Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Change May Well Be Needed - but Not Trump's Kind

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Change May Well Be Needed - but Not Trump's Kind

Article excerpt


ATAX-AVOIDING magnate pulled off a hostile takeover of the White House, declaring himself on the side of the little man while trampling anybody en route.

He's the master of the Big Lie; say anything often and loud enough and it will feed the gut and psyche of the disaffected.

The image I'm trying to get out of my head is of the narcissistic racist authoritarian elected in 1930s Germany whose premiership didn't exactly end well.

President Bush instigated wars responsible for up to 1.3 million deaths and legitimised Islamophobia. A right wing-dominated media twists the truth and whips up intolerance; Twitter is the tool Hitler never had.

In a nation shaped by immigrants, Trump skilfully roused blind nationalism. Todd Gitlin, an American sociologist and political writer, described Americans as "unmoored" within a moral chasm, their nets of belonging eroded. A longing for identity is now emerging in the form of American white nationalism.

Mainstream politics needs a shakeup for sure but not by ripping apart the rules anchoring an open and tolerant world. Peaceful revolts via the ballot box are overdue and welcome but neither Trump nor Brexit - their campaigns long on invective and short on policy - are saviours of the dispossessed.

If Trump delights in the comparison, it is because the architects of Brexit are, like him, privileged demagogues deft at manipulating the public's worst fears and instincts. The popular will can be unpredictable, even destructive of the common good. In Britain, this requires standing up for the judiciary and the sovereignty of Parliament.

Working people in the North of England and the rust belt of America have had a raw deal from an economic system favouring the well educated and better off. In the US, inequality has risen and median incomes stagnated in recent years, especially among those without a college degree. Like here, most new jobs in the US are in service industries, including retail and personal healthcare and food service. More than half of American workers make less than $15 per hour and there is resentment at the Democrats' perceived bias towards helping minorities while losing focus on overarching economic issues.

Nowhere are the losers compensated. It would take massive investment in infrastructure and education to prosper in the global digital economy, a priority no government has as yet committed to. A Republicandominated Congress stymied Obama's efforts at this.

Social policy has not kept up with technology. You cannot magically create manufacturing jobs lost over long periods. People have been left rusting mostly because of automation, not trade. Profits from free trade are sitting in tax havens; income inequality is a deep-rooted problem also to do with tax systems, deregulation and the war on welfare. …

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