Nick Clegg, Defiler Of Liberalism, Has Something To Say About Populism

Populism is bad, mmkaaay?

“I think it’s important to remember populism can be a very positive, can be – I mean, Gandhi was a kind of populist. If populism is about challenging a complacent elite, challenging an established order, speaking for people who are not spoken for, populism is a really really important antidote for complacency in politics” – Nick Clegg

The only way that one can hold this seemingly benign attitude toward populism while deploring Brexit and the vote to leave the European Union is either to misunderstand the true nature and purpose of the EU, or to be engaging in deliberate deception.

Nick Clegg is not an uneducated man. With his career, he knows better than most precisely what the EU is, how it operates and where it is heading. He knows that the European Union is more than the “friendship ‘n co-operation”, humble free trade club portrayed by deceitful Remainers during the referendum campaign. In other words, the ignorance excuse is not available to Nick Clegg.

That leaves only the conclusion that Nick Clegg is a liar. A very affable and eloquent liar, certainly, but a liar all the same, and a particularly dangerous one for his gifts.

Nick Clegg would seriously have us believe that the European Union has nothing to do with a “complacent elite”, an “established order” or “complacency in politics”, and that therefore Britain voting to liberate ourselves from the EU is therefore the “bad kind” of populism as opposed to the virtuous kind, which he happily supports. How anybody could sit and listen to him advance this view without either laughing or heckling is completely beyond me.

What nonsense; Nick Clegg has no time for populism of any kind, because it inevitably threatens the rule and routines of the elite in which he is so personally ensconced. Besides the archetypal High Tory, it is hard to imagine a senior British politician with less affinity for anyone who supports any populism movement. At his core, Nick Clegg believes that politics is something to be done to the people by enlightened, “liberal” elites like himself, not something for the masses to influence, with their base prejudices and uncomfortable opinions.

We know this because immediately prior to praising populism, Nick Clegg also said this:

“Populism is redolent with kind of uncontrollable rages and angers and passions, whereas liberalism – at least the liberalism I believe in – is about reason, rationality and evidence, and so on and so forth.”

No. The “liberalism” that Nick Clegg believes in consists of insulating oneself inside an hermetically sealed, epistemically closed information loop, listening only to those “experts” or paying heed to those “facts” which are conveniently in line with one’s own globalist, anti-nation state worldview to the complete exclusion of all other parameters, angles and viewpoints, before applying “reason” to that desperately narrow window on reality and pronouncing verdicts which always comfort and never challenge the metropolitan Regressive Left mindset.

Nick Clegg is perfectly entitled to hold and profess those seethingly anti-democratic, elitist positions. But he should not be allowed to get away with calling himself a liberal while he does so.

Watch this fascinating Intelligence Squared debate/discussion between the excellent social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and the sneering, unrepentantly euro-elitist Nick Clegg, on the subject of populism.

 

nick-clegg

Bottom Image: Chatham House / Wikimedia Commons

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Donald Trump Is Rick Santorum 2.0 – Less Social Conservatism, But Economic Populism On Steroids

Former Republican presidential primary candidate Rick Santorum, siren of the white working classes back in 2012, ran a campaign which laid the groundwork for Donald Trump’s insurgency in 2016, and ultimately prophesied his victory

For several months now I have been waiting for somebody to make the connection between Rick Santorum‘s strong running in the 2012 Republican primaries and the playbook which took Donald Trump all the way to the White House.

Way back during the 2012 campaign, I noted that Santorum was singing a siren song to the “white working classes” of rust belt America, responding to their very real and valid concerns with reassuring but unrealistic promises that the tide of globalisation could (and should) be turned back, thus sparing them the need to adapt to the new America.

Back then I labelled Rick Santorum the “Pied Piper of Pennsylvania“, a reference to the way in which the former Pennsylvania senator accumulated a large, trusting and often sympathetic audience of followers, but whom he would ultimately lead off the edge of an economic cliff:

Barring certain specific exceptions, the manufacturing jobs that America has lost will simply never return.

And perhaps among all of the things that Rick Santorum says that rile me up, this one makes me the most angry. He is peddling a Pleasantville-style, black and white, 1950s vision of a country where once again it is possible to live a comfortable middle class lifestyle with a decent sized family home and a couple of cars, paid for by the wages earned from assembling televisions, or refrigerators, or cars. And Republican primary voters, many of whom are in the squeezed middle class and have been let down by successive administrations, are listening to Santorum’s claims and gaining hope, and voting for him, even though he cannot in actual fact turn the clock back fifty years, even if he does actually want to.

