August 16, 2016 4 Comments
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”.
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.