Monday, 15 August 2016

Bleeding heart illiberals

Here's a pitiful complaint from the people who've spent the last few years telling the rest of us that you can't have a robust exchange of views, or even a bit of banter, in modern Britain because political correctness:
Workers who voted for Britain to leave the European Union in the referendum in June have complained of experiencing hostile remarks, harassment, and “cultural bullying” from Remain-supporting colleagues.
Turns out that the brave little soldiers who Took Our Country Back aren't that brave after all. Who'd have guessed?

Apparently not Harvard's Yascha Mounk, who's been thinking about Brexit as a local expression of global Trumpism. "Political elites are understandably terrified by the speed with which illiberal democracy is coming into its own" he writes. I suspect he's wrong here. I don't think think that political elites are genuinely "terrified" of illiberal democracy.

Firstly, because so many backers of illiberal democracy, like the hereditary plutocrat Trump and the newspaper tycoons and millionaire City boys behind the Brexit propaganda machine are members of the elite.

Secondly, because they know that underneath all the bluster about "taking our country back" and "making [insert name of country here] great again", the Global Trumpists'  noisiest, most strident followers are really unimaginative, weak, insecure, conformists who just want to obey a strong leader. Which probably doesn't terrify anybody who's comfortable with hierarchical top-down politics, which is why the content-free blather of the Global Trumpists has been tolerated and even accommodated by existing political elites.

What would really terrify unrepresentative elites would be a challenge to the ideology which keeps the establishment gravy train running on time. To be fair, Mounk totally gets this part of the problem and describes it rather well:
To get elected, politicians need to prevail in a primary system that emphasises the voice of a small number of radical ideologues. To bankroll their campaigns, they need to raise contributions at a constant clip, making them dependent on the good will of major funders. 
Which is why establishment politicians have a vested interest in shouting down anybody who dares to suggest a return to anything resembling mild, slightly more egalitarian, social democracy as an advocate of some kind of wild-eyed far-left Stalinism (or Trotskyism - as the PR industry has taught them, you don't have to be logically consistent as long as you're being loud and repetitive). This sort of change - which is a relatively cozy and consensual form of politics, compared to their own ruthless, radical version of winner-takes-all Social Darwinism, but does actually threaten their power and authority - really does terrify political elites.

That's why I think they're so unbelievably tolerant of the the noisy bawling coming from the Global Trumpist crybabies.