Whether he wins or loses the Republican primary and the general election, the persistence of this argument – and the belief that a few tweaks to the tax code and the drilling of a few more oil wells will spur a resurgence in unskilled and semiskilled manufacturing – simply dooms another generation of people to a life of stagnating or falling living standards.

People trust Santorum because, unlike the other main Republican candidates, he is so genuine. Why would he advocate policies that would hurt them, when he was one of them? And yet the policies that he proposes would either do little to bring back more unskilled or semiskilled manufacturing jobs, or would make the US population even less qualified to perform those jobs which already exist. And all the time that people hold out hope that a Rick Santorum or another politician like him can work this magic, it is time that they are not spending going back into training, or into college or university, and reskilling themselves for the jobs of tomorrow’s economy.

Rick Santorum says all of the things that the Republican Party’s blue collar base want to hear, but in many ways he is just a modern day Pied Piper, promising them a brighter future while marching them off a cliff.

Globalisation cannot be rolled back, nor should it be. The challenge – which falls hardest upon Republicans and small government, small-c conservatives like myself, who generally do not foresee an active role for central government in the lives of citizens – is to find a way of reaping the fruits of globalisation while bringing these disrupted communities with us instead of callously leaving them behind.

And we should be honest: conservatives are at a disadvantage here. Leftists have the luxury of simply waving their hands and promising new government programmes for the mass retraining of millions of people in new, higher value-added jobs and careers. But no matter how costly or inefficient those schemes may prove, those on the right have an even harder job persuading voters, and no one party or politician on either side of the Atlantic has yet arrived at a fully convincing solution.

The inability to satisfactorily answer these questions and convince enough people of his ability to deliver the fruits of globalisation with none of the adverse consequences -together with the establishment reluctantly falling firmly behind Mitt Romney – ultimately saw Rick Santorum fall by the wayside back in 2012. But four years later, Donald Trump came charging along with almost the exact same message, and stormed all the way to the White House. And during this extraordinary journey, none of his supporters seemed to realise or care that Trump has been every bit as unable as Rick Santorum was to answer the question of “how?”, beyond his usual barnstorming bluster and well-worn pledge to Make America Great Again.

Now Bill Powell from Newsweek magazine has also picked up on the similarity between the two men, with a new piece entitled “How Rick Santorum helped Donald Trump win the White House” in which he argues that to a large extent, Donald Trump merely honed and executed a playbook originally written by Santorum.

Powell writes:

In the spring of 2015, [Trump] was talking to a few family members and confidantes about running for president. And he wanted to get in touch with a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, who had served two terms before losing big in 2006. In 2012, he was the runner-up to Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primaries. Ensconced since then in a Washington, D.C., law firm, Santorum had written a book that attracted little attention: Blue Collar Conservatives, Recommitting to an America That Works. But Trump had read the book, very carefully, in fact, and was intrigued. He called Santorum and asked if he would come to Trump Tower for a visit. Santorum was a bit surprised by the invitation but said yes.

Santorum didn’t know what to expect. He had never met Trump and, like millions of Americans, knew of him only from his long-running NBC reality show, The Apprentice. Trump got right to the point. He had loved Santorum’s book and believed it could unlock the White House for a GOP candidate who ran a campaign based on reaching the working-class voters throughout the industrial Midwest that, Trump said, Democrats take for granted.

Santorum agreed, of course—he was thinking of making another run at the White House, using that playbook. (He did, but got bum-rushed early in the primaries.) Trump then surprised Santorum even more by questioning him on details of his book and economic policy in general. What could be done with trade policy to help the working class? Was there any way to turn around the massive bilateral trade imbalance with Beijing? Could the White House be used as a bully pulpit to pressure American companies to stop sending manufacturing offshore? On and on they went, and Santorum left the meeting wondering what might happen if you mixed the power of celebrity with a blue-collar tent revival.

We now know the answer. Trump’s improbable run to the presidency—which was nearly derailed on several occasions by his lack of discipline—was guided by a conviction that he could, as political consultant and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone said last year, “rewrite the [electoral] map” by smashing the “great blue wall” of Midwestern Democratic states. And smash it he did.

