Some have said that Labour’s half a million members will somehow make up for our lack of a clear values or vision for the country. How much did Clinton’s far more sophisticated ground game help in her campaign against “The Donald”?
Hillary Clinton had the united support of her party and lost. Trump had the revulsion of his party and won.
Trump is criticised for lying and being a bad speaker, and for supporting policies that are both cruel and ineffective. But these criticisms miss a deeper strength of Trump. Politicians are not judged when campaigning on the details of their policies. Politicians are judged mainly on two bases – firstly on their values, and second on the broad vision they are putting forward.
What are Trump’s values? It may be tempting to reflexively say “racism”, “dishonesty” or just “being a nasty piece of work” but that is incorrect. These are not his values. Yes, he said a judge was biased against his plan to build a wall between the US and Mexico because “he’s Mexican”. Yes, he insulted the parents of a war veteran, insinuating that the soldier’s mother was forbidden from speaking due to her Islamic faith. Yes, fact checkers during the campaign found him saying upwards of 20 lies a day. Yes to all these things. But these are not how he defines his purpose in politics.
If we listen to Trump’s speeches, and those who voted for Trump, his appealing values can be approximated to something like the following:
- Standing up for America in foreign affairs
- Saying what you think, when you think it
- Supporting American workers (no, seriously)
- Protecting America against foreign influence and dominance
And what is his broad vision?
- Make America’s allies pay more for the support they get from America
- No bowing to any conventions – Trump says what Trump wants
- Renegotiate trading relationships to help the American economy
These, not his acidic personality, are what voters listened to. In fact, they’re not just appealing to right-wingers. People from across the political spectrum could plausibly get behind the Trump proposition when framed this way. (Except possibly when it comes to “saying what you think”, and “Trump says what Trump wants” – that’s just being a blabbermouth.)
Now, please note, I’m NOT saying that Trump is likely to achieve his goals. I think he is the wrong person going about this in the wrong way. But very little of the national debate was focused on whether Trump’s vision was actually plausible. His opponents either needed to express values that trumped Trumps, or express a vision that followed through on those values better.
For all his endless missteps and distractions, Trump was better at staying on point with values and vision than Clinton.
What were Clinton’s values?
- Not Trump
- Here’s a list of Trump’s flaws
- Trump is a racist/sexist/homophobe
Obviously I’m exaggerating for effect, but not by much.
And what was Clinton’s broad vision?
- Gun background checks
- Healthcare reform
- Tax cuts for the middle class
- Basically the standard Democratic platform
It’s worth noting that the outcome wasn’t a million times worse for Clinton than Trump. Trump is such a brash, distractible man, so unconcerned about the truth, that even though Clinton’s moral, value-based appeal was unclear, she managed to win in numerical, popular-vote terms.
But Clinton’s vision had less impact than it could because it wasn’t justified by any values. Her only answer to the “why” question was “I’m not Trump”.
And this brings us back to Labour in the UK.
I believe that Labour is not just doing badly, but will pull off a historic loss at the next general election. Let’s have a look at our values and vision as perceived by the general public.
- Opposing the Tories
- Not New Labour
- Closed borders
- Open borders
- I mean closed borders
- Opposing foreign wars
- Leave the EU quickly
Again, I’m exaggerating for effect, but not by much.
Most of these half a million new members will not do a huge amount for the Labour Party, but even if they did knock on hundreds of doors each, it would be futile, as they would have nothing persuasive to say.
What do you think? I’d be keen to get your views!
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