Trump’s Victory is Our Fault

10 Nov 2016

As it begins to sink in that a political earthquake has occurred in the United States, it is obvious that the media got it wrong in just the same way it got it wrong with the Brexit vote. On the day before the US election all the pundits, including those on the Right, expressed certainty about a Clinton victory, not reflecting for more than a moment on the unpredictability of the Brexit vote and what it might mean for the US elections. Wrong in the first instance, they chose to assume that Brexit had simply been an aberration. More importantly, they made this assumption because they had no way of reflecting upon the earthquake in everyday life that is the real context of the current earthquake in politics in the United States — as was the case with Brexit. After the United States elections, it could be said that we now face having One Nation at the helm in Washington.

With few exceptions all the commentary on the election was about personalities. It cannot be denied that there was endless material to draw upon, absolutely unpleasant on both sides. This is not to make the point (true as it is) that there was no serious policy discussion in the campaign. There usually isn’t anyhow, but it was certainly worse this time around. The more important point is that the media discussion of personalities was a way of addressing what it thought the basic divisions were about. Without a doubt this was a disaster, even if it has become typical.

The closest the media came to addressing the concerns of growing numbers of US citizens was the reference to how white unemployed males, especially older working class individuals, were supporting Trump. This sectional reference was spoken of with relief, because this group could never be sufficient to generate a Trump victory.

But what is true in both Europe and the United States (not to mention most other parts of the world) is that the change that is disturbing voters is far more general, and far deeper, than the ‘mere’ loss of industry, or the exporting of jobs. Globalisation, which has been unleashed in growing waves and supported by technological impacts in everyday life more than in any other domain, has the effect of destroying stable networks of relationships, including those between the generations, with the consequence that life-worlds are coming under increasing threat, if not disappearing entirely. If capitalism as we have known it, in the twentieth century at least, was, if nothing else, able to offer the generations ways of living and working without undermining basic levels of social life, this is not the way of capitalism once it is revolutionised by its association with the university. This is because the university is now the driver of so-called innovation, sitting at the centre of the radical changes that have engulfed the worlds of work (and thus the old manufacturing centres and the labour of the body) and individual life and everyday existence. This is not an occasional relation, it is systematic.

This capitalism, capitalism that has changed in its basic functions and practices, moves away from valuing place and relations between generations; ordinary people look around and can no longer see a recognisable world. Distressed, they turn against their leaders, who are undoubtedly responsible for carrying them here. They then mistake ‘leaders’ like Trump and Hanson for true leaders, even though they have no insight into the earthquake that has befallen us. As ‘leaders’ they do no more than mirror the pain of those around them. And the media make no contribution because they are children of, and committed to, the world that is being rejected. As agents of it, they simply assume it.

– John Hinkson

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