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New Year Update

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A few changes for 2017

Greetings from Texas. Getting the blog up and running again after a longer-than-anticipated Christmas and New Year break is somewhat harder than in previous years – or rather, I should say that it is proving difficult to spurn the joy of unstructured leisure time for the largely thankless task of ranting into WordPress.

Having taken a full fortnight away from the daily grind has been refreshing, and also revelatory. 2016 was the fifth year of Semi-Partisan Politics and by far the most successful, with a threefold increase in readership compared to 2015, helped along in large part by the EU referendum campaign and the American presidential election. But this positive trajectory has come at the cost of nearly every free moment in my all-too-undisciplined free time.

Writing a political blog (and trying to make it successful) is hard. In order to build and maintain an audience you have to publish nearly every day, often multiple times. Unless you have the benefit of establishment connections to furnish you with gossip or pimp out your work, you have to be demonically active on social media, tweeting effectively and trawling for pageviews on Facebook. And for a one-man outfit like this, time spent promoting the blog on social media is time taken away from writing and the all-important reading and research which adds value to the content, while too much time spent reading and writing at the expense of self-promotion means that one’s best work often goes largely unread.

Whatever value Facebook has as a medium for discussion and promoting this blog, it is also a black hole from which I now intend to escape. I could easily double or triple this blog’s readership in a short time by actively promoting articles on the various political Facebook groups – and indeed I did so for a time in the buildup to the EU referendum. But my time is limited, and I will no longer waste it affirming people’s current biases to a lazy applause of “likes” or posting in hostile groups only to receive endless comments telling me that I am Hitler. A well-placed Facebook intervention may draw in countless likes and re-shares resulting in a thousand additional pageviews, but too often this is low quality traffic with no loyalty or engagement. The readers I value most are the ones who stick around without Facebook nagging, and who both educate and argue with me through the Comments.

SEO is a cruel mistress. This blog’s most-read piece for 2016 was a short, throwaway piece about Tony Benn’s euroscepticism and likely stance on Brexit. Because of an inadvertently well-chosen headline and a dearth of similar articles it placed well on Google, and attracted many thousands more views than the polemics, fisking pieces or other articles of which I am far more proud and which contain much greater originality.

Meanwhile, the British media establishment continue their demented hostility toward the political blogosphere and dogged refusal to acknowledge some of the best and most original analysis out there (though fully aware that it exists) simply because it appears on a site with a .wordpress or .blogspot suffix and does not carry the imprimatur of the prestige titles which increasingly churn out so much unoriginal pseudo-analysis or breathless court gossip.

This blog has been linked several times in both the National Review and the New Republic, the premier conservative and liberal journals in America, despite the limited attention that I have given to US politics this year. Meanwhile, links from the incestuous British media are almost non-existent – though I am grateful to the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow for occasionally citing this blog in his own excellent and comprehensive political liveblogs. But the idea of sullying myself trying to attract the attention of SW1’s finest on Twitter in exchange for a mere “like” or (rarer still) a retweet no longer holds any appeal.

Then there is the constant feeling that one is only as good as one’s most recent blog post – which, if you are me, means long periods of self-doubt and wondering why I am bothering in the first place. As the email bulletins and Google alerts ping into the inbox every hour of every day there is the constant feeling of needing to go “on the record” about whatever new person or event is driving the 24-hour news cycle, of committing a hot take to public record while it is still relevant, to assimilate the latest information and latest developments, and then inevitable feelings of inadequacy when this high bar – impossible to achieve while working a full time job – is not met.

I have also been dwelling on the fact that the words published on any political blog do not hold their value for long. Sure, some articles will be blessed by the SEO gods and provide a constant stream of traffic, but generally speaking a reaction piece I write in response to a Guardian headline today will be lining the digital waste paper bin by tomorrow. I increasingly want to write words that hold their value for longer, and to some extent this means stepping back from the fray and going more in depth, which in turn requires more expertise (and a rebalancing away from writing toward reading and research).

The upshot of all this introspection is that the thought of returning to the fray – spending the bulk of my free time hunched over the laptop, only to be studiously ignored by those who drive the national conversation – has been less than appealing, especially while I am still enjoying the company of my American family and have easy access to some of the best tacos and Tex-Mex food that money can buy.

Fear not, though. Or don’t start celebrating, if you are a fire-breathing SJW who hates my guts. I’m not going away. This blog will continue. But I have taken a long, hard look at my priorities and there will be some changes afoot.

I am not yet at liberty to discuss the most significant change that I will be making from a personal perspective. Suffice it to say that I have decided that being taken seriously without some serious form of credential is almost impossible, and that it is time to bow to this inevitable fact. At present, I am neither a politician nor a lawyer, nor an accredited expert on the constitution, the European Union, healthcare reform or any of the other subjects on which this blog touches. Over time, this will now change. The focus of this blog may therefore shift and be refined slightly over time, though there will be no immediate change.

The fruits of this work may not be visible for some time, but I hope to be able to provide more detail in due course. In the meantime, here’s what you can expect:

  1. Slightly less frequent updates (I religiously posted nearly every day in 2016; this tempo is now likely to decrease)
  2. More short reaction pieces or flags (bringing other worthy articles or videos to your attention with only limited commentary from myself)
  3. Fewer “fisking” pieces (taking apart and critiquing articles and speeches line-by-line)
  4. Hopefully a few more longer-form, ruminative pieces on certain subjects close to this blog’s heart (Brexit, free speech, identity politics, healthcare reform and the NHS)

And one thing will not change. This blog will continue to be stridently independent, and I will at no time “sell out” to raise my profile through artificial means. If I happen to be published, linked or quoted elsewhere in the coming year, it will not be the result of modifying my positions or moderating my tone. Likewise if by some chance I end up back on the BBC as the token “anti-social justice” guy.

