Wednesday 26 April 2017

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The anti-liberal backlash

This blog first appeared in Malta Today

I promised myself i wouldn’t write any more about Trump’s election. However, the repercussions of what this all means continue to intrigue me.

Over the last week I have noticed a common thread over and over, as more and more people who secretly admired Trump but never quite really wanted to say so, keep coming out of the woodwork now that he’s won (everyone loves to be on the winning side, huh?)

What I am seeing from the Trump effect is the anti-liberal backlash. Or, to be more precise, what is being labeled as “extreme liberalism”. Now I have tried to figure out what that actually means, and I have basically boiled it down to anyone who voices an opinion that is in favour of minorities be they gay, immigrants, blacks (and any other race except white), and of course, women’s reproductive rights. Liberals have become something to be loathed apparently because (if conservatives are to be believed) they want everything to be a “free for all”, in a world where everyone can do what they like, live the way that they like, with no social mores which keep us all in our place. This is, of course a very skewed interpretation, because it implies that liberals are against all rules and regulations when in fact, the opposite is often the case. When it comes to living in a civilized society I find that those who are tolerant and who mind their own business when it comes to personal issues tend to be people who respect law and order quite a lot. It is just that we don’t expect to be policed and controlled in our private lives.

I struggle to understand why being liberal presents such a problem. But it seems that if you simply live your own life without trying to impose your beliefs on others, then I guess you are stepping over some mysterious line.

Think about it, what gets those who are very conservative in their views all worked up the most? Isn’t it those issues which are a matter of free choice which really have nothing to do with them, but are all about how others live? It is like they want to wrestle everyone into a box so that we all toe the line and behave exactly the same, like lobotomized little robots, irrespective of whether we are happy in that box or not.

Another thing which seems to bother a lot of people is what has come to be known as political correctness. You know, little things like not being derogatory towards others because of their race or gender, that kind of thing. So when a brash, vulgar, loud man comes along who “says it like it is” they describe this as “the truth” rather than seeing it for what it really is: inflammatory, hate speech which has no place on the lips of someone aspiring to be a leader and a statesman. I don’t know about you, but I prefer a President (or in our case, a Prime Minister) who is eloquent and dignified and who weighs his words carefully because of his position. I don’t want a replica of that infamous TV bigot Archie Bunker from All in the Family. Sure, it sounds like a great idea to have someone who can be a ‘man of the people’ but the importance of what a politician says, and how he says it, should never be under-estimated. Shouldn’t we expect those who lead to be the best version possible of ourselves, rather than the worst possible version? Knowing that the man who is today the President-elect ran his campaign and got elected because he dumbed down his discourse for it to be lapped up by a dumbed down electorate (and the world) is of small consolation.

If the things he said during his campaign was “just talk” and “he did not really mean it” then why did so many agree with his views? Either they agreed with him knowing full well that he was bluffing, or else they are going to be sorely disappointed.

By ignoring the larger states on the East and West Coast which are well-known for being liberal, and focussing instead on the rural areas of the country, Trump’s rhetoric struck a chord especially among blue collar workers who no longer feel represented by the Democratic party which it sees as being out of touch with their lives. I definitely agree that the DNC has a lot of soul-searching to do to get back on its true ideological footing, but by rejecting what they saw as “too liberal” they may well find themselves being thrown from the flying pan into the proverbial fire

Trump declared himself “anti-establishment” (better look that definition up, folks) and someone who is not part of the “political elite” (ditto). He has promised all sorts of things to make American great again, with everyone reading into that slogan, their own interpretation. He has been hailed as some kind of Messiah.

But the adulation of politicians as a Messiah is never a good idea. That is what has led to some of the world’s worst demagogues, tyrants and dictators.
During his campaign he came up with a lot of great buzzwords and phrases, such as the fact that he would “drain the swamp” of establishment politicians. Yet with his transition team made up of lobbyists and donors to his campaign, that promise is already a dead duck.
“It doesn’t look like they’re draining the swamp, it looks like they’re pouring the swamp into the transition,” said Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “If nothing changes, they’ll be pouring the swamp into the Oval Office as well.”

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