Politico – a gossip rag dressed up as an important political news organisation – is generally more miss than hit, but an article of theirs caught my attention this week. It is, of course, related to Donald Trump, but focuses on how his campaign and victory affected American news organisations, particularly those traditionally associated with the Republicans. These organisations, Politico tells us, are ‘conservative’ news outlets.
The outlets most affected? Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.
If you understood precisely what they said, then you are either a liar or have a better command of political language than I do, for I could not make heads nor tails of what they were claiming.
The article begins by saying “Young people in Britain are more right-wing and authoritarian in their political views than previous generations”, which seems simple enough. This is followed by Thatcher being a “moral crusader” who “embedded conservative authoritarian values” which went unchallenged by the Blair government, resulting in “younger generations becoming increasingly economically and social liberal.”
An article has appeared on the ABC website on the topic of social media and ‘toxic politics’. Within are interviews with two New South Wales state politicians, both lamenting the way social media has shaped the direction of politics.
The article is quite solid, pointing to the dearth of able-minded people willing to enter politics on account of the genuinely poisonous environment that it has become, and quite accurately makes the case that society is increasingly tribal. But one quote stood out to me, because it is a demonstration of the inability of those in power to grasp political (or, at least, ideological) reality.
Catherine Cusack, an MLC for the North Coast region, is quoted as saying that she “fear[s] that we have a shrinking middle in politics, and that extremes either on the left or the right are very active in these forums…so when I read these comments not only in social media, but also online in newspapers and on Facebook, I have to [remind myself] this isn’t what the world is like, this isn’t what most families are like, but it is having a profound effect on political discourse.”
2016 was not a good year for political experts. To be fair, it’s not as though they had that many opportunities to get things wrong, but the opportunities they did have were highly significant: the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union, and the United States voting for Donald Trump as their next president.
For the most part, the people telling us that it was not a good year for political punditry are the pundits themselves, who are also trying to explain how they were shocked so badly. These explanations have ranged from the sober to the shrill, and everything in between. But few, if any, of these really manage to fully explain why the people paid to tell us what will happen failed to correctly tell us what would happen.
I believe there are two fundamental reasons political punditry got 2016 wrong. …
Politics is meant to be one of those topics that you don’t bring up in polite company, along with religion. I’ve long thought this to be rather unfair. After all, if people have strong beliefs on these things, then surely they will want people to agree with them, and how can people agree with them if they don’t know their beliefs on these issues that define and change lives?
I would go so far as to say that it is absolutely crucial that the average person have at least some level of political understanding in order for society to function. Politics affects every area of our daily existence, and the democracy itself relies on the concept that ‘the people’ have enough wisdom to elect the right people to form the best government.
The thing is, the average person doesn’t have a great deal of interest in understanding politics. This has become especially true over the last few decades, as large swathes of voters have moved away from identifying with a particular party and/or ideology, having instead found that the major parties are all the same. But aside from that, the fundamentals of political belief exist in a highly theoretical realm, and most people aren’t all that interested in theory, at least not beyond how it applies to them. Give them the basics, such as the theory of ‘the left’ and ‘the right’, and of who leads each party and what that means, and they’ll say that they know pretty much all they need to know.
But what if those basics are wrong? What if the fundamentals of how we understand politics have actually been leading us astray, and have resulted in the ever increasing disconnect between politics and the people? …