I will still be in Texas for the next couple of weeks, but activity on the blog will now slowly start to ramp up again. Please accept my apologies if I am slow to approve or respond to comments, emails or tweets – the backlog is long, and I am still very much in holiday mode.

I wish all my readers a very happy and prosperous 2017.

Sam Hooper.

 

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from Texas

It is currently 29 degrees Celcius (84 Fahrenheit) on Christmas Eve in McAllen, Texas, and I am starting to regret not packing more shorts and t-shirts, as well as failing to remember to pack my sunglasses for the fifth consecutive year.

Christmas in the Rio Grande Valley is very different to the Christmases I knew growing up on the Hertfordshire-Essex border in southeast England, but it comes with its own unique and wonderful traditions – waiting in line with half the town to collect a delicious order of tamales from Delia’s, taking in a movie on the afternoon of Christmas Day, driving around to look at the most opulently decorated houses and streets, and of course attending bilingual English/Spanish Mass (complete with Mariachi music) at the local Catholic church or at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle.

And of course there are the many unifying factors too, common to Christmas in Britain and America – coming together as a family, sharing a Christmas meal (including a smoked turkey over here), opening presents, making the day extra special for the children.

While I enjoy celebrating with my wife’s family here in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas I also think of my dear family back home in England, including those who are sadly no longer with us but who had such a formative influence on me – particularly my grandparents and an aunt who did so much to make each Christmas special.

And of course I think of all of you, my growing family of readers on this blog. We agree, we argue, we (mostly) remain civil while passionately arguing our cases, we educate one another – or at least, you all educate me. I have a long reading list of new books and academic papers suggested by many of you which I hope to read in 2017 and a forthcoming New Year’s Resolution to read as many of them as possible, and hopefully reflect back a fraction of this distilled wisdom in the future pages of this blog.

To all those who are celebrating this weekend, I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

 

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Deep In The Heart Of Texas

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Back to the ‘Heart of the Rio Grande’

Well okay, way down at the southern tip of Texas, a few miles from the Mexican border, to be more precise.

I’m off to Texas to spend the Christmas and New Year celebrations with my American family. Blogging will continue (I hope to resurrect the Postcards from America series started last year and have the chance to write a few more reflective pieces) but will be at a slightly slower tempo, with occasional hiatuses on those days when we are either travelling or making merry.

I am currently seeking recommendations for good places to eat in Austin, Houston and Las Vegas – if you have any inspired ideas, please do get in touch!

Many thanks as always for reading, commenting, cheering and arguing with me here at Semi-Partisan Politics. Stay tuned!

 

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Will 2017 Be The Year That Independent Political Blogs Make A Comeback?

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Now more than ever, we need good political journalism and incisive commentary to make sense of the world and the challenges (and opportunities) facing us in the new Age of Brexit and Donald Trump. And increasingly, the only way one can find good analysis is by turning to independent bloggers

Veteran American television journalist / late-in-life social media champion Dan Rather has shared with his Facebook audience some thoughts on how they can best encourage and reward good journalism in the Age of Trump, following a presidential election campaign in which much of the mainstream media was deemed to have failed in its core duty to provide rigorous, civic-minded coverage and analysis.

Rather, who has provided an articulate and dignified left-wing running commentary on the 2016 presidential election via his Facebook page, writes:

There is no shortage of long, thoughtful articles that are worth a read. The problem is that our current journalism business model doesn’t seem to support the better instincts of the press as much as it should.

So if you want to know what you can do, please choose to support the press. If you find a news source you like and you think it is doing a good job, pay for the subscription. This doesn’t just help the bottom line but it is a vote of confidence in the system. Share smart, thoughtful pieces on social media and in emails to your friends. Let’s run up the clicks and views of the best of journalism. Also, I think we can not be passive with our news any longer. If you like what you see, let the publicans and journalists know through all the digital tools at your disposal. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, let them know as well. Or turn it off, refuse to follow the click bait.

The press is a vital partner in out democratic process. It is under incredible strains from a drastically changing media landscape and a potentially hostile in-coming administration. As citizens we should care deeply about this and vow to do something to help.

Many of us, for various reasons, have cause to be greatly disappointed with the mainstream media – whether we are left-wing or right-wing, British or American, supported Brexit or staying in the EU, preferred Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

With very few exceptions, television news has become a wasteland of quacking, know-nothing talking heads who specialise in providing visually pleasing, information-lite political gossip and who force their way onto our screens either by virtue of having had some dismal prior political career, fortunate social connections or simply the willingness to wear a bow-tie un-ironically while under the age of sixty.

And the print media is little better. While there are honourable exceptions at many publications, too many venerable titles have either dumbed down to the point where they have become utterly unreadable clickbait, or else sold their inquisitorial souls to the establishment in order to churn out tedious defences of the status quo and scurrilous hit-pieces on those who seek to disrupt it.

In many cases, a combination of scrambling to capture new revenue streams and remain financially viable combined with a fawning desire to be “liked” by the right people in Westminster and Washington D.C. has all but hollowed out the ranks of decent political journalists and de-fanged once-formidable publications.

In this, my good friend and fellow Brexiteer-in-arms Pete North has it exactly right:

In the final analysis the legacy media is dying. Our media was once a luxury liner. It is now a corred garbage scow with corrosion holes in the hull. It is dying a much deserved death and every bit of bad news for the newspapers is good news for us bloggers. I can think of plenty blogs who produce better and more informed content in an afternoon than the usual suspects manage in a week of trying. And there is good reason for that.

