11 Nov Richard Savill writes ‘2016, The Year Of Change’
By Richard Savill.
They said it would never happen. They said that the policies were too far fetched or ridiculous to take seriously. They believed that people would get ballot box fever and follow the status quo, even if the figurehead of the status quo divided opinion, reviled by many. But it happened.
The “it” in question could be the ascent of Donald Trump to the White House, but it could equally be Brexit. But in this most tumultuous of years, not only has Britain left the EU, but Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. Why did this happen?
The fact is politicians globally have been targeting the fabled “centre ground” for roughly 20 years now. A sound strategy in theory – the vast majority of people consider their ideology to be towards the centre of the political spectrum.
However, this meant that all parties proposed broadly similar policies, all trying to appeal to the same group of people. Indeed, to many (notwithstanding the expenses scandal and other “extra-curricular activities”), they were all the same.
People wanted change. They were fed up with a system which left them isolated due in part to an economy which hadn’t fully recovered from the 2008 recession, but has spent the time since looking after those who caused the crash in the first place instead of those who have truly suffered.
The first sign of this came with Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader of the Labour Party. Here was a man with no governmental experience, but who represents an ideology on the extreme end of the Labour Party. He has since galvanised an extremely passionate support from his followers, but to his detractors he became an object of ridicule.
The same could be said of Nigel Farage or Donald Trump – although of course, they are from the right wing of the spectrum. However, it has been proven by historical election results that there are generally more people with right wing tendencies than left wing tendencies.
As a result, change has become a world of Brexit and Trump, with ardent supporters on both sides sharing heated arguments. There have already been street protests in America regarding Trump’s victory, as there have been following on from the Brexit vote.
Of course the Trump protestors are not merely remonstrating about the fact the Republicans won. They see Trump as misogynistic, xenophobic and even flat-out racist, following the rhetoric of an extremely ugly campaign. Was change this inevitable at this time for even the “worst Presidential candidate in history” to triumph?
Perhaps not. Hillary Clinton has for many years herself been an incredibly divisive figure in the States. Indeed, on a Top Gear special, where the challenge was to incite the locals to “get one of the others shot or arrested”, one of them chose to emblazon “HILLARY FOR PRESIDENT” on the side of the other’s car.
Might the Democrats have won using a less controversial candidate to stand? We will never know the answer. But with similar momentum gathering from far right groups in France and the Netherlands among others, perhaps Trump would have won regardless. Or perhaps if Hillary won, it would only be delaying the inevitable.
The key statistic from BBC’s election coverage highlighted the fact that 82% of people thought Trump would bring change, and that seems to have swung the election in his favour, as it did for Brexit.
Real political change is happening – an unfortunate analogy to use close to Remembrance Day, but the centre ground is becoming the political no man’s land.