Over the last few days I’ve been brooding about trends in politics. Not about which candidate will win which election, but rather about the way people in democracies across the world appear to be searching for something different. It seems that they’ll support any charismatic wanabe, no matter how odd his or her policies, provided that person is not linked to the political establishment. Maybe it’s the concrete expression of disgust that we all feel about where the world has been brought by its leaders. It’s understandable, but it may be dangerous.
|Pretty well as large as life|
|Larger than life|
|That about sums it up!|
The Democratic Party is no different. There we have Bernie Sanders who is drawing big crowds and leading in New Hampshire – not, I suggest, because of his policies, which he probably doesn’t expect to implement in any case, but because he’s an outsider. Hilary Clinton should be a shoo-in, but she has a huge problem to overcome – not the email “scandal” (which I frankly don’t even understand), but that she’s the ultimate insider.
This seems to be repeated around the world. James Corbyn gets elected as leader of the Labour Party in the UK on a platform that conventional wisdom says makes Labour unelectable. In the last election Scotland threw out all the established candidates, having toyed with independence from the UK shortly before. In the same election -although winning only one seat as a result of the constituency system - UKIP drew substantial support on a xenophobic platform. It even seems possible that in the upcoming referendum, UK voters will decide to withdraw from Europe in spite of – or maybe partly because of - all the main parties telling them not to.
SYRIZA wins the election in Greece – a charismatic leader with a group of outsiders (who have actually become insiders but no one has noticed yet). They get another chance after essentially reneging on everything they promised in the previous election. How does that work?
In South Africa – despite the government’s endemic corruption and mismanagement – the established opposition gets nowhere. It’s the new outsiders here – the Economic Freedom Fighters – who are suddenly winning new voters. While race is still the card played by all sides, much of the real division is now around class - the haves and the have nots. A black government of wealthy politicians doesn't cut it any more.
Annamaria pointed out a few days ago that there seems to be just one story that the media run with at any moment. It was Syria, then it was Greece, then it was the Refugee Crisis, then… and the older stories seem to fall by the wayside, not because they’ve been resolved - far from it - but because ennui has set in and we need something new to appall us. Surely this also drives the disgust we feel; all of these issues are leadership failures writ very large. Successes – and there really are some throughout the world (take a look at Sujata's post yesterday) – just don’t make news.
The reason I think this could be dangerous is that one of these days we’re going to end up with an outsider we really won’t like. Brexit? President Trump?
Michael - Thursday