The worldwide triumph of mediocrity demands explanation. Across the globe, politics seems to have been abandoned to uncharismatic personalities who make the average bank manager look glamorous. Almost the only thing that makes the favourites’ line-up for the Labour Party leadership less yawnable is the Republican presidential primaries in the states, where there are so many runners that one Congressman issued a press release to announce he was not standing.
Surely it is time to revive the tale of the emperor’s new clothes: to point out and pillory the nakedness of the new statesperson. In fact, nudity would be an interesting step up for most them. One reason for the ubiquity of the 50 shades of grey among politicians is that our current imperial tailors are spin-doctors who weave their fabric from focus group fodder. They follow the Clintonian and Blairite principle of looking for a numerous enough group of people amidst whom to hoist their standards regardless of any political principles. Bashing unions, or immigrants, or the unemployed, if that’s what the tabloids want, they will chase then them down the foxhole.
This bizarre New Labour outlook is why so many candidates arrogantly assume they can ignore what members and voters say, and instead play to the media gallery, which is located in some alternative universe where There Is No Alternative to austerity and preferential taxation for plutocrats. The dismissive comments on Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of support among parliamentary apparatchiks is symptomatic of their unconcern for what members and traditional Labour supporters want. As New Labour fades into historical oblivion, like Alice’s Cheshire Cat, the last thing we will see is the smug smile on the face of the fat cats as they take their profits and run offshore.
Here in the United States, the Republican line-up is almost a vindication of market principles. Rarely has there been such a collection of spectacular market failures, usually rescued by family or government money. Donald Trump is the most outstanding blow-hard whose horrifying support among Republican voters typifies HL Mencken’s prediction. “On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
Trump’s big defence of his business acumen is that he has never been personally bankrupt, and he can rely on the amnesia of the morons and the media to overlook the repeated collapse of his businesses, the Trump Plaza hotel, the Trump Shuttle airlines and the sundry casinos. That, in its way, is iconic. As with Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates, their business failures are all too oft interred with their nomination papers. Chris Christie of New Jersey, whose minions closed access from the George Washington Bridge to a town whose mayor would not endorse him as governor, wins the chutzpah award for his candidacy.
While these murky candidates, Labour or Republican, tend to get respectfully coverage, it is interesting to check out worldwide who is getting the crowds. In the US, media attention is overwhelmingly on the pundits’ choice, Hillary Clinton. She is well known, and a woman, so almost an automatic choice among the type of American liberals who overlook the historical gender triumphs of Ladies Macbeth and Thatcher. However, despite media bubble, the crowd puller on the hustings is not the former First Lady and accomplice to Clinton’s war on welfare, but Bernie Sanders. He is the only avowedly socialist senator, and running for the Democratic primary. It is perhaps a token of his potential that the Democratic machine in New York State is trying to keep him off the primary ballot there. While Hillary and the Republicans are tapping the usual billionaire suspects, Bernie has been very successful in raising lots of small donations from well-wishers.
It has to be said that while Bernie does not exactly have the glamour, nor even the oratorical skills of his rivals, he more than makes up for it with the sincerity of his democratic socialist ideals. And now we have an inspiration. The triumph of the Yes vote in Greece shows that, in the end, principles may be rewarded. Syriza should be an example to us all.