For the record: I mostly associate as a marxist, I’m exhausted by neoliberalism and bored of gentrification. I’ve worked for the Green Party. I’ve volunteered for Momentum, and I campaigned to Remain during the EU referendum. I’m white, middle class and well-educated. I couldn’t be more liberal if I ran on stage at a Billy Bragg gig wrapped in a Grayson Perry tapestry to announce the next Stop The War meeting. I’m so liberal, Robert Preston has an ironic tattoo of me on his arse setting fire to a picture of Clement Atlee, but recently I’ve never felt so estranged from my peers.
When I woke up the morning after the election, I opened up the Guardian app (I know, right?) and smiled wryly to myself. I rarely post stuff that requires debate on social media because I can’t be arsed with the notifications. But as I scrolled through my Facebook feed the attitudinal condescension (at best) or mocking contempt (at worst) towards Donald Trump supporters, in particular the white working class (WWC), had me riled.
Indignant and self-righteous, it wasn’t long before memes started going around quoting George Carlin. Some people proclaimed the death of ‘intelligentsia’, obviously lacking the self-awareness to understand this attitude was part of the problem. How could you have done this to us they cried. Ironically, exposing an off-putting, often times unconscious classicism. It was Brexit all over again.
How could you have done this to us they cried.
I imagine they did it for the same reason I would have. To fire a hellfire missile straight into the heart of the international neoliberal order, just to see what happens. Politically reckless? Maybe. But as an International Relations graduate, I understand that civilisation is cyclical, that every eighty-odd years the oligarchic corruption becomes too much. In the final stages, a raft of upstart leaders emerge, seeking to channel that pent-up frustration towards their chosen ends. If we were lucky, we’d have Bernie, but we ended up with Trump. Instead of honest reforms, we’ll probably see a resurgence in fascism, while the establishment continue to find solutions within an orthodoxy that is causing its own demise. The economy will collapse, or worse.
The WWC recognise these symptoms as crumbling infrastructure, outsourced jobs, and stagnant wages. What I don’t understand about my peers is where their self-assured world view comes from. This, from a generation that gave the world Tony Blair and George W. Bush. I mean, is that really the best the self-proclaimed intelligentsia can do?
So don’t pretend you don’t understand why people are supporting Trump, or don’t understand the benefits of the European community. Don’t pretend that all those people are racist. Stop using the word ‘racist’ to describe anyone that’s never had the luxury of getting Italian foood delivered, by a Moroccan delivery driver, in a Japanese car at 2am. And accept that half the population aren’t actually idiots.
At least the people that voted for Trump were brave enough to light a match under the Clinton family dynasty. She didn’t even win the white woman vote. She was straight from establishment heaven, and was condemned to working class hell – and now we’re protesting Trump’s win? I’m sorry, but where were all of you when WikiLeaks leaked proof that the DNC had colluded against Bernie? The WWC saw one permatanned, blustering hair piece – who they recognise off the TV, who talks a bit like they do – and chose it as their best option.
In fact, it was their only option. They were feeling the Bern, only they spelt it Trump. The same thing happened with the Remainians. It’s all good banging the drum of European cosmopolitanism, but try explaining the concept of Erasmus to the ageing population of an ex-mining community in the north of England.
They were feeling the Bern, only they spelt it Trump.
When you get past the ‘anti-political correct’ messaging from both campaigns, you’re left with an appeal to economic populism. Specifically centred around two areas. First, a sharp critique of unfettered neoliberal globalism. Second, an embrace of a pro-manufacturing, economic nationalism that some defenders of neoliberalism would dismissively label as ‘protectionist’.
So I’m fed up with this sort of liberal ire towards the WWC that makes the following argument: the masses are a rabble under the spell of a ‘false consciousness’, voting against their economic interests by supporting (delete as appropriate) a Republican billionaire/British ex-banker. I sneered during the referendum campaign when passers-by mentioned they were worried about the illuminati. As if their view of the world wasn’t as correct, or as important as mine.
It’s almost as if there’s a common problem to address with politics, were perception has led to overly manicured robots running for office, that have somehow built themselves using leftover parts from the previous generation of robots in an increasingly desperate episode of Black Mirror. It’s almost as if people aren’t stupid, they just don’t relate to us and the candidates we put forward. It’s almost as if they want someone who isn’t a symbol of the exact thing they’re rebelling against, just like us.
Or, maybe they’re just stupid, more fool them for skipping that gender studies class I took at university. The one were I found out everything is a social construct. Empathising with Trump/Brexit supporters is not supporting them. It’s about accepting their right to make that decision. Voting, however ill-informed, however flawed our democracies, is the one time that the masses can send a massive fuck you to those in charge. And in both campaigns, despite all the financial interests, the political class and the mainstream media telling them otherwise, the WWC still ticked fuck you on their ballot papers. They did what us so-called liberals have been trying to do for years (supposedly).
The aftermath of both results demonstrated our snobbery towards the narrow, the small towns, the uneducated and the vulnerable – fuelled by some sort of neurotic self-entitlement. Have you ever considered, that maybe, that debate about fifth wave feminism you had on Twitter means absolutely fuck all when it comes to real, tangible positions on areas like foreign policy, education, the military, or immigration?
Because for every apologetic article written about Hilary, there was a news anchor on Al Jazeera talking about all the women and children her policies have killed or displaced. Refugees, millions of them, washing up on the shores of Europe. If anything, Hilary is partly to blame for Brexit.
Both results were about reclaiming power from a condescending self-anointed intelligentsia. Condescending economic policies, condescending social policies, condescending fucking condescension. So what if both were bad choices – people aren’t necessarily making them for bad reasons. We’ve taken over the media and censored ourselves. There’s a reason The Sun is still popular, and it’s because it doesn’t use words like ‘intelligentsia’. We’ve finished our humanities degrees and we read Owen Jones, and we think that makes us ‘educated’. Then we laugh at the people who never make it past junction 10 on the M62.
So don’t let the results fuel your self-righteousness, it’s petty and pathetic. We’re pathetic. Those on the left have to start asking ourselves some serious questions. What does it mean to be on the left in a country that’s selling off the NHS? What does it mean when the deregulation of the banking system and the privatisation of public services happened on our watch? The Iraq War? The Post Office? Pulled pork? That’s all on us.
The idiots aren’t winning, the WWC are fighting back. So I’m off to do something radical – I’m going to watch X-factor. This isn’t the start of some tragic era, it’s just history. Sure we maybe physically and materially worse off. You will. I will. We will. But the tens of millions people who voted on both sides of the Atlantic, they’ve got nothing left to lose.
And if the idiots really are winning – what does that say about us?