Outside of the bubble you have a certain distance from the fray and not in hock to the peer pressure inside it. Outside the bubble is the only place where free thinking can occur. To join them is to become them. And who would want to stunt their intellectual and personal growth in such a way?

This does of course mean that writing is now done largely as a labour of love. There is no money to be made nor recognition to be had. All that matters to me is that for every moment readers spend on advert free blogs is a moment they are not reading the Spectator or any of the other garbage. Every blog post I write is an act of vandalism on an established media whose final gasp cannot come too soon.

[..] This is the year where the word “blogspot” and “wordpress” carries prestige. The low grade tat of the legacy media shouldn’t even be acknowledged. If it didn’t exist at all we would be no worse off in our understanding of events and politics would be all the better for it. The dinosaurs have had their day and we should not mourn their passing. We should do what we can to hasten their demise.

Trust Pete to find the almost John Galt-like nobility in what we bloggers do – it certainly beats “fighting on the internet”, which is how I had previously been describing my nocturnal pastime of ranting into WordPress.

But joking aside, as Dan Rather says, “If you find a news source you like and you think it is doing a good job, pay for the subscription. This doesn’t just help the bottom line but it is a vote of confidence in the system. Share smart, thoughtful pieces on social media and in emails to your friends. Let’s run up the clicks and views of the best of journalism.”

Some of the best political commentary right now comes from independent bloggers who write entirely in their spare time as labour of love, with no hope or expectation of recognition by the failing mainstream media. Therefore, if you have a favourite blogger or bloggers and are in a position to do so, consider making a donation or regular subscription to aid their work and acknowledge their effort. Share their articles with other people who may be interested in reading. It all helps.

I am personally very grateful to all those who have kindly donated to Semi-Partisan Politics over the past year. The vote of confidence you make in me with your PayPal donations and standing orders helps to keep me writing.

But this is much bigger than me and my little old blog. One thing that struck me as I live-blogged the US presidential election results last Tuesday night was she sheer number of outlets providing live coverage. Beyond the usual television stations there were live YouTube channels, Periscope broadcasts, websites, other live-blogs, Twitter and Facebook personalities and more. Newspapers were offering video broadcasts and television broadcasters were offering written analysis. And all of this from every political perspective under the sun, from triumphant Trumpists to crying Clintonites to Bernie Sanders supporters shouting “I told you so!”. From having to rely on a handful of networks and newspapers a generation ago, one is now paralysed by having too much choice.

(Now of course this raises important questions about the bubble effect, and one certainly doesn’t want to saturate oneself with endless sources bias confirmation – but that is a separate discussion).

But of all the cacophonous voices offering independent perspectives on politics today, very few will likely still be around in the same guise to cover the 2020 presidential election in America or general election in Britain. And more than likely, some of the best will have had to hang up their keyboards because of the pesky need to pay rent and buy food, while other, inferior writers and journalists go from strength to strength.

So I’m with Dan Rather. If there are writers or publications which provide you with indispensable or enjoyable analysis or commentary, make sure you vote with your wallet (and the social media sharing buttons) to let them know. And the sum total of these efforts may be a newly flourishing independent political blogosphere which continues to put much of the mainstream media to shame.

 

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Live Blog: Donald Trump Victory Reax

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Live Blog: Donald Trump Victory Reaction & Analysis

Contact: semipartisansam@gmail.com

 

10 November – 7:00AM Washington D.C. / 12:00PM London

Aaron Sorkin to the rescue

In a masterful piece of virtue signalling, befitting somebody who made their name and career writing for television and Hollywood, Aaron Sorkin (creator of The West Wing, The Newsroom and Facebook movie The Social Network) has written an open letter to his wife and daughter – less for their own benefit, of course, and more to show off his impeccably progressive, anti-Trump credentials to the world.

Unfortunately, Sorkin appears not to have dedicated the same time to this sanctimonious little letter as he would have given to the script for an episode of The West Wing, and his clumsy attempt at virtue-signalling reveals his Hollywood liberal cynicism in all its ugly glory.

Aaron Sorkin writes (my emphasis in bold):

Sorkin Girls,

Well the world changed late last night in a way I couldn’t protect us from. That’s a terrible feeling for a father. I won’t sugarcoat it—this is truly horrible. It’s hardly the first time my candidate didn’t win (in fact it’s the sixth time) but it is the first time that a thoroughly incompetent pig with dangerous ideas, a serious psychiatric disorder, no knowledge of the world and no curiosity to learn has.

And it wasn’t just Donald Trump who won last night—it was his supporters too. The Klan won last night. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons. Angry young white men who think rap music and Cinco de Mayo are a threat to their way of life (or are the reason for their way of life) have been given cause to celebrate. Men who have no right to call themselves that and who think that women who aspire to more than looking hot are shrill, ugly, and otherwise worthy of our scorn rather than our admiration struck a blow for misogynistic shitheads everywhere. Hate was given hope. Abject dumbness was glamorized as being “the fresh voice of an outsider” who’s going to “shake things up.” (Did anyone bother to ask how? Is he going to re-arrange the chairs in the Roosevelt Room?) For the next four years, the President of the United States, the same office held by Washington and Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, F.D.R., J.F.K. and Barack Obama, will be held by a man-boy who’ll spend his hours exacting Twitter vengeance against all who criticize him (and those numbers will be legion). We’ve embarrassed ourselves in front of our children and the world.

Oh I’m sorry, I thought that we were supposed to have moved past dated and oppressive gender stereotypes, like the idea that the Big Strong Man is supposed to defend the helpless women in his life from Bad Things? Yet Aaron Sorkin seems to believe that it was his duty as a man to protect and defend his wife and daughter from the outcome of a presidential election in which his wife was also able to take full part, as though neither woman had any agency of their own.

