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Post-dialup Politics

11/11/2016 12:53

Two speeches, 42 years apart. Have a quick read.

"So, let us not be blind to our differences--but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."
John F Kennedy, 10th June 1963

...and...

"It's true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
Donald J Trump, 16th June 2015

Donnie, you had me at "Mexico"!

I wasn't born when Kennedy made that speech at Yale. Nor am I American. The timing of the speech doesn't have much cultural relevance for me either - for birth those reasons. But put the two in front of me and I can tell you which one resonates with me more.

Why?

Well, I don't want our leaders to be the kind of people who seek to position themselves based on our prejudices and to divide us. Leaders are the ones who inspire us. They literally should have "the best words" - and if they have to point it out to you in a semi-coherent fashion they probably don't.

It seems to me there's an eloquence in our politics that has been lost in the intervening 42 years. Kennedy's eloquence and that inspiration was linked to a vision. A vision of how things could be - in a time of true social change. Something that embodied "e pluribus unum" in a nation of migrants rather than splinter and divide. Whether you like it or not, if you've got David Duke putting out the bunting after your election you really need to think about who you're trying to reach.

In the couple of days since the election, I've heard an overload of commentary and a legion blogs about what should have been, what opportunities have been lost, what is to come. A lot of anger, people dumbfounded. A lot of us pointed at the US and scratched our heads that they didn't see what we all saw from a far, screamed at the screen that at the apparent madness. Just in the same way 48% of us did in June in the UK.

The 2016 Presidential Election is being labelled as the result of the new era of Post-truth politics. I'm not so sure, but it's definitely post-something. Firstly it assumes there was a truth beforehand that is now lost. That can't be true. It's just that information is more accessible than it used to be. And post-truth is supposed to be where you aren't really bothered about whether something you say is true so long as it resonates with enough people.

How about Post-caring? Apparently we've had enough of experts. I'm not sure we have. It's that the outliers, even the conspiracy theorists, can get their message out there as easily as the mainstream does. No fact checking, just publish and watch what happens. But, if Michael Moore is right then Tuesday was the biggest fuck-you in history. You have to give a damn to do that, right?.

It's certainly post-deference. It may be post-trust. It's actually more likely a connection of post-somethings. 2008 was the first election to properly start harnessing the power of the internet and social media. I think what we've seen here is where the internet became the pre-dominant media and republicans (or one of them at least) woke up to that. And maybe, we're struggling with that. It certainly makes it hard to know what to believe. This is "post-dialup" politics.

Internet campaigning has no time for structured, reasoned argument. It has to be fast, beat the other guy to the punch; it only works if its going viral. But we see the instant impact social media can have and forget that the internet never forgets. Ken and his jumper could have run for President as an independent - for a about 15 minutes until someone dug his internet profile and he was done for same as the rest of us would have been.

Trump built his constituency on being seen to "tell it like it is". Although it's not like it is for many, there's a constituency for whom it clearly resonated. I'm still trying to figure out how because most of the time his stream of consciousness speeches, an interconnected series of spoken tweets like a Dave Gorman "found-poem", was borderline unintelligible. And we clearly misunderestimated that. But such was that feeling in his constituency, he could ride out dozens of scandals and some pretty egregious statements about people who did nothing more than disagree with him and he comes off as the good guy. It's kind of astonishing really. And most of it was a free-ride with very little scrutiny because everyone else thought it was a joke.

It was a campaign of playing the man not the ball. For a day at least, you'll have noticed that to sound presidential, he speaks slower and just above a whisper. Still nothing makes sense, but it's altogether more calm. And on the face of it, conciliatory. Unifying, even.

I just don't get how he's going to achieve the two.

How do you you unite people with policies that are divisive and seek to alienate?

• Supreme Court appointments will embolden pro-lifers and Sandy Hook wannabes, NRA members and fundamentalists at the expense of women's rights and people who are sick of all the violence.

• Immigration changes, walls and addressing the perception of jobs going overseas alienates the 40% of the country that know they are migrants (as opposed to the 100% that are).

• Lifting restrictions on energy production flies in the face of, well, scientific fact really but you can only think that unchecked it increases the likelihood of what happened in Flint happening elsewhere. Who other than the 1% are going to be cheering for the tax cuts and who other than those on the lowest incomes will mourn the demise of socialised medical care?

These are no policies to unify a country; any country. He might be President, but this can't be the sort of leadership that brings people together, can it?

Time was when a newly elected head of state got a "honeymoon period"; a time to ride on the wave of national enthusiasm and renewal. With an electorate sick to the back teeth of the last lot, you got to capitalise on that positivity and get some of the unpleasant stuff done while people still like you. Not this time. In this age, the post-dialup age, your honeymoon period lasts about as long as a Snapchat. If that.

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