Monday, August 17, 2015

The People Have The Power-- To Dream, To Vote


Labour's Jeremy Corbyn is drawing huge crowds across the U.K., just the way Bernie Sanders is here in the U.S.-- and for similar reasons. Both progressives are battling a distrusted and failed political Establishment and championing the concept of power to the people-- the polar opposite of what Trump is championing: power to the strong man who will look out for you (one of the roots of fascism). Corbyn's popularity is going through the roof. Friday people started voting in the Labour contest for Party Leader and, much to the chagrin of New Labour and the party's impotent, failed hierarchy, Corbyn is way ahead. (Voting ends September 10.)

Discredited but so far unindicted war criminal Tony Blair is leading the charge against Corbyn and the hordes of new members he has attracted the the Labour Party with his populist ideas and vision. Mark Steel, writing Friday for The Independent grappled with why conventional Labour politicians find the prospect of Corbyn and all those new voters, so terrifying. Tongue in cheek, he sympathized: "It’s easy to see why those in charge of the Labour Party are so depressed. They must sit in their office crying: 'Hundreds of thousands of people want to join us. It’s a disaster. And loads of them are young, and full of energy, and they’re really enthusiastic. Oh my God, why has it all gone so miserably wrong?' Every organisation would be the same. If a local brass band is down to its last five members, unsure whether it can ever put on another performance, the last thing it needs is young excited people arriving with trombones to boost numbers and raise money and attract large audiences. The sensible response is to tell them they’re idiots, and announce to the press that they are infiltrators from the Workers’ Revolutionary Party."
The fervour around Jeremy Corbyn is extraordinary, but it wouldn’t be fair to suggest he’s the only Labour politician who can bring large crowds on to the streets to greet him. Tony Blair is just as capable. In his case the crowds are there to scream that he should be arrested for war crimes and to throw things at him, but that’s being pernickety; he can certainly draw an audience.

Blair made another contribution to the leadership debate this week, and his prose is worth quoting. It goes: “The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched, over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below. This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk on the basis it causes 'disunity'. It is a moment for a rugby tackle if that were possible.”...[H]e was simply trying to convey the scale of apocalypse that will result from Labour electing a leader who stands for something.

...This week, I was lucky enough to enjoy at first hand this calm approach of Labour’s leaders, when my application to register as a supporter was turned down on the grounds that: “We have reason to believe that you do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party.” I suppose it’s encouraging that they’re being so thorough, although it could be argued that leading your country into a disastrous invasion, having justified it with a set of premises it turns out you made up, is also slightly at odds with the aims and values of the Labour Party. So, presumably, Blair and Campbell and their supporters will have received the same email as me?

Or there’s Simon Danczuk, the MP who has pledged to do all he can to overthrow Jeremy Corbyn from day one of his leadership. I wonder if publicly committing yourself to bringing down the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party could give someone a reason to believe you didn’t support the aims and values of the Labour Party?

If not, this could lead to a whole new way of running organisations. When someone joins the Scouts they should have to pledge to bring down the Scouts from day one, otherwise they’re not allowed to join. If a new member applies to join a bowls club, they should be asked if they’re prepared to abide by the rules of the elected committee, and if they are, they should be told to sod off and never come back.

Then there’s John McTernan, the former adviser to Jim Murphy, who insists that Corbyn will be a catastrophe, and that the party should continue with the strategy he devised in Scotland, which took the party’s MPs from 41 to a much more manageable one, making it far easier to deal with admin.

These are the types you want to make a party successful, not crowds of young enthusiastic people eager to change society. Isn’t it obvious?
Last year a Gallup poll showed how disaffected voters are from the two Establishment parties. Only 25% of voters identify as Republicans (way down) and 31% identify as Democrats (relatively stable but also slipping). Independents showed tremendous growth, now at 42%.
Americans are increasingly declaring independence from the political parties. It is not uncommon for the percentage of independents to rise in a non-election year, as 2013 was. Still, the general trend in recent years, including the 2012 election year, has been toward greater percentages of Americans identifying with neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party, although most still admit to leaning toward one of the parties.

The rise in political independence is likely an outgrowth of Americans' record or near-record negative views of the two major U.S. parties, of Congress, and their low level of trust in government more generally.
I can't imagine that conventional Establishment politicians like Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden can turn those trends around-- or even want to think about them-- but they very much do account for some of the enthusiasm swirling around the electoral bids of outsiders Donald Trump (from a fascist perspective) and Bernie Sanders (from a small "d" democratic perspective). Too complicated? Go back to the top and listen to Patti Smith in Rome again.

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