Monday 20 January 2020

Boris & Donald - The Terrible Twins

There was a time when it would have been hard to imagine that two men the like of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson could change the political landscapes of the USA and the UK.

How did they manage such a herculean task? They shifted the sympathies of the white working classes of both countries from left to right of center.

The albatross of Brexit may prove to be too big a burden in the UK but in the short term it has delivered many longstanding Labour seats to the Conservatives.

Amazingly this shift has, at least economically, brought the island of Ireland within shouting distance of unity.

Will Loyalists go along with this seeming fait accompli – that’s a whole other question? But with his ability to lie and cajole Boris Johnson may be the one person who can finally silence the echoes of “Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right.”

Is it my imagination or does October 2016 seem more like thirty years ago rather than a mere three?

Cast your mind back to the month before the presidential election that changed everything.

It was then I first began hearing from working and lower middle class communities that “everyone around here is voting for Trump.”

At first it was a trickle but by election day it was all too apparent that many voters had a visceral dislike of Mrs. Clinton and were willing to gamble their ballots on the unlikeliest of Republican candidates, Donald Trump.

In a perfect storm he won the presidency by 79,646 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania despite gaining only 46.4% of the national vote.

My research is decidedly unscientific – emails from friends and activists around the country and visits to various watering holes, but I’m finding that the affection of the working class for the billionaire from Fifth Avenue has if anything deepened.

What’s the attraction? “The economy stupid” is a factor but a shared sense of grievance – an “us against them” factor is bone deep. Add a deep-seated fear that the US is headed in the wrong direction and you have a bond that won’t be easily sundered.

What’s really striking is that the working and lower-middle classes are in general not profiting from the strong economy.

Unemployment is at a record low but “the good jobs are gone,” is the refrain I hear most – replaced by minimum wage positions that provide little hope of entry into middle-class life.

It goes without saying that few from this new nether-class have profited from the amazing stock market gains of 2019.

In fact most bar-owners I speak to long for the good old “shot and beer” days that have been replaced by their former working class customers hurrying home with a discount six-pack to watch Fox News.

Can the Democrats win the upcoming presidential election? Sure they can. After all, Mr. Trump could self-destruct. 

The ignorance, braggadocio and self-delusion that led to the assassination of Iranian General Qassim Suleimani is never far from the surface. 

Mr. Trump’s split second “kill” decision will inevitably have long-term consequences, but in this current election cycle will probably play out like the patriotic jamboree that accompanied the disastrous invasion of Iraq back in 2003.

If so, Democrats may need a perfect storm of their own to win in November.

They’ll need to turn out the youth vote in unprecedented numbers - a shaky proposition at the best of times. Young people may be aghast at climate change and the world they’re inheriting but they can be ambivalent about voting.

Most African-Americans will vote Democrat but the candidate better provide a riveting Vice-Presidential choice like Stacy Abrams. This powerful campaigner could turn Georgia and galvanize her community to vote in numbers large enough to make a difference.

Suburban women will vote Democrat this year but it’s sobering to remember that Mr. Trump won a majority of white women in 2016.

The bulk of the white working class vote is lost for the foreseeable future but there are those who still long for the old shot and beer days. Peel them off in sufficient numbers and you have the beginnings of a counter-revolution. 

Remember Mr. Trump only won in 2016 by 79,646 votes.