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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Why there’s nothing liberal about Western ‘democracies’

Election debates in the US and UK reveal the complete bankruptcy of politics in the West

Last Friday Donald Trump and Joe Biden took part in the first of two scheduled debates in the lead up to the American presidential election that will take place in early November.

And in the UK last Thursday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Kier Starmer confronted each other in the final election debate before British voters go to the polls next week.

Neither debate was a particularly edifying spectacle.

Each, however, revealed the absolute bankruptcy of politics in contemporary Western liberal democracies – by clearly demonstrating that none of the political leaders that took part in them is capable of solving the problems that bedevil their countries.

Those problems include the acute cost of living crisis; the effects of mass immigration; the consequences of climate change policy; and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.

It must be said that the corruption of liberal democracy has progressed much further in America than it has in the UK.

Trump’s first presidency, his refusal to accept his subsequent election defeat, his fermenting of the January 6 riots, and his patent contempt for the basic conventions of liberal democracy have debauched the American political system forever.

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American politics, as the historian Richard Hofstadter correctly pointed out in a number of seminal books in the 1950s and 1960s, has always contained significant and influential illiberal movements.

These movements had their origin in the American South and the defence of slavery – and have always been tolerated, to some extent, by the power elites (the term was coined by sociologist C Wright Mills in the 1950s) that governed America.   

Hofstadter wrote during a period when a liberal consensus dominated American politics – and he was roundly condemned for suggesting that American politics had a dark, irrational and illiberal underbelly. 

Hofstadter’s analysis has, however, been completely vindicated in recent years.    

Illiberal movements gained increasing influence within the Republican Party during the 1990s, with the emergence of the Tea party movement and politicians such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin – who were feeble precursors of Trump.

When Trump gained control of the Republican Party in the lead up to the 2016 election, political illiberalism was on the verge of triumphing in America. When Trump became president in 2016 – courtesy of Hilary Clinton’s elitism, arrogance and gross political ineptitude – it did so for the first time.

What does Friday’s Trump/Biden debate tell us about contemporary American politics? Essentially that the upcoming election is one in which neither contestant is fit to hold office. 

Trump’s contempt for liberal democracy makes him unfit to be president. He has already foreshadowed taking revenge on his political opponents and those institutions that he blames for his election defeat on 2020, and promised a “bloodbath” should he not be elected president in November.

During Friday’s debate Trump simply brushed aside these issues, and polls make clear that they do not matter to those American voters who support him.

A Trump presidency will, of course, do nothing to improve the lot of those working-class and middle-class voters adversely affected by globalisation who constitute Trump’s main support base.

Like all populist leaders, Trump is incapable of delivering real social and economic change for those groups that he represents. ‘Make America Great Again’ is a puerile political slogan, not a program for genuine economic or social reform.

In fact, a Trump presidency can only intensify the intractable cultural and political divisions that have plagued America for the past few decades. This week’s decision by the Supreme Court to grant Trump immunity for some of his illiberal actions makes this absolutely certain.

On foreign policy issues, however, a Trump presidency may herald important changes. Trump said during the debate that he would end the conflict in Ukraine before he was sworn in, and accused Biden of wanting to drag America into “World War III” – and he has said in recent speeches that he believes that the war in Gaza has gone on far too long.

In any event, the global elites that so enthusiastically support Biden and the Democrats will tolerate a Trump presidency without too much difficulty.

They are as little committed to liberal democracy as Trump is, and know that Trump will not fundamentally change the American economic order.

These elites also know that the ‘culture wars’ are nothing more than an ideological smokescreen, behind which they will continue to exercise real power without any restraint. 

Friday’s debate made clear that Biden’s cognitive decline has rendered him completely unfit to be president – and that the Democratic Party should have selected an alternative candidate long before now. 

The fact that the Democratic Party continues to support Biden as its candidate – he is now the “diversity” candidate – shows how much contempt the Democrats and the global elites they represent have for American voters. A crushing Trump victory in November is now inevitable.

The parliamentary election in the UK has featured a number of debates, including two head-to-head debates between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer. 

These debates and recent polls have highlighted the dramatic political realignments that have taken place in British politics since Boris Johnson led the Conservative Party to an 80-seat victory in the 2019 election.

Since then, however, the Conservative Party has torn itself itself apart and hemorrhaged electoral support. It now looks to lose over 300 seats and be reduced to a rump opposition party of around 60 seats.

