This post about micro-targeting is worth a look, whether or not you accept that it was a really decisive factor in Trump’s electoral success last November or not. We’re hearing similar, possibly overhyped claims about Brexit.
Because Labour can be joined online at very low cost, participation in Labour’s £3 affiliate scheme has all of the hallmarks of a “clicktivism” activity. Even full membership, for the purposes of voting only, has most of those attributes for people who are not on a low income.
Labour’s problem, in a nutshell, is this.
The internet has sucked people who treat politics as a recreational tribal activity into the party, and into online political activity. These clicktivists will always outnumber and outvote the people who have joined the party because they treat politics as a means of changing society. Real world political activity is less attractive. It involves legwork, time, a willingness to think, to compromise and to make the kind of difficult moral choices no self-aggrandising clicktivist would ever consider. The anonymous variety of online activist won’t even suffer any social consequences resulting from their wrongness.
There will always be more clicktivists than declared activists. Until the party has a reason to deal with this problem, it will keep dying.
The UK has a credibility gap with the rest of the EU, and its one that has dramatically weakened Teresa May’s bargaining hand in so many ways.
The EU27 suspect that the UK won’t really leave for two reasons.
1. It can’t actually leave. According to this argument, the practical barriers will eventually accumulate and drown out the threats that we hear from Brexiters whenever any practical scepticism is voiced, or when constitutional checks-and-balances (AKA “the enemies of the people”) are used.
2. It doesn’t want to leave, no matter what is says to the contrary. We’re not certain that the people really want to leave. Referendums are never a good way of working out what citizens want to happen, and June 2016 was hardly decisive. Moreover, from a continental perspective, many EU member states have a well-founded historical distrust of referendums and their results.
Go on. Admit it. You’ve gone along with this fashionable demand for a more ‘open politics’, haven’t you? You parroted all of those slogans about how ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’ didn’t you?
Now you’re wondering why hundreds of politicians have deserted their post as good representatives and voted for something that they think will be a disaster for the country, aren’t you? I bet you’ve shrugged your shoulders, tutted about how spineless they are, secure in the knowledge that it’s nothing to do with you, eh?
Tom Nichols, a foreign policy analyst who specialises in Russian affairs has written a wise and comprehensive post in defence of the general status of ‘expert’. It is really worth reading—here.
There’s a big gap in his argument though. It ignores a lot of the political context around expertise.
In ‘Post-democracy’ Colin Crouch did a fine job of explaining the unbalanced debates and the lack of pluralism in modern capitalist societies. Working as distinct micro-economy, the policy community have evolved into a self-serving social caste. To reprise a point I made in an earlier post about The Metropolitan Elite, this is something that the public may actually grasp very clearly, while the policy community, with its inflated sense of how benign it is, doesn’t.
Just because ‘The Metropolitan Elite’ is a handy target for people who oppose strong democratic institutions, does this mean that it is phantasm? Is it just a malign fictional entity used to misrepresent a generally benevolent and necessary layer of society?
I’m going to argue that it is very much a thing, and one that needs to be challenged on a number of grounds.
We can’t take even the most ardent Brexit supporters seriously if they think that triggering Article 50 at the moment isn’t a massive, risky leap in the dark. Based on our current knowledge of how it will end, it’s a risk that no sane individual would take, yet somehow, it is supposed to be OK if we all hold hands, shut our eyes, and jump?
Edit 01/02/2017: I’m sure that this letter was nothing to do with it, but Chris Bryant voted to oppose Article 50 today. As a personal note, I’m very impressed with him for doing so.
I’ve seen this short Newsnight film about what Plato could teach us about Donald Trump shared widely and it’s worth a look. It is very good and draws some stinging conclusions, but it also has quite a serious flaw for anyone who wants to apply these observations to modern liberal democracies.
We have not maximised equality as this clip claims. I don’t mean ‘equality of opportunity’ or ‘equality of outcome’ but democratic equality, and – if anything – this is getting worse. Wealthy purposeful groups can substitute money for political activism. Our puny vote has never been as weak in comparison to the power of people who can hire lobbyists as it is today.
One of the conclusions in my previous post here is that political activism is a waste of time. It’s counter-productive. It is a tacit agreement to fight a battle on turf that no-one can win on, unless they are a member of a small, wealthy purposeful group. It’s like playing against twelve men, on an away ground knowing that the referee has been bribed and that your opponent’s squad cost £billions to assemble.
What follows are relatively new arguments. They wouldn’t have made sense ten years ago (though some of us were warning about all of this).