And “Sorkin girls” – really?

But then we should not be surprised by any of this. This is a man whose television shows (The West Wing is one of my all time favourites, and doubtless will now be so again for many a dejected Democrat in the Age of Trump) have long been renowned for their continual mockery, downplaying and diminution of women.

Besides Abigail Bartlet, Nancy McNally or Amy Gardner (and even she is doubtful sometimes), name a strong female character in The West Wing. Seriously, I’m waiting. The female characters with the most airtime, like Donna Moss or Ainsley Hayes, are little more than comic relief, particularly in the early seasons before Sorkin got booted off his own show.

The same goes for Sorkin’s more recent show, The Newsroom, but to an even greater degree. Every female character save Leona Lansing (played by Jane Fonda), no matter how senior they happen to be, is portrayed as a bumbling, gaffe-prone fool, flapping around helplessly as the men in their lives chuckle and give wry smiles at their foolish antics. But sure, Donald Trump is the man with an unprecedentedly unenlightened view towards women.

Oh, and let’s not forget that great America-bashing monologue which Aaron Sorkin wrote to open The Newsroom, in which he has lead character Will McAvoy say:

We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered.

My emphasis in bold. And no, I’m not quoting selectively. The balancing paragraph lauding the achievements of great American women never comes, because Sorkin probably didn’t give a moment’s thought to the accomplishments of women when he wrote the scene. And yet now he is a brave, anti-Trump feminist who despises the new president-elect’s unreconstructed view toward the fairer sex while displaying many of those same condescensions himself, albeit in slightly less vulgar form.

But surely Sorkin is on safe ground when he adversely compares Donald Trump to previous American presidents, all of whom had supremely progressive and enlightened attitudes towards women and were paragons of virtue. Presidents like John F. Kenne — oh, wait. At least Sorkin is smart enough not to mention Bill Clinton.

Sorkin continues with some good old homespun, patriarchal, husbandly / fatherly advice:

So what do we do?

First of all, we remember that we’re not alone. A hundred million people in America and a billion more around the world feel exactly the same way we do.

Second, we get out of bed. The Trumpsters want to see people like us (Jewish, “coastal elites,” educated, socially progressive, Hollywood…) sobbing and wailing and talking about moving to Canada. I won’t give them that and neither will you. Here’s what we’ll do…

Because there’s nothing more mature than throwing baseless charges of anti-Semitism at the nearly half of voting Americans who chose Donald Trump. Because I’m sure Aaron Sorkin would be happy to be associated with the craziest and most unpleasant fan of his own fans, just as he seems happy to slander Trump and his many supporters with their most disreputable endorsements.

More:

…we’ll fucking fight. (Roxy, there’s a time for this kind of language and it’s now.) We’re not powerless and we’re not voiceless. We don’t have majorities in the House or Senate but we do have representatives there. It’s also good to remember that most members of Trump’s own party feel exactly the same way about him that we do. We make sure that the people we sent to Washington—including Kamala Harris—take our strength with them and never take a day off.

We get involved. We do what we can to fight injustice anywhere we see it—whether it’s writing a check or rolling up our sleeves. Our family is fairly insulated from the effects of a Trump presidency so we fight for the families that aren’t. We fight for a woman to keep her right to choose. We fight for the First Amendment and we fight mostly for equality—not for a guarantee of equal outcomes but for equal opportunities. We stand up.

My oh my, this is starting to get awfully problematic. Isn’t it a bit, um, oppressive and gender stereotypical for a white male like Aaron Sorkin to presume to give the women in his life permission to use bad language, as he seems to do in his letter?

More:

Roxy, I know my predictions have let you down in the past, but personally, I don’t think this guy can make it a year without committing an impeachable crime. If he does manage to be a douche nozzle without breaking the law for four years, we’ll make it through those four years. And three years from now we’ll fight like hell for our candidate and we’ll win and they’ll lose and this time they’ll lose for good. Honey, it’ll be your first vote.

The battle isn’t over, it’s just begun. Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I’ll never go to sleep on you again.

Love,

Dad

Seriously, Aaron, you fell asleep on your daughter as she was crying in reaction to Donald Trump’s victory? Do you not care about making your house a safe space for marginalised and oppressed groups like the women in your life? Did a privileged white male like yourself really shun his duty to create a “place of comfort and home” for those who suffer oppression, or who will surely do so under Donald Trump’s tyrannical reign?

Everyone knows that when good Social Justice Warriors see oppression taking place they fight tirelessly to shame it on Twitter – they don’t fall asleep in front of the TV with the remote control resting on their belly. What kind of person are you?

There’s nothing else for it, I’m afraid. I hereby call a universal boycott of every single Aaron Sorkin television show or movie ever made in the past, as well as all of those yet to be made in the future, until he writes a new open letter to his wife and daughter. In this letter, Sorkin should apologise to them (and to the American people) for his outsized role in furthering the interests of the patriarchy through his work, pledge to immediately attend an Avoiding Common Microaggressions re-education camp for people of privilege, tithe at least 50 percent of his future income to EMILY’s List and promise henceforce to only produce work which conforms with the catechism of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.*

* To be judged by an artistic censorship committee comprising Jerelyn Luther, Bonita Tindle, Jonathan Butler, Fran “Holier than Peter Tatchell” Cowling and other prominent SJWs.

If Sorkin does all of this *and* manages to single-handedly bring down the Trump presidency then he may – just may – be able to atone for harm done to women and girls everywhere by his oppressive, patriarchal letter.

But until then, you are on notice, Mr. Male Hero Feminist Champion Man. Nobody is buying your schtick.