Something happened (or continued to happen) between 2012 and 2016 which made more people receptive to the Santorum message of economic populism and protectionism, and the failure of the Obama administration to change the economic trajectory of those people already  suffering the fallout from globalisation (or nervously waiting for it to impact their industry and their jobs) clearly played a large part.

But even then, Trump’s victory could probably have been prevented had prominent Democrats like Hillary Clinton and President Obama not been so blasé about the economic challenge facing millions of Americans while they were campaigning. Hillary Clinton in particular took every opportunity to criticise Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, neglecting to consider that from many people’s perspective, America is only as great as their own present circumstances. But while sanctimoniously lecturing Donald Trump and his supporters that “America is already great” may have been factually true, it also felt a lot like the establishment dismissing the legitimate concerns of suffering people.

Sure, America is pretty darn awesome if you are one of the Wall Street bankers to whom Hillary Clinton loved to give speeches, one of the celebrities attending her fundraisers or just a prosperous coastal professional whose job and career is not about to be eradicated through automation or outsourcing. But if you do not fall into one of these categories, America can feel a lot more precarious than great. And having the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee continually insisting that everything is wonderful and that anyone with concerns or complaints is somehow “deplorable” was about the most stupid and politically tone-deaf way for a candidate to behave.

And of course we all know the outcome:

The Trump high-command members knew then they had an opening. The crowds Trump was drawing were enormous, and even before [FBI director James] Comey’s announcement [about the reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server], their internal polls said the race was tightening, but not enough to make many of them believe he would win. Now, though, they thought they had a shot. Trump remained focused, and the campaign laid on rally after rally—up to five per day in the last days of the race. Trump went back to Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin again and again. He even made a trip to Minnesota, the bluest of blue states, because—stunningly—polling had him drawing close even there. The Santorum strategy was playing out just as Trump had bet it would so many months before.

[..] “Those states—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin—were the targets,” [Trump campaign manager Kellyanne] Conway would later say. “[Trump] had a `theory of the race,’ and when it became clear that he had tapped into something very big, he rode it. And that is what good candidates do.”

Bill Powell is right – to a large extent, Donald Trump picked up the mantle from Rick Santorum, amending it by ditching some of the niche social conservatism (an integral part of Santorum’s Catholic traditionalism) and ramping up the economic populism even further.

While Santorum spoke of the pain of those whose manufacturing jobs were disappearing and promised help through the corporate tax code, Donald Trump identified a specific bogeyman in the form of China and other countries who supposedly always get the better of America, and then promised to confront these foreign economic enemies. While Rick Santorum railed against the coastal intellectual elites and dismissed aspiring to go to college as “snobbery”, Donald Trump insulted and belittled those Ivy League experts and elites day after day.

In many ways, watching Donald Trump on the campaign trail was like watching an incredibly vulgar, amoral and less eloquent version of Rick Santorum, with the brightness and volume dial turned up to max. And it worked. The economic message that Santorum road-tested in his 2012 campaign and in “Blue Collar Conservatives” was a beguiling one, as I acknowledged four years ago. But when it was hitched to a television celebrity phenomenon and fuelled by a combustible blend of identity politics backlash and the Democratic Party’s seeming disdain for middle America, it became immensely powerful.

Of course, this leaves President-elect Trump in a far worse place than Rick Santorum. Santorum was able to rack up Republican primary votes and victories against Mitt Romney, but his ultimate defeat saved him from having to make good on his campaign rhetoric and unrealistic promises to insulate middle America from the negative consequences of globalisation. Donald Trump has made it all the way to the White House, and the people who put him there will now expect him to deliver.

Which means that it falls to Donald Trump – of all the unlikely people – to do something that no right-wing politician anywhere in the world has successfully achieved: find a way to reap the benefits of globalisation while mitigating the negative side effects.

My gut feeling: assuming that Trump even tries to address this challenge, it will only be by enacting economically ruinous levels of protectionism or by abandoning any pretence of conservatism and embracing some kind of mass worker retraining program, either in a massive expansion of the federal government or else delivered by the states through federal block grants. And given the dynamics in Congress, it is by no means certain that any such measure would pass.

Make America Great Again – so easy to say, so hard to deliver for millions of struggling Americans.

