The results of biggest two latest elections (the EU referendum and the US election) has brought me to two key conclusions:
- The general public is no longer intelligent / informed / clever enough to decide on complex political issues
- Anyone that is egotistical / arrogant / selfish enough to want to be a politician should automatically be barred from being one
Now those two things make the current system of electing represented officials difficult, so I have a solution for that:
- Members of the public should be randomly selected to be an MP in a similar way to the way jury service is done
Let’s be honest, most of us feel that a random selection of people could hardly make a worse job of things than our current MPs are doing, while with enough civil service support the people could learn enough about the issues to make informed decisions – the kind of decisions they can’t make during an election.
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So I’m joking about the above, but only half joking. I do think that these two recent elections have seen a shift in the democratic process and how information is shared, understood, accepted or rejected by the electorate. I think, not just because I don’t like either of the two results, but because of how both campaigns, from both sides, were run, that something might well need to change.
How they were the same
Obviously the two elections were for different things with different protagonists, however there were a number of similarities.
One of the first is that general commentators discounted what turned out to the final result, “don’t worry, this could never happen.” In fact that line was being repeated right until the count, in both cases, showed that actually it just had. Some of that is due to the inaccuracies of the poling (joke: for people voting in the US election the polls were wrong; for those voting in the EU referendum it was the Poles that were wrong!), but much of it is due to the natural bias of the commentators (me included) meaning that they just couldn’t believe it would happen, instead of analysing the facts.
Another similarity is the way the voting patterns were split by age – in both cases the older generations voted in the final result, while the younger generations were on the losing side.
However, some of the commentary I’ve seen today would suggest that it was the split by educational level that was more influential – those with lower educational attainment voting for Brexit and Trump.
From what I can see, the biggest similarity is that a very large proportion (a majority of those that voted) used their vote as a vote against the ‘establishment’. In the EU referendum it was the establishment of Europe and the fact that most of the major politicians were supporting it. In the US Hilary is seen as one of the most establishment figures and her very experience for the job counted against her as she was seen as one of ‘them’.
Now, I would argue that the result of that anti-establishment vote has produced a worse result for those that wanted a change. In the UK what we’ve done is handed even more ‘power’ to the Tory government that can now claim a mandate for almost any right-wing policy they want claiming that it’s what the ‘people want’, without the checks and balances that the European parliament provided, or as they’ve tried to do, without any checks and balances from the British parliament. While in the US they have elected a man that has shown less than zero interest in the rights of the ‘common person’ so far as he has ridden rough-shod over people to run his businesses.
It’s here now
I was angry after the Brexit vote and while anger is easy to understand it’s not going to solve anything. What we may to do is accept.
Now that I’ve calmed down a bit, I don’t agree with the moves to block the triggering of Article 50 in the UK. I don’t want us to leave, but I think it is more important that we respect the result of the vote. Nor would I agree with any blocking or disrespect of Trump becoming President (I don’t like the #NotmyPresident hashtag).
That doesn’t mean that we should ‘do’ something, but that something isn’t to be bitter and reject the results. I’m not saying that I know exactly what we should do, but just being angry is the wrong thing.
For a while the narrative amongst the Remain voters was that the Leavers were misguided, that they didn’t understand the ‘real’ issues, that they were only ‘protesting’ and didn’t mean it. In a similar way most commentators didn’t believe that Trump would be elected as those people that were claiming that they would vote for him would somehow wake up or come round and realise their mistake before the actual election.
Maybe now is the time to accept that some people really do feel that these choices are the best way forward. Maybe they voted with conviction after looking at the options and actively made this choice. Maybe the alternatives presented to them they considered to be worse for them.
We may have to consider the possibility that these results were active choices by people.
For the EU referendum vote I strongly believe that the Remain side made a huge mistake in not clearly demonstrating the benefits of the EU (that could be a separate post of its own), but what they didn’t do was address the concerns of the people who were against Europe. It would seem that for both elections there was quite a strongly divided electorate and in both cases both sides really only talked to their own ‘team’. Certainly the losing sides failed to understand that there was real anger – and I mean real, even though it may not be ‘justified’ that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t real to those that felt it – and therefore failed to even attempt to address it.
The left needs to take some blame for this – and not just during these election cycles, but over the last 20 years or so. The view that multiculturism, gender equality, open borders etc etc are good things just hasn’t got through. These are the issues that have been roundly rejected, yet are the basis of much of left-wing politics.
Another key cause has been how the media and social media have been used. The reporting that someone said something, with limited, if any, fact checking by the mainstream media and the spread of memes and conspiracy theories on social media have greatly affected how people have received and processed the information they needed / wanted to make a decision.
Finally, I genuinely think that the current state of capitalism is a key contributor to this situation. What most people are angry about is the loss of their jobs, or the fear they will lose jobs. That we are not as affluent, as a society, as we once were or as we were promised we would be. They have been looking for someone to blame and the ‘others’ become an easy scapegoat. Yet it isn’t European or Syrian immigrants (in the UK) or Muslims (in the US) that have caused this. Instead as a society we have allowed spiralling salaries and the profit at all costs culture – and most of the costs are the workers and their jobs, or if not their jobs then their salaries.
A Trump win may be the best result
Having thought about this all day I do believe that a Trump win is possibly the best result from last night. Not for a moment did I want him to win, or support anything he has said through the election. But I’ll explain my two key reasons for thinking this:
If he had lost, and his supporters had lost, then the rhetoric of the final few days of the election would have immediately resulted in ‘a fix’ being called. If Clinton had won almost half of the US voters would have felt they had been cheated yet again by the establishment and I dread to think how that anger and disappointment may have been expressed. On top of that the Republican dominated Congress would feel obliged to restrict and hinder President Clinton as much as possible.
However a Trump in the White House might not be as bad as he was on the election trail. I’m still pretty sure he’ll be terrible, but I suspect that a combination of his lack of experience will mean he will need to rely in advisors and his ego will mean that he’ll actually want to be a popular president.
This may just be a vain hope, but we can just hope.
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Caveat – I’m not a professional commentator, in fact I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about. This is just a rant in the aftermath of what, to me, is a truly shocking result. I’d be happy to hear more thoughts…