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10 November – 4:45AM Washington D.C. / 9:45AM London

Owen Jones doesn’t get it

The leftist boy wonder has had a good long think about the implications of Donald Trump’s election victory, and has come to the airy conclusion that the Left needs a “new populism” of its own.

From his latest Guardian opinion piece:

Trump’s victory is one of the biggest calamities to befall the west and the effect is that every racist, woman-hater, homophobe and rightwing authoritarian feels vindicated. This rightwing populism can no longer be dismissed as a blip. Indeed, without an urgent change in strategy, the left – perhaps all progressive opinion – will be marginalised to the point of irrelevance. Our crisis is existential.

Multiple factors explain this calamity. First: racism. The legacy of slavery means racism is written into the DNA of US society. The determined efforts by African Americans to claim their civil rights has been met with a vicious backlash. The exit polls suggest that Trump won a landslide among both male and female white non-graduates: only white women with degrees produced a majority for Hillary Clinton.

Second: misogyny. Trump – who brags of sexually assaulting his victims – ran a campaign defined by hatred of women. Clinton was self-evidently an establishment candidate, but a male candidate of the establishment would have been treated differently. Some American men feel emasculated by two factors: the demise of skilled secure jobs that gave them a sense of pride and status, and the rise of women’s and LGBT movements, which some men feel undermine their rightful dominance.

But there is a factor that cannot be ignored. Centrism, the ideology of self-styled moderates, is in a state of collapse. In the 1990s, the third way project championed by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair could claim political dominance in much of the US and Europe. It has shrivelled in the face of challenges from the resurgent populist right and new movements of the left.

Yes, political centrism is dying, or at least under grave threat. And this is a good thing. It brought us nothing but dull, remote managerialism and technocracy, and enabled the elitist gravy train which so greatly enriched those with access to power while punishing those without. We should all be looking forward to dancing on centrism’s grave.

But sadly, Jones couldn’t leave it there. He continues:

Whenever the economic insecurities that fuelled Trumpism are mentioned, several objections are raised. It’s an explanation, some say, that fails to account for the large majority of working-class Americans from minority backgrounds who vote Democrat. Then there is the issue of culpability. Many insist that working-class Republican voters must take responsibility for electing a racist, misogynist candidate. True, some will be racists and misogynists beyond redemption but others have the potential to be peeled away if the lure is attractive enough.

Owen just doesn’t get it. Keep peddling in identity politics, keep making identity politics the battleground on which issues are debated and elections fought, and the white working class will organise and begin acting like a cohesive minority group themselves – because it is rapidly becoming clear to everybody that so long as the Left persists with its “divide, stoke resentment and conquer” approach, emulating their tactics is the only way for opponents to prosper and defend their own interests.

Note the sheer condescension of Jones’s arrogant claim that some Trump voters may, just may have the “potential” to be redeemed, as though voting for Trump was an endorsement of the worst allegations levelled against him rather than a self-interested choice between two candidates. The equivalent would be to claim that Democratic Party voters were endorsing secretive email practices, closeness to Wall Street, dubious charitable practices and shady financial dealings with their vote for Hillary Clinton. This is ludicrous on its face – and so it is to accuse most Trump voters of making their selection based on the worst utterances of Donald Trump himself.

Owen Jones has clearly learned nothing. He has marinated and festered in toxic identity politics for so long that he knows no other way of thinking. And the new “left wing populism” he seeks to create will never come to pass because by definition it will always exclude and be violently antagonistic towards the white working class, the very people the Left needs to pull it out of terminal decline.

10 November – 4:00AM Washington D.C. / 9:00AM London

Matthew Parris doesn’t get it

The outcome of a democratic election in the greatest democracy on earth has caused Matthew Parris to lose faith in democracy itself. Go figure.

Self-confessed elitist Parris has a piece in The Spectator today in which he makes it clear just how very disappointed he is in We the People (now apparently downgraded in his estimation from being a “crowd” to a “mob”) following the EU referendum result in Britain and now the election of Donald Trump in America:

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States may have signalled the death of the closest thing we have to a religion in politics. On both sides of the Atlantic, democracy risks being knocked from the high altar as an unmitigated and unquestioned good.

The man’s obviously a fool and a nasty fool too. The contest should have been a walkover for Hillary Clinton. But it wasn’t. What happened? Can we be sure any longer that democracy works? Is it really the reliable bulwark against political madness that we always supposed?

Without hesitation I plead guilty to the obvious charge: Trump supporters could level it at me, enthusiasts for Brexit do. Spanish enthusiasts for the left-wing populist party of protest, Podemos, and French supporters of Marine Le Pen would tell me the same and they’d be right. The reason I am beginning to question democracy is that it is producing results I profoundly dislike.

Already it should be clear that this is leading nowhere good. More:

But why now? When Richard Nixon was re-elected, did we who had preferred George McGovern despair of democracy? When British Conservative governments fell and socialist governments were elected, did Liberal or Tory democrats develop doubts about democracy itself? Why did we trust the people then, even though they had given the ‘wrong’ answer — but not now? What was it that people like me did believe, when we said we believed in democracy?

Someone urgently needs to introduce Matthew Parris to the concept of the Overton Window.

The reason nobody much cared when “conservative” British governments were voted out and replaced by “socialist” ones in the 50s, 60s and 70s is that they were actually all largely socialist anyway. Party labels at that time were more or less a nostalgic and almost entirely cosmetic sticker slapped on to differentiate two political parties which had both equally swallowed the dogmas of the post-war consensus and the supposed need for a planned, “mixed” economy (in reality an economy in which the government owned and ran vast swathes of industry, from mining, utilities, transport, telecoms and even restaurants and betting shops).

