Saturday, 12 November 2016
America's Geldof moment
The election of Donald Trump doesn't need much in the way of analysis. The right wing press is filling up with all the clichés about disenfranchisement and disillusionment and how an aloof band of politically correct liberals have toxified public discourse to such an extent that Trump seems like the appropriate response. Even figures of the left have woken up to the fact that Trump is really their creation. The preachy hypocrisy of the modern left is fully exposed for all to see and you would have to be blind to miss it.
What is interesting to me though is how the the decision is made by the people without any reference to the central campaign. I can well imagine that most voting for Trump would have found him fairly repellent. I did. As a person he has no real redeeming features. Anyone with a functioning set of critical faculties can see that. Yet none of that matters.
The fact Trump ran one of the most inept and toxic campaigns in living memory had no real impact on the outcome. In the end the shrillness of the opposition, deeply embedded in all strands of the media was enough to turn the tide. As with our referendum the outcome hung in the balance up until a week before polling day. I didn't detect the shift in mood here in the UK and so I was as surprised as anyone that leave won. Deeply embedded in the nuts and bolts of the issues I lost touch with overall sentiment.
With Trump it was different. Not being involved I was able to view it from a distance and I can almost pinpoint the exact moment when Clinton lost it. About a week before the shrill insistence of the media that Trump was the antichrist and voting for him makes you a bad and stupid person, well, that was it. There was a Geldof moment. Or rather a fever pitch that amounted to one where polite society was offending just about every sensibility of the ordinary voter.
In this moment none of the issues were any longer relevant, nor indeed was the crassness and ineptitude of the candidate in question. Exactly the same happened here. Had the remainer media taken the final week off and kept schtum they would have won comfortably. Had it been a rational decision based on the facts presented, leave would have lost. Vote Leave ran a muddled campaign with outright distortions and the cause was represented by morons none of whom could summon a fact if their life depended on it.
In the end there was no killer winning argument. The economic case for leaving was shaky and the lack of a Brexit plan and inability to agree on one was quite obviously a concern for more discerning voters. I recall many conversations with persuadable people who in the end voted to remain simply because a leave win would put the likes of Boris Johnson in power without a first clue what they were doing. I really couldn't argue with that. Were it not for Theresa May we would be a in a very real mess right now with the worst of Tory right wing instincts driving policy.
What the leave campaign needed was a miracle because the efforts of Arron Banks were crass beyond belief and Vote Leave was utterly useless as a campaign resource. It barely made a dent. Only in the final days did we get that miracle. Between the sneering of Bob Geldof and the open exploitation of the Jo Cox slaying, the remain campaign became so obnoxious that they deserved to lose. However obnoxious Vote Leave was in the final weeks, nothing it could do could surpass the sneering contempt of remainers - and that is ultimately why we are now leaving the EU.
And so what we are looking at here and in the US is not a coherent political movement based on arguments, policies and facts, rather it is a change of mood that the public is no longer minded to have finger-wagging superior metropolitan types lecturing them.
So solid is this dynamic that it must now be written into the rulebook of political predictions. Polling might tell us what the public thinks - but not how it feels and you can't read that feeling until the very last leg. It comes down to that most basic of electoral rules. Don't insult the voters and never underestimate them. In this it is wholly patronising to say that the public were deceived by campaigns. They knew why they were voting but more importantly who they were voting against. This is an all powerful sentiment at work that overrides all economic arguments. This, above all, is why the experts continue to fail...