Victories for Brexit and Donald Trump in 2016 would be
deeply destabilising for world peace and would threaten
to turn the ‘Special Relationship’ into an ‘Axis of Evil’
Monday 20th June 2016
Donald Trump’s march to the White House goes on. On Super Tuesday he won sizeable victories in a number of states that makes him virtually unassailable in the race for the Republican nomination at the July convention. Attempts to stop him and replace him with a more ‘amicable’ candidate if he falls just short of the required number of delegates would be a powder-keg moment. It would ignite a civil war within the Republican Party and quite possible result in deep civil unrest. Trump has already indicated that he would call his followers onto the streets, and having previously directly incited violence on the campaign trail by telling Trumpeteers to punch protesters, his fervent supporters would be at no risk of misinterpreting his meaning. Like all dangerous demagogues, Trump is not adverse to inciting violence if the powers that be try to stop him.
As he has already indicated with his wall, a Trump presidency would be bad for migrants. It would also be bad for Muslims and for women and for virtually all minority groups. In his victory speech he contemptuously derided Hillary Clinton’s standing and worth in the Presidential race as being based solely on her gender. This, despite her having served at the highest level of public office for decades while his own experience and knowledge of public policy and world affairs could more than adequately be surmised on the front lid of a cigarette packet.
His unpleasant misogyny and controversial views are longstanding and are not playing to the gallery. His Presidency, we can therefore predict, would lead to a full frontal assault on civil liberties and human rights; human rights that have made great strides around the world in recent years, and have acted as lighting rods to countries and leaders who hold such values in contempt, raising the temperature, increasing the pressure, and making their own ascendancy and grip on their undemocratic fiefdoms less secure and less certain. This assault has already begun in Republican states, with the overturning of LGBT rights in North Carolina with more states looking set to follow. Yet this reversal in global modernity will not just threaten American civil society.
In Britain, similar Trump and Republican-right values are virtually universal in the argument for Britain to leave the EU. In attacking President Obama’s support for Britain to remain a player on the world stage, during the President’s recent visit to the UK, Boris Johnson, the ex-London mayor and wannabe-future-prime-minister, called into question the President’s ancestry, as if this indicated that he couldn’t be trusted. Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, condemned this as “dog-whistle racism”, and its implied “otherness” would certainly not have been lost on a considerable majority of those calling for Brexit. Donald Trump made similar slurs during Obama’s re-election campaign and went on to publicly question the President’s birth right, an imposition that will no doubt be returned on millions of Americans should he secure the White House.
The assault of the transatlantic right on civil liberties and perceived political correctness continues unabated. In America, Fox News can barely conceal its contempt at the US Treasury’s decision to replace the slaveholding, former U.S. president Andrew Jackson on its $20 dollar bill with the ex-slave and abolitionist, Harriet Tubman; while in Britain, the right-wing Daily Mail smeared the new London mayor, Sadiq Kahn, by associating him with the July 7, 2005 London bombings—a kind of connect-the-dots, all-Muslims-are-terrorists inference. These are virtually daily examples of dog-whistle prejudice that emanate from a deep simmering distrust, fear and loathing of the “other” in both Britain and America. They are a backlash and a reassertion of perceived cultural and social superiority that inevitably result in political, social and economic discrimination, all backed up, hidden and marshalled behind an anti-PC banner and affirmative-action conspiracy. Supporters of Trump and Brexit tend to be older white men who view cultures and religions they do not understand as a threat—a view expressed through a strong dislike of immigration.
They are also examples of “breakout”, of strong normalising-attempted, “break-into-the-middle-ground” beliefs that if left unchecked would gravitate into policy, and they have more than an echo of the ghettos in Poland during the Second World War and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s, a conflict that the EU was criticised for not doing more to stop, including by Britain, when conversely, Brexit would make the EU less able to respond to such crises and would further destabilise the region, as a more fragmented Europe would find it much more difficult to agree on a unified response.