The reason that nobody in Britain “lost faith in democracy” when either shade of socialist Red got itself elected is because it hardly made a difference to their lives. The all-important (and foolish) decision to embrace rather than oppose socialism had been made in smoky back rooms by dusty, frightened old men (and some callow but zealous younger ones). Giving socialism the heave-ho was never on the ballot paper. The only question was whether one preferred Labour or the Conservatives to preside over our national decline.

When the Overton Window of a country’s politics – the range of political viewpoints considered mainstream, acceptable or permissible – is as desperately narrow as it was in Britain until Thatcher came and rescued us from self-inflicted socialist suicide, people like Matthew Parris would have no cause to lose faith in democracy because it continually serves up the kind of muddled, un-ambitious centre-leftism that they like (whether they admit it or not), and because elections therefore essentially do not matter.

The reason that Matthew Parris is now upset, first with the Brexit vote in the EU referendum and now with Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election, is that both of these plebiscites actually mattered – because two markedly different potential outcomes were riding on the result. Or to put it even more bluntly: because the Overton Window has been expanded, and people like Matthew Parris are losing the ability to fix the policy outcome regardless of who wins an election.

The kind of “democracy” that Matthew Parris likes is one in which he and other people like him get together beforehand and decide the future direction of the country in advance, hashing out a deal between themselves before allowing the political parties to tinker around the edges and squabble over branding. Parris doesn’t trust the people to weigh up the important decisions themselves because he can barely tolerate most of the country, as he has himself previously admitted.

So spare a thought for poor Matthew Parris today. Soon Britain will be leaving the European Union, and the range of possible choices – on taxation, social matters, foreign policy, trade and more – over which the British government has greater or total autonomy will increase beyond the ideological guard rails currently imposed by our EU membership.

Worse, with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, the British public have a real choice between Corbynite post-war consensus socialism and vaguely enthusiastic capitalism for the first time since 1983. And now, with the election of Donald Trump in America, the Overton Window of American politics has expanded so that the old (and often failed) consensus position on a whole range of issues is no longer the only choice available.

And Matthew Parris hates hates hates all of this. Because not-so-secretly, Matthew Parris hates most of us.

10 November – 3:30AM Washington D.C. / 8:30AM London

Trump Victory Catastrophisation Watch, Part 4

Laurie Penny is leading British SJWs to their safe space in the aftermath of Trump’s victory:

No Laurie, you wrote this – as always – for the primary cause of self-aggrandisement and promotion. But that’s fine. Your audience is primarily a group of infantilised permanent victims who like to be told that an external authority figure is going to care for them, so you will be doing yourself no harm with the old readership.

Penny writes:

The people have spoken. That does not mean all the other people have to shut up.

No, it doesn’t. But when the whiny, petulant tone of the “other people” (together with their hair trigger sensitivity to often non-existent oppression) is what partially feeds phenomena like the election of Donald Trump then it might not be such a terrible idea to pipe down for a few days and engage in some genuine introspection. And I do mean real introspection, not just obsessing about their “pain” and exalting in their “vulnerability”.

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Today, all over America, black, brown and Muslim children are too frightened to go to school.

And whose fault is that? Who took Donald Trump’s careless and often offensive statements and whipped them up in the public imagination to make it seem as though he were the devil himself, that black or brown kids are somehow under imminent threat, not only when he is president but even now when he is president-elect? Who made people so frightened?

Trump didn’t do that. His supporters didn’t do that. Hysterical leftist SJWs did that, because they thought that it would motivate their base. If they have now traumatised themselves (and their children) through swallowing their own propaganda then really they have only themselves to blame.

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When they told liberals and journalists and policymakers and anyone with the cheek to suggest that maybe immigrants weren’t the problem that we weren’t listening to “ordinary people”, they meant we weren’t listening to white people.

No, stop it, Laurie. This is that insidious little trick that leftists always play, and which enrages and pushes away centrist and right-wing voters even more. Nobody but genuine racists (of which there are thankfully few) object to immigrants. But many people object to uncontrolled immigration. In their quest to undermine national borders and the nation state, the Left have for a long time conflated these two things, the better to shame and silence people who dare to stand up for enforcing immigration law. And until recently it has worked.

But as with all cheap con tricks, eventually the luck runs out. And so it has in Britain with the Brexit vote, and seemingly in America, with the Trump vote. People with legitimate concerns about immigration (not immigrants) are not racist, and are sick to the back teeth of being told by privileged, coddled leftist agitators that they are ignorant, hate-filled xenophobes.

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The time for complacency is long gone. So too is the time for cowing to the hurt feelings of those who were willing to fire at the elite directly through the stomachs of their neighbours. Every effort has been made to sympathise with their distress at perceived loss of privilege that is felt, wrongly, as prejudice.

Every effort? Really? Laurie Penny has clearly blinded herself to the number of rants about the “dumb hicks” and “white trash” who supported and voted for Trump, now and before the election. And all of those SJW campus protests she supports are hardly brimming over with sympathy for the white working classes, that’s for sure.

Today, hundreds of millions of people in America and around the world have woken up afraid — for themselves, for their children, for the future of a planet where an authoritarian psychopath has his hands on the nuclear codes and the fate of a burning world waiting on his pleasure. Those people are being told that they are sore losers. That they should shut up and accept it. That their fear is somehow funny. Laughing at the pain of the most vulnerable. Squealing with glee when the bully lands a blow. That’s the world millions of notionally decent human beings voted for, and don’t tell me for a second they didn’t know what they were buying.

You know what, I’m going to come out and say it. When grown adults have been infantilised to the extent that they host “cry ins” at their university campuses or post weepy video tantrums online, then yes, it is a little bit funny. Nobody (that I am aware of) is laughing at the legitimate fears of, say, American Muslims who are rightly alarmed at the intemperate language and unconstitutional proposals raised by candidate Donald Trump. But when privileged university students suddenly start acting as though they are being hunted down by death squads simply because an election goes against them then they do open themselves to some degree of ridicule.

