Watching the stream of calamities that follow POTUS Trump it is hard to believe that his coterie of followers seem more convinced than ever that he’s the leader they want. He is by any measure a philanderer, racist and liar, yet his followers line up to defend him because they say the USA is doing well under his leadership which is a dubious claim by any standard excepting the very shortest of term views.
Why? I ask myself. Maybe it’s because the elite liberals have ignored the courser idioms of the majority. Yes, Obama was an outstanding orator, the first black President, the great hope for equality and progress. Yet Obama achieved remarkably little particularly for the miners of West Virginia and their like. Obama may have been a great thinker but he wasn’t a great doer either at home or abroad. His red line on Syrian chemical weapons was easy to erase, his economic policy was balanced and considered but that did not yield the short term fix that the redundancy threatened unskilled worker was looking for.
So enter Trump, a man’s man, a guy like any ordinary Joe. Sure he talks a bit crudely for the POTUS but so what? He’s had a few affairs, what a lucky guy – so what? He sometimes tells porkies – don’t we all? – so what? Trump speaks in a way the ordinary Joe understands, despite the fact that what he says is largely nonsense. It is speaking commonly to common folk – populism at its plainest. Let’s start trade wars, lets put America first, screw the Chinese and all the other folk who manufacture goods cheaper than we do. Sure this argument has grains of truth, but in aggregate its nonsense complete nonsense which will cost America hundreds of thousands of jobs, if it continues unabated.
When will both sides wake up. The liberals must not abandon the common man, the bloke on the street. Populists must stop telling lies. The situation seems hopeless and the answer so vary far away.
In Europe the idealist Jacques Delors saw the great federal Europe as the future, Boris Johnson sees that the ordinary man in the street doesn’t care to be ruled by foreign unelected bureaucrats and so appeals to the lowest common denominator, just like Trump. Just like Trump, Johnson has gone for the oversimplified often distorted and exaggerated to appeal to the ‘man in the street’, in so doing he has undermined the real issues of the EU federalism, fiscal unity and the Euro arguments.
You may argue that the ‘common man’ ought to wake up and examine these half truths and sophisticated arguments more precisely. You can certainly argue there is no room for downright lies, but in the last analysis politics has to manage the truth in a direct way that every one understands. Is there hope or are we condemned to hopelessness?
Ignorance, they say, is bliss, and populism is certainly on the rise. What we must avoid is further migration of two versions of fact, one interpreted by sophisticated elite and seldom understood by the electorate, and the oversimplified half truth of the populist.
Mr Trump believes he knows which will win, I hope his excesses catch up with him and that even the most plain follower will move toward a more reasoned view and politic. The same goes for Europe as it battles with its many demons. Let us hope that we, one day soon, vote in an informed way that takes us where we want to go.