US liberals and leftists who won’t vote for Clinton, even though that decision will help Trump, who is even worse, are an interesting case study. It reveals a deep difference, not between liberals and conservatives, but between “principlists” and “consequentialists”.
Consequentialists do what they have to do to get the best available outcome, even if the means – and the end – fall short of their ideal.
Principlists feel an inherent wrongness in doing anything against principle, even if the result is an outcome even further from their ideal.
They’re two totally opposed mindsets – ways of thinking about how to choose action – with little scope for persuasion between them.
In 1999, American foreign policy academic Walter Russell Mead wrote an influential essay, The Jacksonian Tradition. In it, he identified a strand of US political thought associated with its conservative and anti-intellectual middle and working classes.
The article was highly prescient in anticipating the appeal of George W Bush as president. Now, as the US teeters on the brink of electing an unimaginably worse candidate, it’s worth reading again. Mead’s analysis turns out to be just as perceptive an insight into Donald Trump’s supporters and their political attitudes.
It is not fashionable today to think of the American nation as a folk community bound together by deep cultural and ethnic ties.
However, the seventh President, Andrew Jackson, built his political career on identifying and mobilising that community – white, Anglo-Saxon/Celtic, working and middle class – which Mead terms the “Jacksonians”.
His political movement—or, more accurately, the community of political feeling that he wielded into an instrument of power—remains in many ways the most important in American politics.
Jacksonian America has produced—and looks set to continue to produce—one political leader and movement after another.
The future of Jacksonian political allegiance will be one of the keys to the politics of the twenty-first century.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a sinister trade deal currently being negotiated in secret between the EU and the US, is finally starting to get some wider press and recognition.
Last week, a rebel group of Conservative MPs threatened to derail the Queen’s Speech if the government didn’t include a promise to introduce legislation to protect the NHS from the consequences of TTIP; Labour joined in, the government acquiesced, and the amendment was included.
Aside from making you wonder just how rapaciously capitalist a trade deal has to be for a group of Tory backbenchers to oppose it, the NHS-TTIP protection bill should raise two big questions in anyone’s mind:
If the NHS will only be protected by special legislation, what other institutions of value aren’t going to be protected, and what will happen to them?
If TTIP is such a threat that we need to have laws protecting us from it, why are we considering the deal at all?
The aim of the deal is to reduce regulation to the lowest common denominator – between Europe and the USA – and give companies the unaccountable legal power to dictate national policies. Whether you’re a Brexiter or not, if you’re concerned about the loss of sovereignty, TTIP should be starting to worry you now.
The revelation that the Bush-era US was a rogue state responsible for systematic torture and other human rights abuses is as outrageous as it is unsurprising. For the world-weary and cynical like myself, it’s depressingly predictable that the only person currently in prison in connection with the CIA’s torture programme is John Kiriakou, the whistleblower who uncovered it. The US and its allies, including the UK, have a long history of committing monstrous acts against their own citizens and those of other states worldwide, and there is no indication that this is likely to change any time soon.
But while all reasonable and decent people should be appalled at the actions of Western governments, there are some who go too far, losing all perspective and pursuing their hatred of the West to illogical extremes. Here’s a typically nutty example I encountered recently:
“Anyone who believes the ISIS beheadings are real are deluded beyond belief. Watch the videos with a critical eye and then watch a real beheading. The west creates Muslims as enemy’s to push their agenda. Pure and simple. It is so they can attack poor brown people and take their natural resources like oil etc. Google the difference between say Afghanistan before American intervention and after. America and Britain are the real terrorists whose politicians earn more from war than peace. It’s not the people who need to give more but politicians and bankers who need to fuck off.“