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Fighting for tolerance, justice and dignity for women, queer people and people of colour is not frivolous and or vain. Who decided that it was?

Who decided that only those who place fear over faith in their fellow human beings are real, legitimate citizens whose voices matter? That’s not a rhetorical question. I want to know. Give me names.

Nobody. Nobody decided that. Fighting for egalitarianism is a noble thing to do. Wallowing in victimhood culture, continually emphasising one’s vulnerability over one’s strength and seeking to police the language and public discourse to actively shame anybody who questions the latest dogma, on the other hand, is every bit as authoritarian (or “fascistic”, to use Penny’s hyperbolic language) as anything that Donald Trump has ever said.

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I am done listening to my liberal friends contort themselves to take into account the notional opinions of the “white working class”. What does that even mean? How did we come to the craven consensus that the “white working class” is a homogenous mass of blustering bigots who must be pandered to as one might pander to a toddler having a tantrum at the edge of a cliff? A great many white people who are far from wealthy take issue with that particular patronising strain of self-scourgery on the left. A great many non-wealthy white people manage not to blame all their problems on feminazis, immigrants and their black and brown neighbours. Those people are real Americans, too.

So, no more of this nonsense. I’m done. I am done pretending that the good intentions of white patriarchy are more important than the consequences enacted on the bodies of others. Good intentions aren’t the issue here.

But of course Laurie Penny is never done. She would have no career if she were to actually stop giving her hysterical, preening, finger-wagging lectures to the rest of us, flaunting her conspicuous compassion before the world to earn social currency with with her fellow identity politics cultists.

And that’s the real rub here. The Left have practised and weaponised identity politics as a vote-winning tool (as well as a tool of censorship) for years. At some point it was inevitable that the white working class (and if Laurie Penny feels entitled to speak on behalf of “people of colour” as an homogeneous bloc then she can have no complaints about discussing the “white working class”) would start to adopt the same techniques, as a matter of political survival, in order to try to ensure the continued representation of their interests.

Laurie Penny and her fellow SJWs literally wrote the blueprint which Trump supporters followed to get their man into the White House. And still she does not see it. Still she rages at the white working class, howls at their “ignorance” and “bigotry”, seeks to invalidate them altogether (to use a beloved SJW term) and does everything in her power to make them feel under siege and justified in their decision to vote for Trump. Truly, the intellect is not very strong with this one.

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I know I do, although I haven’t yet. But be ready to reach out to them tomorrow, because the fight against despair continues, and alliances matter, and so does basic self-care. We need to be serious. I need to be serious, and I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry that the time for witty barbs about the President Elect, his hands, his hair and the howling ideological void of opportunistic narcissism behind his megalomaniac clown-mask is over, because inappropriate as those witty barbs are right now, they will probably be actively illegal before long.

I’m sorry, which group of people is it that tries to suppress free speech and make the giving of offence a disciplinary matter at universities and a “hate crime” in the real world? Because it’s not the Trumpists, that’s for sure.

And as for basic self care? Yes, please do keep on showering. I know that SJWs think that Hitler has just been elected US president, but we should all strive not to let ourselves go completely.

9 November – 7:20PM Washington D.C. / 10 November – 12:20AM London

Trump Victory Catastrophisation Watch, Part 3

Rod Dreher at The American Conservative has been cataloguing some of the most hysterical and overwrought responses to Donald Trump’s election victory witnessed on American university campuses, and the results are depressing, but entirely predictable.

Dreher, quoting several emails, memos or letters sent by paternalistic, overbearing university administrations to their snowflake student bodies, writes:

Oh for heaven’s sake … really? These snowflakes wanted classes cancelled because the wrong guy won the presidential election? These grown men and women need counseling to face the headlines? Are the SJWs and their coddlers trying to make me happy that Trump won, or what?

One of the emails, sent to students of Muhlenberg College, reads:

To the Muhlenberg Campus Community:

While the final results of the national election are not yet finally in, it is clear this is one of the most historic elections in our nation’s history.  Many members of my senior staff and I have received several emails from students requesting that we cancel classes today, Nov. 9.  We have also received emails from other students urging that we not cancel classes.

I am sensitive to the arguments of these students, both pro and con, on this issue.  As Muhlenberg is, at our core, an educational institution, I am persuaded we should not cancel classes; at least not today, in the immediate wake of this election.  Rather, I encourage our faculty to hold classes as scheduled but to be sensitive to the understandable feelings many members of our community — particularly our students — will be feeling in the wake of this historic election.

In the days ahead, we need to make space for reflection, discussion and consideration of what has happened and the variety of thoughts and feelings that this election will have stimulated in our community, in various communities throughout our nation and, indeed, in communities around the world.

There is already a session scheduled at 12:30pm in Seegers 111-112, with a faculty panel planning to discuss what happened in this election and why.  We will explore with the faculty organizers how we might open this meeting up to the entire campus and/or hold other meetings in the days ahead.

I encourage students who feel the need for support and counsel regarding the election to avail themselves of our counseling center, who will make room in their busy schedule to accommodate such sessions.  Also, our chaplain will be available in Egner Chapel for the bulk of the day for students who want to reflect in that space and/or seek her counsel.  I’m sure Rabbi Simon will also be available to our students.

We are a strong and mutually-supportive community.  We need to support one another in every way possible, and address our future in the most thoughtful and constructive ways possible.

Thanks to all members of our community for the support we will provide one another in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Dreher’s emphasis in bold.

