2 Responses to Lost versus Elite: Bonnie Greer brings historical perspective to current trends

  1. Hi Steve,

    Even allowing for the fact that the author would never be considered a Trump disciple, I think this is a very interesting, realistic and objective perspective from an American abroad. It reinforces your earlier blog article about the Trump phenomenon which is looking increasingly like becoming reality in November. We discussed then the fine line between fascism and populism and while Trump has to an extent sanitised his rhetoric, he cannot disguise some of the more worrying aspects of his credo. France meanwhile seems to be in danger of crossing the line following recent terrorist outrages as evidenced by the bans on burkahs and this week a call for the reimposition of a Napoleonic law repealed in 1993 in effect banning the use of ‘non-Christian’ first names. An erstwhile national hero, Zinedine Zidane their 1998 World Cup winning captain is cited as an example of a now ‘unacceptable’ first name.

    On the specific of Trump and the USA, while I completely agree with the point about the sense of disillusion and disenfranchisement of the working classes, I think this is being manipulated by elements of the ‘monied elites’ of whom Trump is far more representative. I recently returned from a visit to the U.S. and was frankly horrified by the undiluted, unchallenged and unmediated rhetoric in support of the Trump campaign on a number of television networks. This brings to mind the populist ‘volkisch’ movements in pre-war Germany and Benedict Anderson’s ‘imagined communities’, the restoration of a past to which people aspire but of which they have no first hand experience. As I said in my response to your earlier blog, it is becoming increasingly apparent that in what is inevitably a two horse race, the alternative to Trump needed to be a candidate from the ‘non- elite’ centre ground. Hillary Clinton meets one of these criteria but crucially not the other . What is really needed to defeat Trump is an equivalent of the ‘1992 Bill Clinton’ or the ‘2008 Barrack Obama’ but worrying Hillary represents many of Trump’s political , cultural and emotional targets.

    The hope must be that the Electoral College which on a ‘first past the post basis’ is weighted in favour of the North Eastern States and California will work in Clinton’s favour but I must say and with a heavy heart that I am increasingly of the view that the force is now with Trump. A Trump victory in the U.S. following the Brexit vote here will inevitably increase the momentum behind populist,nationalist movements elsewhere all of which will undoubtedly sit very comfortably in Mr. Putin’s geo-political plan.

    Tim Hodgson

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    • Many thanks, Tim, for your comments and views. Yes, I found the Greer piece very informative and I think she has identified some of the core reasons why people seem to be so beguiled by Trump, especially those living in the ‘rust-belt’ areas of the USA. Just as there now seems to be a ‘cult of Corbyn’ among some in the UK, there is clearly something of a ‘cult of Trump’ developing in the USA – numerous citizens seem to have completed suspended their critical faculties and just want to ‘believe’. Trump (as with Corbyn) presents himself as a saviour and offers a very black-and-white view of the world – there is no room for shades of grey, complexity or nuance. And I think the US TV networks actually prefer this kind of approach; they look for short, sharp sound-bites for 10-20 seconds. Trump seems to be very good at this, even if what he actually says makes no sense whatsoever in the cold light of day. I was particularly interested to hear about your recent visit to, and impressions of, America. While I share your view that we should not under-estimate Trump, I still think Hilary Clinton remains in a strong position, despite the recent health scare controversy. I suspect there will be a significant number of voters who, while not enthusiastic about Clinton, will still vote for her just to keep ‘The Donald’ out. Moreover, although Trump is evidently now getting better presentation advice, there is still plenty of time between now and November for him to badly stumble; his attack on the Muslim parents of a dead US soldier genuinely damaged him, and there is always the possibility that he may blunder in a similar way again – he tends to speak before he thinks, something even the best spin advisers in the world cannot necessarily control. On the other hand, I do recognise the Reagan-style ‘teflon’ quality to Trump. Things just seem to bounce off him, no matter how dire. It could be pretty close in November’s elections. Best wishes, Steve.

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