After the dust of the EU Referendum has settled, we’re more or less back to that prolonged point of uncertainty and restlessness as regards our future. Across the pond, America is happily going barking mad with the two most questionable presidential candidates in history. It’s all just a little bit … sad really

 

Am I the only one who feels that the current state of political affairs is pretty downbeat? Not only here in our post-Brexit bubble, but more generally around the globe? Granted, there are glimmers of hope now and then. For instance, the recent news that former student activist Nathan Law has emerged victorious in Hong Kong’s regional elections.

However, I believe it is the UK and the USA, perhaps as a result of enjoying near-inevitable coverage in Western news media (though often understandably so), which are breeding a culture of depressive politics.


THE UK – What a sad state of affairs we face today …

After the whirlwind of political hype that kicked off the summer, we are finding ourselves in a state of political uncertainty regarding what will be the ultimate result of our decision to leave the European Union.

MPs recently held a debate on the possibility of a second referendum on whether to leave the EU, after four million British citizens signed a petition on Parliament’s website. (Ironically, created by a Leave campaigner in May who was sure that the result would be Remain.)

However, such debates are essentially fruitless. Many MPs simply shout about how holding a second referendum would undermine democratic accountability and decorum, and this is met by cheers of ‘Here, here!’ Even if the Commons could muster enough support for the motion favouring a second referendum — which is extremely unlikely — Theresa May and her pro-Brexit cabinet would almost certainly oppose it.

We simply have to face the reality that the Government will trigger Article 50 and begin, over the next few years, the process of leaving the EU. This is the case no matter what it may mean for potential economic uncertainties like the devaluing of the pound.

Meanwhile, we are currently in the midst of the Labour leadership election between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith — which is about 90 per cent less exciting than the contest last summer. Many Labour Party members feel torn between Corbyn’s strong principles and Smith’s stronger electoral chances.

Corbyn presents himself as the full-on Socialist ready to tackle the Tories on an anti-austerity platform. Smith, however, presents himself as ‘Socialist Lite’; similar policies to Corbyn but more centre-right on issues such as Trident.

Whatever the result of the leadership contest, there will ultimately be tumult from within Labour’s ranks for the foreseeable future. If Corbyn succeeds, the PLP will be in disarray and fearful of reselection triggered by Corbynistas seeking to oust the remaining Blairites. However, if Smith succeeds, those Labour Party members who so strongly supported Corbyn will certainly not remain silent.

If Labour does not heal its very visible rifts within the party in the next few years, we may as well accept the strong likelihood of a dominant, Conservative, one-party system.


THE USA – How did this great superpower end up with Tweedledee and Tweedledum as its presidential candidates? 

Across the pond, the state of political affairs is arguably far more intensely negative in comparison to the furore following Brexit.

On a daily basis, Donald Trump makes bombastic remarks about Hillary Clinton’s ill health and incompetence, whilst also managing to offend almost every ethnic minority group across the USA. Trump has encouraged (by capitalising on the work of the Tea Party) a particular rhetoric of fear across America; in a manner not too far from brainwashing. He is telling Americans to fear the outsider, ‘the other’, as they will take your jobs and homes. They may even, as one major Trump supporter has claimed, impose taco trucks on every corner of your street!

One could even go so far as to say, that never in American history has there been a presidential candidate who inspires so much hatred and virulent xenophobia. Indeed, figures like the racist George Wallace (a right-wing third-party candidate in the 1960s) pale in comparison to Trump.

However, how much better is the alternative? Hillary Clinton is far from perfect. Legitimate queries surround the ethics of the Clinton Foundation and its international donors, some of whom are leaders (or even dictators) of third-world countries with poor human rights records.

She is also far more of a capitalist than she would want many Democrats to believe, taking millions from large corporations and receiving thousands of dollars from making speeches on Wall Street. Bernie Sanders quite rightly criticised Clinton on these issues. However, both the media and the DNC did their very best to keep him quiet and ensure that he was, eventually, defeated in the running for the Democratic nomination.

I, for one, certainly miss the presence of Sanders in the election, who provided a desperately needed change of tone and discourse within American politics. He did this, in part, by promoting important policy issues such as the corruption of the campaign finance system and the need to adopt a constitutional amendment to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision of 2010. If Sanders had been successful and claimed the Democratic nomination, I know that I — and likely many others — would feel far more optimistic about the future of American politics.

However, Sanders did manage to push Clinton further to the left and did indeed spark what he termed a ‘Political Revolution’ in America by encouraging his supporters to run for office. Yet, their success in congressional primaries has been minimal, with establishment candidates succeeding by and large.

What is left to say? Many things, to be honest. However, I will end with this final judgement: the politics of the UK today is far more deflated than in the US, where it’s currently more antagonistic and negative than ever before. Yet, at the same time, it is US politics which still manages to have a sense of vibrancy that keeps you engaged. Sadly, in the UK, it seems right now that the same cannot be said.

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