the petit bourgeoisie. What did they think about leaving the EU?

“I still don’t know how I’m going to vote,” said an adult-education teacher from the Midlands, who then proceeded to deliver a long and earnest speech about the cost of providing social services to immigrants, which suggested that she wasn’t really so unsure. Her sentiments were echoed by other people I talked to during that endless layover.

These weren’t racist diatribes; no one mentioned race or nationality, and, in fact, they were very sympathetic to the plight of immigrants. They just didn’t want to have to accept them into their country — operative words “have to.” The dominant tone was what is often called compassion fatigue, and their arguments were not unreasonable.

Riding a refugee-crowded ferry back from the Greek island of Lesvos last fall, my heart broke for every one of the families I saw. But I couldn’t help but ask myself just how many such people Europe could absorb in a short period of time. The people in the airport were asking themselves the same question, and the answer they were getting was “no more, please.”

Around 1:30 Monday morning, a budget jet brought me to Luton, where I stayed overnight. The next leg of my travel did not begin until late afternoon, and so I took the opportunity to walk around the area near the Mall Luton, which turned out to be a very good place to think about Brexit.

Luton is a city of about 200,000 people on the outskirts of London. It was once known for its manufacture of hats, and in 1905, Vauxhall Motors opened a manufacturing plant in Luton. The company stopped making passenger cars there in 2002, and the town is now — like so many places in Europe and America — looking for its post-industrial future. EasyJet, a budget airline, is based there, but as you so often find in similar cities in the U.S., the biggest employers are the local government and the local hospital. It has also had a dramatic shift in population. The Luton councilestimates that “between 50% and 75% of the population would not have lived in Luton or not have been born at the time of the 2001 Census.” It is now minority white British, and only barely majority white.

via Britain’s Elites Can’t Ignore the Masses – Bloomberg View

So very much of this, in my view, comes down to the ‘elites’ completely losing touch with the population, in Britain, yes. But also in America, where in my view it has propelled Donald Trump, and may well see him as President. Will it make America Great again? I doubt it, but there is a price to be paid for losing touch with one’s people, and the bill may be coming due, or perhaps overdue. It certainly did in Britain, where a majority of people, mostly working people like you and me, not the educated elites, have simply had enough, and whatever problems that causes, well, if the toffs had been listening, it need not have gotten to this point. In the final assessment, the people are sovereign, and while they care about others, they care more about those like them, and especially their children.

Don’t we all?

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