In the U.S., Trump has listed a number of progressive policies he would reverse if elected, including health care reform and the normalization of relations with Cuba. This would cause millions of Americans to be priced out of health care and millions of Cubans to be isolated from the community of nations. Trump would reverse the Iran nuclear deal, a major foreign policy success of both the Obama administration and the EU. A Trump America and a Brexit Britain would not have the will or the influence to secure this deal, making the world a more dangerous place.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, in finally coming out in support of her prime minister and the remain campaign, sabotaged the cause by stating that Britain should leave the European Convention on Human Rights, because it is sometimes inconvenient and troublesome to right-leaning policy enactment, thereby completely failing to grasp the fundamental universal core element that is essential in the underpinning and protecting of such rights. It is populist grandstanding that represents the worst kind of grounding for long-term, sound political judgement, and, as with Boris Johnson, though much less brazen, has more than a suspicion of personal ambition and grass-root lobbying for David Cameron’s soon to be vacated Downing Street residence. With this stance being taken by a “Remainer”, it is an erosion of rights and civil liberties that would be accelerated by Brexit.
This assault by the right would be economic as well as social, with workers’ rights and employment protections such as holiday, health and pension, and maternity and paternity provisions directly under threat. Brexit’s clarion call for the people to be liberated from the supposed servitude of unelected EU bureaucrats would in fact see a reassertion of Victorian economic utilitarianism and the deep social division, inequality and economic subjugation that inevitably follows, as indicated by British Nineteenth-Century history and the work of Charles Dickens, with the rights of the wealth creators overly protected, enabling them to harvest and to bottleneck the redistribution of wealth to the people. Examples of this have already been seen with the proliferation of zero-hours contracts and inequality in both Britain and America having accelerated since the financial crisis, from a continued rise over the past forty years, laying wreckage to Conservative economic belief that is wilfully ignored in the governance of the few over the many.
Simultaneously, 1930s America would be revisited with Trump’s protectionism. Trade wars would harm U.S. exports and threaten jobs. It is also incompatible with Brexit’s vision for Britain: a stampede of instant “have-your-cake-and-eat-it” free-trade agreements with the rest of the world, including America. Trump rails against globalization and free trade, blaming it, along with immigration, for America’s ills. Immigration is also the scapegoat of Brexit, which, paradoxically, promises a free-trade utopia while setting fire to its free-trade single market access with the largest economic trading bloc in the world. Investment in education and the infrastructure needed to fully reap the benefits of immigration is the antidote to Trump and Brexit’s socioeconomic snake-oil elixir.
This two-pronged civil rights attack, post-Brexit and post-Trump victory, would occur simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet such an assault on liberal civil society would not just have severe implications domestically. Politico Europe recently reported the Russian influence in Donald Trump’s campaign, including the front-row attendance of the Russian ambassador during his recent strong-man, ‘America First’, foreign policy unveiling. This reveals that Putin’s strategy is to take advantage of the open democracies of the West in order to destabilise them from within. This can be seen in his support for right-wing groups throughout Europe. The media news channel ‘Russia Today’, renamed RT, also follows this pattern of subversion, for whilst castigating the banditry of Western unfettered neoliberalism – itself far from an ignoble cause – it offers not a peep of protest over Russian state-wide corruption and imperial ambitions, thus making a mockery of its supposed journalistic independence from Moscow. Putin then, in his support of groups wanting the dismantling of the EU and a return to national borders, has subversive links stemming from Moscow via Europe and London all the way to Middle America, all with the sole aim of destabilising Europe and weakening the transatlantic alliance and strengthening and extending his influence and borders. This can be seen through the concern of Western intelligence agencies over the alleged Russian infiltration of European political parties. It also explains why right-wing, demagogic leaders such as Trump and Nigel Farage admire Putin for being a strong man. It is the clearest indication yet that Britain’s self-imposed exile from the EU and the community of nations would be celebrated with kholodets and vodka in the Kremlin.
Strategically, and within the confused, contradictory foreign-policy rhetoric, Trump is at best indifferent to the transatlantic alliance, this being the sole reason for European peace and stability over the past 70 years according to those pushing for Britain’s EU exit and the cornerstone of their post-Brexit imaginings. This again would be music to the ears of Putin, enabling him to pursue unchallenged his geopolitical goals, leaving small Eastern European nations who have only recently enjoyed the peace and stability and prosperity of Western democracy in their long histories at the mercy of an isolationist Great Britain, a vastly destabilised European Union, a weakened NATO and a US President more interested in initiating a modern-day Nazi-Soviet pact, leaving Putin free to carve up the satellite states, returning Western Europe, the Middle East and the world to a new, dangerous era of cold-war geopolitical stand-offs.
