27 December 2016

It’s official: Western politics is now defunct


Over the Christmas week, CapX is republishing its favourite pieces from the past year. You can find the full list here.

Liberal progressives have lost. The stark truth is that the model that has more or less dominated Western politics for the past three decades is defunct. It could not be more dead.

Corbyn kicked us in the ass. Brexit knocked us off our feet. Now President Trump – so weird to write those two words as fact – has stamped on our head and the lights have gone out.

This is even before continental Europe has its say – would anyone now bet against President Le Pen? You need to know when you’re beaten.

“This is a triumph for racists, sexists, the goons of the Far Right.” True, but not enough. Not when a majority in a great country like the US, having delivered two terms to its first black president, can come full circle and replace him with a reprehensible KKK-backed demagogue.

Time to take a look at ourselves. If Hillary Clinton is in part the author of her misfortune, so the wider liberal community is responsible for its own downfall.

We used our hegemony to take down barriers and borders, to connect and build, to (yes) line our own pockets and smugly luxuriate in the goodness of our ideas and intentions.

Meantime, we forgot about those who weren’t able to take part, who weren’t benefiting, to whom free trade and open borders meant greater hardship and uneasy cultural compromises.

Or, let’s be honest, we didn’t forget – we just chose to conveniently ignore. We stopped asking for their permission, ploughed on through the warning signs, and fell off the end of the road.

In vote after vote, enough ordinary and presumably decent people are combining with the moral cave-dwellers (the racists and sexists) to form winning majorities in order to Take Their Country Back.

So deeply felt is their animosity towards the system and those who run it that their calculus has become unfathomable.

Yesterday, they were willing to deliver the highest office on the planet to the most cynical and ill-suited candidate ever to run for it.

Just think: after the numbing brutality of that election campaign, after all the dignity-obliterating facts that emerged about Trump, after all those things he said, how much they must hate us to have taken such a risk. How deeply they have felt their exclusion, and how bitterly they have resented it.

How do we, the liberal losers, respond? Not by carrying on regardless. Sure, our values stand. Despite the political events of this year, we used our long shift to make the world a better, more tolerant and more equal place.

But we have to identify our faults, and come to terms with them. There is no other choice, if we want to win again at some point. We must make accommodation with the world we are in, a world in which we are the minority and our opponents hold power.

There is thinking to be done: there are limits to the acceptability of free movement of people and mass immigration and it appears we have reached them; the downsides of globalisation have proved too great for parts of our society to tolerate – at the very least we failed to do enough to make it work for everyone; the human desire for a shared sense of identity, to belong to a recognisable community, is baked in, and if people feel this is being taken away they will rise up.

Can any of us really doubt that we could – should – have done more to get out ahead of these trends? Token gestures and sneering internet memes were unlikely to do the job.

Instead, we have left the field open for populists and their useful idiots to exploit. They are the masters now, and we are about to visit some extremely dark places. We only have ourselves to blame.

Chris Deerin is a columnist for the Scottish Daily Mail. This article originally appeared in November 2016.