The swift demise of the Conservative Party – presided over by fourth-rate leaders such as Liz Truss and Sunak – mirrors the decline of mainstream conservative parties in France, Germany, and other European countries over the past decade. 

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This demise has been accompanied by the dramatic rise of the right-wing populist Reform Party in the UK – now led by Brexit champion and Trump admirer Nigel Farage.

Reform is currently polling around 20% – but because of Britain’s first past the post voting system it is expected to win very few seats at this week’s election. Farage, however, appears likely to be elected to parliament and may be tempted to take over what is left of the decimated Conservative party.

The major beneficiary of these realignments has been Keir Starmer’s reconstructed Labour Party. Having purged itself completely of old-style socialists such as Jeremy Corbyn after Labour’s election loss in 2019, Starmer’s party now represents, almost exclusively, the interests of the global elites – in much the same way that Biden’s Democratic party does.

And despite Starmer not being popular with voters, his Labour Party is on track to win over 400 seats at next week’s election and have the largest majority in British political history.

If Boris Johnson’s fate, however, is any guide, Starmer’s Labour Party – no matter how large its majority – cannot be certain of lasting more than one term. Voters in the West, understandably, have nothing but contempt for mainstream politicians.

The recent UK political debates reveal that none of the leaders of the major political parties are capable of remedying the serious problems confronting the UK at the moment.

Sunak can be disregarded completely – his campaign has been a disaster and his latest policy initiatives, which include introducing national service for teenagers, are laughable. In the debates Sunak has been reduced to trying to scare voters by telling them that Labour will raise taxes if elected to government.

Having failed to put an end to mass migration, and presided over a declining economy and an acute cost of living crisis, Sunak could hardly run on his record.

Starmer, like Biden, has committed his party to orthodox woke policy positions that favour the interests of the global elites – net zero emissions, mass immigration, transgender rights, etc. – as well as uncritically supporting America’s proxy wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

How a Labour government committed to such policies can possibly solve the pressing problems confronting the UK is not readily apparent. After all, successive Conservative governments for the past 14 years have adhered to similar policies, with dire consequences.

As for Farage and the Reform Party, their populist program is much the same as Trump’s and suffers from the same fundamental flaws.

Farage attributes all of Britain’s ills to mass immigration – but this is hardly a coherent political program for serious reform. And, in any event, Reform will not be in a position to do anything about mass migration anyway.  

Interestingly, last week Farage made a major speech questioning Britain’s continuing support for Ukraine – thereby mirroring Trump’s position on this issue. Farage was predictably condemned by both Starmer and Sunak and most mainstream media organisations for expressing such a heretical view.

In the UK, as in America, none of the major candidates for election is anything more than a fourth-rate politician. At the end of the most recent Starmer/Sunak debate an audience member understandably asked them “Are you two really the best choice we have got?” Many American voters must feel the same way.

In fact, the sheer incompetence of politicians such as Starmer, Sunak, Trump, and Biden simply beggars belief.

And this week’s first round election results in France make clear that Emmanuel Macron must now be added to this group of hopelessly ineffectual mainstream political leaders in the West.

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It seems inevitable, therefore, that America, the UK, and France are headed for further internal political division and decline. 

In such circumstances, a real issue arises as to whether this intensifying deterioration and instability will lead these countries to seek to provoke a major foreign war – either in Ukraine or in the Middle East.

Independent UK MP George Galloway – leader of the UK Worker’s Party – predicted last week that Keir Starmer, when elected as prime minister this week, would take the UK into a foreign war within six months.

And in Friday’s debate, Trump warned that Biden would drag America into “World War III” in the unlikely event that he was elected president in November.

These fears are not completely groundless. The global elites that rule most Western democracies are firmly committed to a quasi cold war worldview that favours the expansion of the tottering American Empire by uncritically supporting its proxy foreign wars.

Peter Hitchens, the UK political commentator, Russia expert and critic of Britain’s unwavering support for the Zelensky regime, recently issued a pertinent warning about “the inability of our political class to have an intelligent debate about foreign policy.”  

In Europe, incompetent centrist political leaders such as Macron and Olaf Scholz, who are rabidly committed to escalating the conflict in Ukraine, are only being restrained by populist parties on the far right – such as Le Pen’s National Rally and the AFD party – that are no longer willing to tolerate the disastrous domestic consequences of such a misguided foreign policy.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the bankruptcy of contemporary politics in the West is that only right-wing populist parties (together with a few independent political leaders and intellectuals) seem determined to prevent a world war from breaking out in the near future.

July 03, 2024 at 02:51AM
RT

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