Gideon Rachman & Matthew Goodwin on the British Election, and the ‘Populist Menace’: A Thought Experiment . Old Socialist comments

Headline: The age of democratic deadlock

Sub-headline: Around the world, radicalization is making coalition and consensus much harder

The headline writers at the Financial Times and Mr. Rachman : ‘Welcome to the age of democratic deadlock’ The anti-system parties are now the political  problematic as diagnosed by Rachman, in its almost world context*  . Along with Identity Politics. ( Note that Johnson is mentioned more than once in the essay, yet Corbyn is utterly absent!)

It is not just the number of parties that matters; it is also their nature. The process of coalition-building and consensus-forming is made much harder by political radicalisation. The rise of anti-system parties that are deemed to threaten democracy or the survival of the nation, narrows the number of potential governing partners for mainstream parties.

Politics is also no longer dominated by economic questions. Instead, issues of identity such as Brexit or Scottish independence are on the rise in Britain too, with the effects seen elsewhere.

In a British focus on elections, refracted through American political history , Matthew Goodwin in the Times of November 3, 2019:

Headline:General election 2019: Jeremy Corbyn’s elite‑bashing is naked populism

Sub-headline: Labour’s demonising of the rich is divisive, but it resonates with voters

Mr. Goodwin writes this: What followed was a textbook example of the angry, divisive populism that is eroding everything once considered essential to our culture of consensus. But there is more, this is The Times!

This was the argument put forward nearly 60 years ago in a landmark study by the academics Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba. Unlike the Germans and Italians, the British nurtured a culture that was pluralistic, consensual, trustful of institutions and, most importantly, deferential to elites. A nation that respects elites, as reflected in our love affair with Downton Abbey, leaves little room for elite-bashing populists.

Populists on the left and right are united in their belief in a corrupt, self-serving and neglectful elite that undermines the interests of the “pure” people. Right-wing populists contend this elite is political. The left contends it is economic. Corbyn’s enemies of the people are not remainers and the courts but “billionaires”, “big polluters”, “greedy bankers”, “tax dodgers”, “dodgy landlords”, the “privileged few” and the “bad bosses”.

Mr. Goodwin’s polemic is much more historically informed than Rachman’s,  yet it relies on the American history of ‘Populism’ rather than British sources, aided by an informative  quotation from H.L. Mencken: on the continuing patency of American political hysteria, that can be traced  back to Cotton Mather’s  use of ‘spectral evidence’ in the Salem Witch Trails.

About the why of both ‘democratic deadlock’, as world wide political pandemic, and ‘our culture of consensus’ under threat of Corbyn’s ‘political radicalism/nihilism’ remain a rhetorical phantom, in both Rachman’s and Goodwin’s essays. The reader is moored in both cases in a-historical territory.

The absent player in all these acts, of a single political melodrama, is the Economic Crisis of 2008. And Neo-Liberalism, as a now spent political/economic force. The Technocrats and Politicians who were its salesman, and codified its ideas into law and practice, have been proven to be, not just unreliable, but profiteers of a system, that robbed people of their futures.

The political condition that has afflicted political actors by this world wide pandemic is not just a  loss of faith , but a sense of electorates betrayed, by the greed of The Managers , Technocrats, who now chatter at them in their Corporatist newspapers, Television and on Internet Platforms on their unworthiness as citizens of a polity- the Soviet writer Zinoviev’s  books ‘The Yawing Heights’ and ‘The Radiant Future’ are instructive satires on a system in a state of collapse.

Old Socialist

*Note the absence of the the failed Neo-Liberal experiment of Macri in Argentina. The Peronists won, in a contest heavenly editorialized upon in both The Economist and The Financial Times. A perfect example of the Populist Menace?







About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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