From a British perspective, leaving the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights would leave Britain less prosperous, less free, and vastly less secure in a weakened, destabilized continent. In America, protectionism, tariff wars, discrimination, social division, and the unravelling of alliances will not regenerate the Rust Belt—they will spread it like dry rot. In a time of peril for transatlantic liberal society, a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for Brexit.
A version of this article has been published by the World Policy Institute and is available here.
Iowa caucus shows US election will be fought on a
platform of new left and rightwing extremes
Tuesday 2 February 2016
Tea ladies watched in school halls as the first Iowan caucus for the nominations for the US Presidential election in November produced a battle of extremes on both the left and the right on Monday. The results can be seen as a litmus test, a reaction and a protest against the political establishment in Washington that many people in the country feel has left them marginalised and unrepresented by the political elite. Inequality has risen exponentially, seemingly for the lifetimes of many younger voters, with wage rises in blue-collar America having remained stagnant for decades and having fallen far behind the colossal increases in the wealth of corporate America. This anger and ill-will is without even considering the fury generated by the financial crash and the institutions responsible, together with their political enablers, who not only have not been held to account but have actually thrived off the meltdown and have continued with business pretty much as usual. Middle America might not have an ivy-league understanding of politics, but they know when they are being screwed.
To the millions of Americans feeling marginalised by the political process; marginalised and alienated socially and economically, candidates from what would normally be considered the fringes of the two main parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, have emerged into the mainstream. Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist – a virtual communist to the Republican Party, who will no doubt be attacked as such if he wins the nomination regardless of who gets the nod from Republicans – has risen on a tide of left-of-centre discontent at the excess of Wall Street, while Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have risen on the fears and anger of middle America that Washington has failed to respond to the problems they face: immigration, unemployment, bad housing, crime, a chronic lack of investment in their local industries and failed education. Into this political vacuum of discontent has swept Trump and Cruz like raging tornadoes to give voice to and to magnify their fury.
On the left, Hillary Clinton is viewed a continuation of the political elite; an establishment figure that failed to reign in Wall Street and hold it to account for its destructive effect on the country’s economy. At worst, she is even viewed as complicit in its greed and unaccountable power and influence over the nation’s political process. While left, left-of-centre Sanders calls for a ‘New Deal’, with America detaching its sacred political institutions from the corroding influence of big business, Wall Street and corporate America. He calls for a UK-style free national health service and for a realigning of the US economy. In calls for a New Deal he receives criticism in democratic circles for lacking Hillary’s more progressive, gradual, and practical grasp of numbers and experience of the trying-to-ride-a-bike-through-a-swamp-like nature of instigating real political reform through an obstinate and filibustering congress.
On the right, there is more than touch of irony that Donald Trump heralds from corporate America. He has spent his life taking advantage of the very system that many would say has done more to stagnate Middle America, marginalise millions of people, and keep wages and incomes low. Yet he has the perfect political ear and tone to hype Middle America’s fears and align them with the real problems of lower-income America. His skill and oratory deftness is in creating a bogeyman and slaying that bogeyman in the same theatrical performance, thereby at once identifying a problem, solving that problem, and creating a better future for all Americans in an hour or so of political grandstanding. It is a tactic that has proved very popular. Yet is it a tactic? Is the bandwagon: Set out stall; hone performance; reap in plaudits; repeat, repeat, repeat. Is this all there is to Trump? America will find out soon.
In viewing this performance from afar, Middle America could do well to ask itself whether immigration is the cause of the problems they face, or whether neoliberalism and corporate excess, permeated through society, from top to bottom, is the more likely cause. Aggressive capitalism instead of people-friendly capitalism. Whoever or whatever is to blame, Trump aims to fix it and make America great again, though he seems less sure on the details of how this will be achieved, except that he will build a wall on America’s Mexican border, and his fervent followers, he’s-behind-you-esque, will shout out, in true circus fashion, who will build it and who will pay for it.
In echoes eerily similar to the Labour Party in Britain lurching further to the left after defeat at the general election, the Republican Party has lurched to the right as a consequence of Barack Obama’s election to the White House in 2008 and re-election in 2012. The candidates now, in vying for the Republican nomination, and during the live televised debates, seemed to have spent their time constantly trying to out-right each other. Now for Republican Middle American it goes without saying that you have to hammer immigrants, even though America was founded on and became great through immigration, and this, despite the perceived wisdom that no candidate, Democrat or Republican, can win the White House without a sizable chunk of young and growing Latin-American support. It is also obligatory to be anti-establishment, and to stand up for the marginalised, the economically repressed, and the left behind, even though unrestrained free-marketeerism must course through your veins at the very core of your being. Abortion has to be evil. Evolution a conspiracy. You have to say guns and religion are America’s salvation. You have to be tough on terror and foreign policy (though not necessarily show much understanding of it). You have to say you’ll carpet bomb Isis and the Middle East and make the sand glow. Whereas a commitment to working with other nations in the region to invoke real, lasting peace, righting past wrongs, thereby defeating the call of Isis, would be suicidal to your prospects.
