For the first time in a really long time, the left is on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic, a left that is arguing for economic equality that is. In Greece and Spain, anti-austerity parties have won considerable support while in the UK and the US, leftist candidates Jeremy Corbyn – for the British Labour leadership – and Bernie Sanders, who is giving Hillary Clinton a real scare in primary states, are doing unexpectedly well.
But is Donald Trump, the mysoginistic billionaire vying for the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential election, part of the same trend?
Ian Welsh seems to believe he is. In this intriguing post on his always stimulating blog, he argues that Trump’s right-wing populism mirrors the left in important ways. Have a read. It’s worth it:
Why Trump, Corbyn and Sanders are doing well
Let’s state the obvious about Trump.
No, not that he’s a joke, or a sign of fascism or any of that.
Rather that a lot of what he says makes sense. His policies aren’t as crazy as people make out, and people who support him aren’t as stupid as the media pretends.
He doesn’t want to cut Social Security. Jeb Bush does. Obama has talked this up.
He wants full universal healthcare. Yeah, he badmouths Obamacare, but he’s badmouthing it from a position of “give them the real thing.”
His idea of returning manufacturing to the US and doing bilateral trade deals is not insane, or crazy, except to neo-liberal apologists and people too stupid to realize they’ve imbibed the economic philosophy of neo-liberalism, whose results have been the stagnation and then absolute decline of ordinary Americans wages. This is how capitalism worked for about half of capitalism’s history. Disagree if you like, it’s not crazy.
His idea of simplifying the tax code enough so that ordinary people don’t need professionals to fill out their tax forms is a good one. Jimmy Carter, by the way, wanted to do the same thing.
I’m not a fan of Trump, there are plenty of reasons why he’s problematic, but he’s actually an economic populist on many issues. That comes married to some nasty nativism people shouldn’t overlook, but I’m tired of people who are lumping all parts of the Trump campaign together.
And folks, he told the truth about buying politicians.
Trump is doing well because he is telling some truths other politicians won’t, and because his actual policies sound good to right wing populists. Populists have been divided into right and left for a long time, but it’s the feeling that matters to right wing populists. Trump comes across as a straight shooter and that’s why they’ll vote for him. (It is also why many of them will cross the lines to vote for Sanders if he’s the Democratic nominee and Trump isn’t the Republican one.)
Anyone who feels like a normal politician loses big points in the current environment, because people who feel like normal politicians are why we’re here, in this shithole economy, with no end in sight and plenty of reason to believe it could get a lot worse.
Sanders, Trump and Corbyn in England (whom I’ll write about in a bit) are all doing well because of this dynamic. People are sick of the status quo and they will take a chance with anyone who is willing to actually bloody well try something different than the usual. And since most people don’t parse just on policy positions (nor should they, since politicians lie), what they are looking for are candidates who don’t act like the normal candidates and who therefore might actually do something different.