Civic duty and voting feels like wandering down a homogonised global high street for a coffee and only ever having the decision between Starbucks or Costa. Democracy in 2016.
Well, politics is in a bit of a mess in 2016. In the UK, Scotland want into the EU and out of the UK. The Labour party cannot agree what it is there for. The conservatives have finally got us out of the EU but now cannot decide what that means. UKIP who have had a meteoric rise are beating each other up, can’t agree on where they go next and nobody wants to lead them, Nigel Farage is far too busy championing Donald Trump. Ah, yes, the Donald… Buffoon or genius? See Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.
In a population of over 300 million, the USA is left with two candidates that nobody actually likes or wants. Worryingly it all seems a bit of a laugh to everyone.
Brexit and the 2016 American presidential election are punches in the nose to the political establishment. They are a reaction to loss of skilled jobs, stagnating wages, financialisation of the economy and globalisation. It’s not quite what Karl Marx had in mind for the rising of the proletariat!
Trump is a product of neoliberalism, free market capitalism and the lorded entrepreneurial spirit. He makes and loses money by whatever means through a variety of companies. The rise of consumerism in the western world and the success of brands such as Trump and the like meant politics had to be next on their hit list. It was only a matter of time. I don’t know why we are so shocked and surprised.
This has serious implications for left versus right politics. What ideology does Donald Trump have apart from a thirst for power and wealth? Just as his business dealings, you can imagine a group of marketing and business executives sitting down and planning out what will sell politically. Big charachter? Seen as anti-establishment and standing up for the down trodden working classes? Anti immigration, blaming immigrants for economic stagnation? Ticks all boxes. The point being is that the only ideology is power and not a way of doing things. The model is used by huge chain retail and food outlets, being everything to everyone, sit firmly in the middle and appeal to the biggest market. The irony of all this is that the conditions that have allowed Trump and the richest 1% to get richer are the very things that have caused the working and middle classes to suffer. The very people he is appealing to. All we need to say about Hilary Clinton is that despite the circus of Trump, it still looks close.
The purist left of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have had an upsurge against Trump and Farage politics but not enough to speak to entire populations. Something the teams of market researchers and focus groups of the right are able to do. How do the left speak to everyone mediated by a largely right wing media in the UK and US?
The UK hasn’t seen the corporate figure head in politics – yet. Andy Street, former managing director of John Lewis is standing for the newly created West Midlands mayoral role. I await the campaign ad with an old punk song covered by a generic soft voice with a furry animal involved somewhere. Hearts melt and votes flood in. Is this the start of the corporate infiltration into politics, Alan Sugar or Richard Branson for Prime Minister?
The issues that we are currently facing globally are ones that are dividing the traditional political left, right and centre. Terrorism, Brexit, immigration, climate change, environment – this month expansion of Heathrow has triggered disagreements in the Conservative party. Parties are split and full of infighting so why stick together? The forming of break away smaller parties is radical and would mean that coalitions would have to be formed to make up governments. The Labour party is ripe for this but would mean career politicians potentially losing that safe seat career. They are currently staying together because it makes financial sense. Neoliberalism and consumerism stand for choice and individualism so why not give us more political choice? Surely in 2016 we can get beyond the choice of two candidates every four or five years. In the UK you are lucky if you have any choice at all if you are in a safe seat constituency.
Could it be possible for MPs to modernise the system from within to aid democracy? Personally, I take quite an interest in politics. I use newspapers, local and national TV and social media to keep up to date but I know very little about what is happening in my constituency. I get to elect the MP every 5 years. Even that is over shadowed by who the PM will be. National government talk about devolving power locally, which in theory sounds good but it’s very hard to find out what is happening locally despite information being so readily available through so many channels. Birmingham City Council (where I live) had a new leader last year, it attracted 30 seconds of coverage on BBC local news. This week by chance I stumbled upon a Guardian article on the new leader’s plans for Birmingham – it was news to me who he was, never mind what he is doing!
Of course some MPs do use social media to engage with ‘the people’. I’m afraid mine just gets into petty arguments with trolls, fighting fire with fire and swearing.
Surely the technology is there to allow MPs to poll their constituents views before they make a vote in parliament or get views on what is happening locally? In the meantime I will watch on worryingly as America goes to the polls and my MP takes on the teenage pranksters on Twitter.