Ultimately, Sanders might produce a surprise, which would be a sensation, but it looks like Hillary battling it out for the White House, and winning quite comfortably in the end, against any one of the ultra-rightwing fringes from the Republican Party. The question is, and only area of mild contention and interest, is which one? And what next for the Republican Party after November? Will it be a case of even more fruit in the fruit cake?
America’s gun problem
Monday 18 January 2016
Guns have a stranglehold over American civil society. Barack Obama is right to call America’s gun violence an epidemic (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/05/obama-gun-control-executive-action-background-checks-licenses-gun-shows-mental-health-funding). In fact it’s worse than that. It’s a cancer and a curse and a major source of shame and despair for all peaceful, intelligent Americans who cannot stop their children being slaughtered in their own schools where they should be at their safest.
The NRA, though an abhorrent organisation, is right about gun checks. The huge proliferation of guns in America make any checks virtually irrelevant when it comes to the determined disturbed, the persecuted racist, or the lovesick, poor-me, delusional patheticado from acquiring guns.
Why the NRA’s stance in opposing additional gun checks is a strategic mistake, however, is that it makes the nuclear option – an amnesty followed by a complete gun ban that’s written into the constitution for future generations and possible civil war – more likely in the long run (the constitution can be changed – it’s what Amendments are).
This would be bad for America’s gun lobby because it would be a confrontation they could not win. It would also represent the only measure to guarantee America’s children’s safety from being gunned down by nutters (and their right-wing, Second-Amendment, lowlife enablers who also pull the trigger). These people preach freedom, but the reality is that they force people to live in subjugation under the constant fear that death is only one disturbed individual away. These individuals who disguise terror as freedom also argue, retardedly, that the answer to a disturbed individual with a gun is more guns. Personally, I’d love to see them put their theories to the test and see how they do when shot in the back by their own Frankenstein’s Monster creation in a shopping mall. How anyone can go around absorbed in and conducting their everyday lives whilst also hair-trigger ready to pull out a gun and blow someone away in a millisecond’s notice is beyond the imagination of the selfish gun sacreds.
Republicans are tough on terror. They want to take away the means (funding, guns and opportunity), and ultimately anybody who looks like them (Donald Trump), of jihadist terrorists carrying out terror attacks on U.S. soil. When it comes to home grown ‘terrorists’, however, spraying local cinemas and schools full of bullets, well, their means are constitutional. Killing Americans because you don’t like them is wrong (and we’ll make your sand glow), but killing Americans because you don’t like them if you are American (usually white American) is less wrong, and having the means to do so is perfectly ok. Is there a disturbing contradiction here?
The gun lobbies threaten that any gun ban would lead to civil war, but this is probably the only thing to keep future generations safe. The right to bear arms was written into the American constitution by the founding fathers to keep American independence safe and secure, and to enable militia’s to be quickly formed if this independence was ever threatened. They would surely have had Britain in mind here (another poisonous legacy of divine hereditary rule). The founding fathers would surely turn in their graves if they saw the damage this has done to modern American society.
An amnesty followed by a complete ban, whatever the consequences, is the only long-term solution to America’s gun violence. The political will for this would have to be huge, but it would be necessary and would have much greater long-term benefits than any foreign war as America’s gun violence will continue to grow and get worse, blighting the freedom of future generations.
Such measures would represent a huge sacrifice of political will and life, but only then would American citizens and children be safe. It is time for all intelligent peaceful Americans to stand up to the right’s constant threats of initiating the nuclear option if gun controls are imposed on them. Bullies don’t go away. It’s time for America, for the sake of its citizens and its children, to stand up to them.
America’s right-to-be-racist confederacy lost in 1865, and today’s right-to-murder-people confederacy would also lose. America should call their bluff, and be prepared to do whatever is necessary to rid their great country of the cancer of gun violence.