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Opinion: the shock from across the Atlantic – the bigger picture

November 10, 2016 11:29 AM
By Mark Argent in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by South Lincolnshire Liberal Democrats

Mark ArgentA few days ago Trump was describing the prospect of being "like Brexit but more". That catches my sense of shock today - though I wouldn't want to take the parallel as far as he does. I've just been exchanging emails and Facebook messages with shocked friends in the US.

Perhaps the system will right itself. Perhaps he won't be as bad as I fear. Perhaps he will be as bad as I fear, and be forced from office (he faces a civil case arising from alleged child rape on 16 December).

People are right to say that the American political system looks pretty broken, and that it is really hard to see how it might right itself. There's a striking parallel with the voices who have suggested that voting reform in the UK might have led to a different result on Brexit, because of people voting Leave out of frustration at the sense that their votes don't count in elections.

But in the fug of initial reactions, two things are screaming at me:

The choice of authority over wisdom, and stories over facts, seem to have been big things in this US election and in the referendum. It feels like people who feel disaffected and alienated grasping at something that looks safe and solid - and is actually the opposite. That feels scarily like what happened in Europe in the 1930s.

Trump's sexual predation (and the horrid photo of Farage trying to kiss Diane Evans when she briefly succeeded him as UKIP leader), calls to mind Christina Wieland's book The fascist state of mind and the manufacturing of masculinity. It may be inevitable that his opponent had to be a woman, and should be terrifying that she didn't win.

Like fascism in the 1930s, what we are now seeing is shaking the foundations. An interim answer is to hold to Liberal values, but this feels like a moment of change. I don't know what new geopolitical way of being is being born, but this birthing needs to be engaged with.

Quietly the balance of power has been shifting, from the US to the world's two most populous nations - China and India. Enough people are in poverty in both countries to mean that they have yet to reach their full potential. Wise leadership in the US and EU could enable us to make an orderly transition that works for everyone. "Wise" is not a word I would use for Donald Trump. A UK outside the EU would be irrelevant to this, and in the mean time seems to be undermining the capacity of the EU to act wisely. I fear we are in for a much bumpier world re-configuration than people realise.

And Hilary Clinton? Ouch. I dread to think how she is feeling, and will feel in the coming years. Not only the pain of defeat, but the prospect of watching and knowing that she would have made a much, much better President.

* "Mark Argent is PPC for Hertford and Stortford, and was formerly Chair of Cambridge LibDems

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