The good old days? How quickly they forget… November 8, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Reading this piece on Slate.com about undecided US voters I was struck by how nostalgia for a past that didn’t actually exist seems to inform so much of human perception – or at least the perceptions of these humans.
First up none of them are terribly happy – the candidates are loathed (though frankly I think that’s overdone, people are still voting for them in massive numbers on both sides).
With policy considerations seemingly at such a remove from the national discussion, they saw the election as part of a broader cultural malaise. Terry Ragsdale, a 62-year-old IT worker, saw the country as still unable to grapple with the negative events that began with 9/11. “Osama did what he sought to do”—sending the country into disarray—“and we’ve never quite recovered.” Several, including Burak, 35-year-old welding technician Jon Johnson, and 47-year old banking analyst Sabrina Tucker, were deeply worried about Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tearing apart the social and political fabric of the republic. When Hart asked whether the next generation would be better off than the previous, no hands went up.
I’m not quite old enough to remember the Nixon administration – or rather my head was filled with space and science fiction in the early 70s, instead of green painted marine helicopters lifting off from the White House lawn. But I do recall Carter vs. Reagan. And the 1980s and the malaise then. And the malaise in the 1990s. And impeachment, Newt Gringich, and the lack of civility that characterised public discourse in that period. One where the right in US politics seemed pretty damn hostile to the liberal centre-rightism of one B. Clinton. B. Clinton was no picnic himself either.
So while I’ve little doubt that matters have changed – they always do, that’s kind of the point – in some ways they’ve not changed that much. And if there has been genuinely substantive change I’m much more likely to put it down to changing media and in particular social media. We’ve all got printing presses of one sort or another these days. Doesn’t mean that’s an improvement, or even a disimprovement. It’s just different. Noise to signal ratio’s are a bit screwed but you can at least step away. If there’s a coarsening of the debate perhaps though that’s a part of it.
Or perhaps Trump is sui generis, an artefact thrown up (near enough literally) from a noxious intersection between social media, celebrity culture and a section of the ight wing inclined base that having received successive severe beatings from its supposed leaders in relation to matters various – not least in being used as voter fodder, is now wreaking its revenge on them by supporting a candidate who is about as unlikely a Republican as one can find.
I’ve mentioned this before in relation to the oddity of perceptions about politics closer to home. Few would argue the Callaghan years in the UK were the socialist millennium and yet his government was arguably the last traditional Labour government we have seen or likely to seen for quite some time to come. Significant sectors of the economy were in state or public ownership. He didn’t seem exercised by that. It was standard operating procedure. But few remember it. Actually who these days looks back to the Wilson period in a similar way? It’s usually right back to 1945, and yet for decades after a broadly social democratic push was underway. It was partial, inconsistent, often contradictory but it did exist, and had some victories as well as many defeats.
Next time will be better?