And from the University of Michigan:

Our responsibility is to remain committed to education, discovery and intellectual honesty – and to diversity, equity and inclusion. We are at our best when we come together to engage respectfully across our ideological differences; to support ALL who feel marginalized, threatened or unwelcome; and to pursue knowledge and understanding, as we always have, as the students, faculty and staff of the University of Michigan.

There are reports of members of our community offering support to one another. Students are planning a vigil tonight on the Diag at 6 p.m. Our Center for Research on Teaching and Learning also has numerous resources available for faculty seeking help in cultivating classroom environments that are responsive to national issues.

Dreher provides a litany of examples of universities falling over themselves to play surrogate parent to adult students who have apparently been so infantilised that they now need to be treated as though they are toddlers when faced with an unwelcome election result. One can hardly imagine the university bending over backwards to provide emotional support to Trump-supporting students (those few who dared to declare their political views).

Look: it’s fine to be displeased and upset with the election result. This blog did not want Donald Trump to win the election or become president, not by a long shot. But to prance around acting as though fascism has suddenly come to America or that anybody is now in grave and immediate physical jeopardy is more than self-indulgent, it is corrosive to the political discourse, not to mention the already limited mental resilience of those who make and repeat such claims.

Are there many signs for hope that the incoming Trump administration will do great things for America? No. But America has withstood difficult times before, and (by comparison with today) largely done so without an infantilised population making the election result All About Them or unduly catastrophising the outcome.

And America can do so again, if only the Identity Politics Left could look beyond themselves for a moment and recognise the harm that they are actively inflicting on the country right now.

9 November – 7:13PM Washington D.C. / 10 November – 12:13AM London

Trump Victory Catastrophisation Watch, Part 2

Mother Jones magazine sends this urgent missive to its readers, entitled “how are you holding up?”:

This is a tough day. A lot has happened, and none of us can claim to fully understand it yet. As MoJo‘s Washington bureau chief, David Corn, put it in his piece on election night, “the forces of animus have taken control of this country. And there’s no telling what comes next.”

But one thing we know: This is the first day of a lot of work that needs to be done. And the work that MoJo does, the work of telling the truth without fear, is more essential than ever.

One of the things we learned about journalism during this campaign was that to pussyfoot around—refusing to call a lie a lie, or racism racism—is to enable liars or racists. That will be important in the months and years ahead. There will be a lot of pressure, some of it self-inflicted, for the press to “normalize” Trump and treat him like any other politician. We will need reporting that doesn’t do that. And we’ll need reporting that listens to the grassroots—that understands both where a movement like Trump’s comes from, and where the countervailing forces (and there are many) originate and gather strength.

We’re thinking about all of this today among the team, and surely so are all of you. Our editor-in-chief, Clara Jeffery, wrote an essay last night (because none of us could sleep anyway). She explained:

“Trump appealed to America’s worst impulses. Now it’s on the rest of us to show, to prove, that this is not all that America is. This is a time when we’re called on to do things we may not have done before. To face down bigotry and hate, and to reach beyond our Facebook feeds in trying to do so.

Ah yes, because Mother Jones and other anti-Trump forces were scrupulously honest and fearless arbiters of truth, while anybody with the slightest doubt that Hillary Clinton should be president automatically gave their blessing to the worst of Trump’s statements and behaviours.

Well, at least in speaking of the need to “reach beyond our Facebook feeds” they realise that they were trapped in an ideological bubble of their own making – a self sustained bubble which has now wrought profound and possibly very damaging consequences for the country.

We saw this same regression into childish vulnerability among the British Left after David Cameron’s 2015 general election victory, of course:

Laurie Penny - General Election 2015 - Partisan - Labour Party

9 November – 6:40PM Washington D.C. / 11:40PM London

Trump Victory Catastrophisation Watch, Part 1

As the election results began to turn against Donald Trump last night and supreme confidence gave way to unbridled panic, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow – an articulate host who I generally admire, despite our clear political differences – gave viewers a meltdown for the ages:

 

Sighing deeply, Maddow says:

You’re awake, by the way. You’re not having a terrible, terrible dream. Also, you’re not dead and you haven’t gone to hell. This is your life now. This is our election now. This is us. This is our country. It’s real.

Well, at least they don’t have “fair and balanced” as their slogan…

9 November – 6:35PM Washington D.C. / 11:35PM London

Semi-Partisan coverage resumes

Welcome back! This new live blog will run for a day or two, and will give my unfolding reaction to the developing story, showcase the best hot takes on Donald Trump’s remarkable election victory and the ensuing political earthquake, and call attention to some of the more extreme hyperbole we are now witnessing on both sides.

Clearly this was not the result that Semi-Partisan Politics wanted. Though this blog had zero enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, she seemed to me to be a better temporary custodian of the American Republic than Donald Trump will make, given his character and known policy positions. That being said – we are where we are, and must make the best of it. I for one do not particularly welcome our new orange overlord, but the majority of those who voted for Donald Trump did so in good faith and out of a genuine desire to improve America. They must be respected and heard. The establishment must stop trying to “manage” the people, for once in their wretched lives, and actually try listening and responding to them instead.

However, it is clear that efforts are being made to quickly establish and entrench narratives about why and how Donald Trump achieved this victory. Both Democrats hoping for future party renewal and those on the right worried  about the future of American conservatism in the Age of Trump need to think long and hard about the messages they send out at this emotionally charged time. A lot of reputations are being tarnished and permanently diminished on Twitter right now. And throughout the media there is an awful lot of highly charged and ill-considered rhetoric being bandied about, most of which is probably not helpful to anybody.

Do please feel free to chime in with comments, questions or criticism, as always.

Yesterday’s election day (and night) live blog here.

 

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