Boots & Sabers

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1800, 02 Apr 17

Playing Small Ball While Rome Burns

Pardon the mangling of two analogies, but this is an interesting analysis.

Some may argue that this is because governments no longer feel like they are “of the people, by the people, for the people”, as Abraham Lincoln put it in his Gettysburg Address. Over the last half century, the business of governing has arguably become more technocratic, with positions of power populated by larger numbers of professional politicians and policy wonks. Many long-established political parties once had closer ties with specific groups of people. Left-wing or social democratic parties in particular were set up to represent the will of the working class. Those ties have stretched to breaking point, however.

More generally, old divisions between left and right that once gave voters clear alternatives have fallen, especially since the 1990s and the end of the Cold War. Parties that represented two competing visions of how society should be run throughout the 20th Century have suffered a body blow, says Hoey. As parties on both sides moved to the centre, the gulf between political elites and the electorate opened up even more. “Politics is no longer about the big questions and big issues,” says Hoey. “It has become soulless.”

Cue populists like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage, the former leader of UK party Ukip. Such politicians have been able to win support by talking about issues that established parties have been unwilling to address candidly. Ukip wields no hard political power – its only elected member of Parliament defected last week – but its outspoken views on immigration and criticism of EU technocrats shaped the Brexit debate. Similarly, Trump also crafted his campaign around immigration and a pledge to “drain the swamp” of political elites that no longer shared the values of millions of voters.


1800, 02 April 2017


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