 

Rick Santorum

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Happy Thanksgiving

O beautiful for glorious tale of liberating strife

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers, as well as everyone in Britain preparing for the Black Friday sales which we seem to have greedily imported without the heartwarming national holiday which precedes them.

Here is James Taylor, performing “America The Beautiful” at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 21, 2013.

And perhaps, at this rather fraught and contentious time, we might all do well to take particular inspiration from the oft-overlooked second verse, too:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.
America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

 

Thanksgiving Proclamation - Abraham Lincoln

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Hacked Clinton Campaign Emails Reveal What The Political Class Really Think Of Ordinary Americans

podesta-clinton-emails-unaware-and-compliant-citizenry

Hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign are unlikely to provide “smoking gun” evidence which might derail her candidacy, but they do paint a very depressing picture of exactly how the American political class view the people they supposedly serve

With each new release of hacked Clinton campaign emails released by Wikileaks, reporters have tended to swarm over the documents looking for a “smoking gun” of some kind – hard and fast evidence that Hillary Clinton may have engaged in illegal or clearly unethical acts. Such bombshell revelations are unlikely to emerge.

Why? Well, as Jonah Goldberg points out, we are dealing with an extraordinarily astute political operator here. Whether it is the work of the Clinton Foundation or her off-the-books correspondence as Secretary of State, shamefully kept on a bootleg server installed in her home, if Hillary Clinton wanted to commit any serious wrongdoing it would not have been committed to black and white in the first place, however well hidden and guarded.

Besides which, the definition of “smoking gun” has continuously evolved to ensure that Hillary Clinton remains on the safe side of it. Jonah Goldberg made this very point awhile ago:

But it’s really as if people don’t understand that a smoking gun is a very high evidentiary bar that most prosecutors — or journalists — never have to meet. Imagine a cop answers a call and comes to a bar where a guy named Jack Butler is caked in the blood of a dozen victims. One of the victims actually wrote, in his own blood, “Butler did it,” which was ironic because the victim was also a big fan of 1930s detective novels. A waitress who hid behind the juke box points at Butler and says, “He did it!” Butler himself says, “You got me.”

But the cop, going by the standards of Beltway clichés says, “Damn, there’s nothing I can do. I don’t see any smoke coming out of his gun.”

So quests to find smoking gun evidence in the hacked emails already released or those to come are likely to end in disappointment.

But far more interesting than any smoking gun evidence is the insight that these emails provide into the way that America’s ruling class thinks about the people. Typically, on election night, politicians and pundits alike pause hostilities to proclaim the beauty of democracy and laud the deep and abiding wisdom of the American people. You hear a hundred variations on this theme every election day as cable news anchors scramble to fill the unforgiving silence before the exit polls and results start to come in.

But the tone and content of these emails between Clinton staffers, discussing strategy and various ways to limit the damage from tawdry things that their candidate has done, reveals what the political elite really think of the people. And none more so than this email sent to John Podesta, chairman of the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign, by Bill Ivey, a longtime Clinton supporter and former Bill Clinton political appointee.

Some context: the two men are kicking back and forth ways that Hillary Clinton can cut through Donald Trump’s “entertainment” appeal to better get her message out to people who really don’t want to hear it.

Ivey writes to Podesta:

Well, we all thought the big problem for our US democracy was Citizens United/Koch Brothers big money in politics. Silly us; turns out that money isn’t all that important if you can conflate entertainment with the electoral process. Trump masters TV, TV so-called news picks up and repeats and repeats to death this opinionated blowhard and his hairbrained ideas, free-floating discontent attaches to a seeming strongman and we’re off and running. JFK, Jr would be delighted by all this as his “George” magazine saw celebrity politics coming. The magazine struggled as it was ahead of its time but now looks prescient. George, of course, played the development pretty lightly, basically for charm and gossip, like People, but what we are dealing with now is dead serious. How does this get handled in the general? Secretary Clinton is not an entertainer, and not a celebrity in the Trump, Kardashian mold; what can she do to offset this? I’m certain the poll-directed insiders are sure things will default to policy as soon as the conventions are over, but I think not. And as I’ve mentioned, we’ve all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. This problem demands some serious, serious thinking – and not just poll driven, demographically-inspired messaging.

My emphasis in bold.

