Trump, Brexit and the need for a pause

Even the most cursory glance at Twitter today (9th November 2016) suggests that Nostradamus was only slightly off with his predictions. I cannot tell you how much I dislike Trump, but he won an election and the reality is that enough people agreed with him to make that possible. For me the thought process is how to respond as a Liberal.

Part of the problem is that within our liberal tendency we cannot understand this; he is a misogynist, racist and a demagogue. To me that analysis by and large  misses the point – he is not elected on the basis of his personality he was elected on the basis of his offer, and we cannot deride, ignore or assume that over 50m people are stupid for doing so, nor can we assume that the 50m+ that voted for Clinton are automatically virtuous, even in defeat simply because Clinton wasn’t Trump.

A reflection on our own electoral history suggests that despite the perceived majority view or even the institutional view, those with less than savoury personalities or portrayals win. I am personally a massive fan of David Lloyd George, but what was he, he was a philanderer, blatant in his corruption and overly self-assured. some dislike Margaret Thatcher but she won three elections and changed the country I live in. I am a Europhile but i live in a country that voted for Brexit, in essence as much as it pains me i cannot hate the people that voted contrary to how i did, but that doesn’t mean that i am subservient to that world view, or assume that what comes after represents me.

Turning to Trump is appears he represents a voice in America that is perhaps missing in our own world view, I doubt everyone who voted for Trump is like him, or even like all of his characteristics, but he represents them and that is what the electoral process is. The bigger problem is that we might have to revisit our frames of reference to understand what is going on. Personally, and I am writing without much reference material, there is something of seeing the process of Brexit and Trump being elected as expressions of groups of people who wish to be heard. They are not all racists, they are not all anti-immigrants and they are not all-right wing they just appreciate the world is different from the one we L/liberals either hope for, or presume.

In some respects we have forgotten that history is often a form of compromise with all ideas, this means that we have forgotten to compromise with ideas that do not chime with our own. This risks liberalism becoming a chimera in which we forget that we haven’t arrived at a societal stage where one idea or opinion is simply morally right and that diminishes everything else. Although there are moral absolutes; these are in essence related to us individually, or collectively shared within a class or group. It doesn’t follow that these ideas automatically resonate with another group. The task is to compromise and see that there is often worry and concern on all sides but for different reasons. The compromise isn’t to diminish our own values it’s a means of ensuring that all values are understood, and a solution derived.

This may not be palatable, it may mean within a Trump presidency we see thoughts expressed which horrify us, but being liberal requires the resolve to accept that all thoughts are held despite some being horrific. Silence doesn’t bred consent any more than it proves that some people aren’t racists, and the need to discuss and compromise is part of the response needed. Brexit and a Trump Presidency are only really comparable because how we got there – they are however different; this is not a new age of extremes but perhaps a new age where the certainties of the immediate past need reconnecting with a longer history of the world in constant change.

Rather than being the end of the world, it is a wake-up call to look at what people think and feel even if that doesn’t chime with how some think they should. This isn’t about acceptance, but a robust review of ideas and their meaning. In my own way, I feel this is because the economic institutions have changed in a way that political ones haven’t, we need to realise that some gain and some lose, and if enough people feel they have lost they will want a representative that fixes that. In the same way, each nation and the world will fix itself and although the Republicans rule in America they won’t want a Trump presidency which effectively destroys them and their credibility; likewise things, elements and ideas change to re-evaluate what has happened and we need time to think.

So today – at least – I am avoiding Twitter….

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Brexit, the Government and Parliament

I voted remain, I am not a ‘remoaner’ nor a traitor. I have worked in this country, paid taxes in this country and whilst I support a free press, I reserve the right to highlight the extremities of that press. I don’t wish to overturn the referendum result – personally I have always believed that you should accept the result of an election, its part of how things work.

However, I also believe that the system should work as it is supposed to. If the referendum was about sovereignty then the issue must be debated in parliament – referendums are an incredibly poor means of making decisions, especially when we have a press more focused on generic demagoguery than facts, and a population unable to accept facts from anyone that doesn’t charm with that side they have chosen. This has always been the case and I no more blame Twitter than I blame Gutenberg for printing, but a binary choice on issues which affect all government services, the economy and the wider world would suggest it to be more complicated than yes or no.

What worries me is that we appear to be slipping into a Whig sense of the immediate past, and using it to corrupt the history of the country in a way that creates worrying precedents. Firstly. When the British people spoke in the summer they presented us with a divided nation, I have never felt more alienated from my country than I do now. Accepting the result is not about accepting a blanket notion of what Brexit is or should be – we had a binary vote on what i consider to be a spectrum of options, we could be forgiven for assuming that the detail would be worked out within the system. Instead the government has sort to portray the referendum as some sort of enabling act for their actions, decisions and approaches – it isn’t, it is an expression of popular will which provides a set of constraints and options for the government & parliament to pursue.

For our wider history –the government believes it is supreme to parliament, whilst I avoid the usual hyperbole about the brilliance of the parliamentary system, the point is incredibly simple; government is the embodiment of the monarch’s powers and is subservient to the will of parliament. Any other approach to this means essentially that the monarchs powers are being used without the consent of parliament and this is not how things work. I believe that if presented to parliament the bill would pass – but it would be a close vote simply because this isn’t a simple case of cancelling our gym membership. It is supposed to be debated; otherwise, if there is no point in the debate, then why bother with a parliament – it cannot be selectively used to ratify the government, it has to be a permanent which is part of the process.

I have to confess that I am a worried citizen, I do not believe we are sliding into fascism, but the portrayal by the government of a divided vote as a clear expression on a complicated topic can only lead to disaster, especially when mixed with a ‘whig’ history that presumes that we have a level of development now whereby the old system of checks and balances through parliament no longer apply to this government because it is listening to the people.