In a typically ironic left-wing post. A wealthy, well educated, establishment journalist has written a baseless micro-article for the supposedly centrist website, The Economist. Zanny Minton-Beddoes – who is the Editor-in-chief of the magazine – attempts to appeal not only to the attention span of her left-wing audience by writing to the legnth of a side of Basildon Bond paper, but also ensures that she remains as vague on the content as is literally possible. The rant is something out of a late night, self-pitying Facebook post similar to what I had to put up with for weeks after Trump’s election. As usual these types of articles perform well with left-wing students whom I suppose would be whipped up into a rabid spree of ‘sharing’ on social media as a way of affirming their utopian views of the world. Allas, Beddoes’ post is perfect in one way. For her audience, it expertly lacks any informative or intellectual argument, playing perfectly to the rhetoric of the identity politics world where feelings and togetherness take precedent over logic and reality. In my response I hope to lay out the opposing argument, with a little more detail.
Beddoes’ begins her article portraying 2016 as a “grim year” for the liberal order. Directly linking the populist movements in Britain and the United States to that of an angry and evil right wing conspiracy with President Trump as the standard bearer. Beddoes speaks of how populism has “swept through the west”, painting the picture almost as if it should be comparable to the way Nazi Germany swept across Europe.
As a member of the elite herself, she speaks in a way only us plebs can see comes across as completely ironic. Beddoes mocks the populist rejection of the establishment, both Britain’s rejection of the European Union and across the Atlantic, organisations targeted by the 2016 Trump campaign such as NATO and the UN. Indeed, Beddoes waits to find out what damage could be caused to her liberal order by the little people, who are finally forcing the elite to keep their promises and ensure that those they elect, directly represent the views of the people and not those of the establishment. This of course can not be done through closed clubs, a plethora of multi-lateral treaties, bloated political projects and pooled sovereignty. The people have now been sold to a world of bi-lateral agreements that are in the national interest and not in the interest of 27 other nations. Both Britain’s withdrawal from the EU and America’s from the Trans-pacific Partnership and Paris Accord are indeed a reversion to a more bi-lateral world for the west, however I would not go as far to say it is nationalist.
Beddoes compares the left-right scale to that of open-closed. Emphasising, again ironically, the pessimistic view of the events of 2016 and not the open and tolerant optimism that was once a hallmark of the liberal democracy to which she subscribes. Liberal democracy hasn’t gone anywhere, in fact is has been enhanced. We are all liberal, but to Beddoes and others on the left, you’re either in or you’re out, you’re either their version of liberal, or you’re a bigot. I mentioned the little people, those just about managing, those who feel their culture and values are being eroded by mass-immigration, the neglect to the steel industry, the selling out of Britain’s fisheries, all policies Britain can not control. The people are fed up of making sacrifices for the likes of Herr Juncker’s gang of Socialists and policies that consistently widen the trade deficit between the UK and the EU. The UK does not want to support the land grabbing exercises by the EU on post-soviet countries, who’s economies will be forever reliant on the European super-state, bailout after bailout. Britain’s unshackling from the Titanic in Beddoes’ view is a killer blow to her “liberal world order”. Yes, the people have rejected globalisation, and other nations have taken inspiration from Brexit to forge their own individual paths, the return of nation-state democracy should be celebrated!
Unlike the Economist, I don’t like to make sweeping statements without elaborating, I think this article itself is already longer than the piece I am critiquing.
Beddoes’ portrayal of the Trump campaign as the “most divisive” general election campaign in US history is a slightly rich one considering the scandals which enveloped the Clinton campaign. Hilary Clinton was potentially one of the most corrupt candidates for the office of the president since Nixon. The actions she took when she was Secretary of State were interventionist and war-mongering, she actively continued the work of the Bush administration to further decimate the Middle East and arm terrorists against sovereign states. She spent her entire election campaign fighting the email scandal which continued to develop at an alarming rate even days before voters went to the polls. Clinton showed that she could not be trusted with managing foreign affairs and national security, the pneumonia issue aside. Whilst the Democrats spent their time digging up decade old – albeit offensive – comments made by Trump, the Trump campaign didn’t even have to lift a finger – Clinton was burying herself in her political record. Something much more crucial to how a country should be run, not to the left obviously.
Trump’s policies on the face of it are plausible. Walls built in Hungary have dealt with their migrant crisis. The US also needs to grasp control over illegal migration, most of whom are simply walking across the border without any trouble from US authorities. Illegal immigration from economic migrants needs to stop. The ‘Muslim ban’ of countries which were identified by the Obama administration as potential threats to US national security was a sensible policy. In Europe, not only is Islam cited by a majority of the attackers, but they are all associated with countries who have diametrically opposed ideologies to the west which are known to harbour such terrorists. As for economic policies, Trump does not want the US out of the TPP, or the Paris Accord, he wants an agreement that works for America. He believes it is badly negotiated and does not work in US interests. The Trump administration has consistently said it will seek to replace these agreements. The left however, report that Trump is an arch-nationalist looking to withdraw the US globally, from everything, that won’t happen, it simply can’t.
Beddoes’ final point is that populism has a tendency to “turn in on itself”. Whilst it is true populism dies out and re-emerges, it is usually not without a great deal of reform within the countries that such populist movements inhabit. We saw this with Brexit, a mainstream centre-right party, the Conservative Party (liberal in the real sense of the word) had been pressured by UKIP in calling a referendum on EU membership. If populism means the people are given the opportunity to be directly consulted on important issues, and they are consulted more often and it leads to real and radical change in the establishment, I’m all for it! The Economist makes the mistake of thinking populism is a product of the right. As we’ve seen weeks ago, Corbyn and the Labour party have achieved many the same results as other populist movements. By engaging apathetic socialists into voting in their millions they have achieved exactly what the left criticise the right for, mobilising groups of apathetic voters they label as ‘ignorant’ and ‘bigoted’. Populism is about giving people a voice where they felt they previously had none. When it does not work in favour of the left, it’s evil, when the tables are turned they could not be more intolerant and in some cases violent in their opposition to it..
As Beddoes points out, the world is ever-globalising online, with the ever expanding internet. I don’t recall the libertarians and the free-marketeers who are the architects of Brexit and the Trump presidency ever saying the internet was a threat to them. If anything, it is an asset to reach the disenfranchised and the apathetic. We are living in a time of maximum democracy and instead of winging like the left and Beddoes with her Economist magazine, we should be celebrating. Vox populi.