Now, it might not come as a surprise that senior politicians and their aides are complicit in deliberately trying to keep people ill-informed and docile. But in our more optimistic moments we might like to believe that this is merely an unfortunate side effect of politics rather than one of its central aims. Yet here we are, with two Clinton confidantes casually discussing that political operatives are fully aware and “quite content” to behave in this way.

What’s more, these people actively celebrate a docile and ignorant population, because when gerrymandered districts means that very few House and district races are actually competitive, it makes life easier for everyone if political parties can simply take for granted whole swathes of the population while focusing their efforts on a few narrowly defined demographics and swing states. In other words, it is to everyone’s advantage that Americans are neatly pigeonholed into ideological bubbles and prodded to action once every two years rather than becoming more thoughtful and genuinely engaged citizens. And these two Clinton operatives talk about this as though it is the most normal thing in the world.

Indeed, their only cause for alarm seems to be that while the ignorance remains strong, the people’s willingness to obey instructions is rapidly fading. And of course Clinton’s aides would be worried – their boss needed the underhand intervention of the Democratic National Committee simply to prevail over Bernie Sanders, an ornery old socialist, in her primary race. The Republican Party lost control of their uncompliant base completely, which is why they are now saddled with Donald Trump as their nominee rather than somebody who is, you know, an actual conservative.

But in neither case (for this is a problem of the political class in general, and not confined to one or other party) is there any sense of shame or introspection at having patronised and manipulated their party bases for so long that people rebelled in search of genuine authenticity. They don’t think they did anything wrong. They simply acknowledge that they now have a problem to solve, because the people’s “compliance is obviously fading rapidly”. They want to find a way to return their supporters to their rightful stupor as quickly as possible, so that they can go on governing as they see fit without having to respond to popular pressure to do things differently.

And in a way, that is more damning than any “smoking gun” email showing that Hillary Clinton broke the law or wielded inappropriate evidence ever could be. Because it shows that even when this election is over and one or other candidate fades to become a footnote in history, these parasitic  political operatives and bag carriers will still be there, waiting to serve their next master by keeping the population as dumb and compliant as possible.

And if that doesn’t depress you, you’re made of sterner stuff than I.

 

wikileaks-logo

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Why Republicans Will Keep Losing

Because of shenanigans like this:

 

A normal, rational response when a constituent asks a question about how to stop the “foreign born, America-hating communist despot” illegally occupying the White House might be to correct him on the basic factual errors in his statement, and to move on to a saner question.

But not if you are US Representative Martha Roby from Alabama (where else). She thanks the gentleman for his question, makes a light-hearted joke about the volume at which he made his point…and then pivots and actually responds to his question, emphasising how important the congressional oversight aspect of her job is when it comes to keeping Obama’s evil Marxist plans in check.

Omar Rivero, writing at occupydemocrats, notes:

This is a big part of the reason why Pres. Obama trounced Mitt Romney in 2012, and why the Republican Party continues to push away moderates, minorities, young Americans, students, and the like. Instead of shining a spotlight on the ugliest and most extreme elements lurking and growing within their party, they are happy to look the other way as bigotry and xenophobia slowly capture their base.

It seems like anything is fair game as long as it is directed at Pres. Obama. The Republican Party has worked night and day to cleverly define him as the “other”, and their chickens have come home to roost.

Their shameless and opportunistically ploy to arouse suspicion of Pres. Obama’s goals and policies has backfired, creating an increasingly paranoid and bigoted base.

Absolutely right. You can’t be a serious national party and keep close ties to people like the town hall questioner in this video. While many Americans may disapprove of President Obama’s policies, a majority do understand that he was American-born and legally elected, and regard this fringe right-wing hysteria as silly, if not downright contemptible. And we see this time and again, with deranged anti-Obama loons asking their Republican representatives questions dripping with ignorance, racism or both, only to have those same representatives take the question and run with it rather than correcting the record.

Until the Republican Party grows a pair and stops being fearful of alienating these fringe lunatics by publicly correcting them and disassociating themselves from some of the more hyperbolic Tea Party nonsense, they won’t be taken seriously by enough Americans to win another national election. And as long as they tacitly endorse the idea – or rely on the support of those who believe – that the president of the United States secretly hates the country that he leads, they will continue to be a laughing stock and a source of shame to anyone with an average or higher IQ.

Romney’s huge, resounding, calamitous election defeat will soon be one year in the past. Time to grow up, now.