You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time
Saturday 19th November 2016
Today Abraham Lincoln’s statement made, ironically, in Clinton, Illinois, sounds like a prophecy that has turned into an unwelcome truth for the Establishments both sides of the Atlantic. CHRIS WILLIAMSON explains
WE SHOULD now be celebrating the election of the first socialist president of the United States of America. But the right-wing fixers in the Democrat establishment sabotaged Senator Bernie Sanders’s attempt to secure the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
WikiLeaks published emails revealing that the leadership had conspired to make sure Hillary Clinton won the primary to become the party’s candidate, even though she was clearly the weaker contender. In so doing they handed victory to a … demagogue.
Sanders offered a progressive anti-Establishment narrative that inspired millions and would have been the perfect antidote to Donald Trump’s authoritarian anti-Establishment stance. Sanders would have exposed Trump for the tax-dodging billionaire charlatan he is and his attempts to hoodwink the American people into believing he is on their side.
Although Hillary won a majority of the popular vote, and despite the assurances from pundits and pollsters, Trump secured the requisite number of Electoral College votes to win.
But this election was the tale of a catastrophic own goal by the self-assured arrogance of the Democrats’ bigwigs. These patronising panjandrums dismissed demands from the party’s grassroots supporters for a candidate who rejected neoliberalism as naive. As it turned out it was the party’s haughty heavyweights who were living in a fantasy land, not the rank and file members.
The trouble was Clinton did not inspire the victims of a broken neoliberal economic system that has destroyed the living standards of millions of ordinary US citizens. As in Britain, working-class communities in the US have seen well-paid jobs offshored to low wage economies, profits secreted in tax havens and an over-reliance on financial services that has reinforced inequality. She was perceived as being part of the problem rather than a solution to it.
Even the Democratic Party’s renowned “get out the vote” operation was unable to secure key swing states like Florida, which she lost by just 0.3 per cent. She couldn’t motivate enough voters in the Rust Belt either, losing Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by the tiniest of margins — 0.3 per cent, 1.2 per cent and 1 per cent respectively. Had she held those Rust Belt States she would have secured 274 Electoral College votes to take her over the 270 winning margin.
The fact that turnout was the lowest in 20 years is another damning indictment of the big wheels in the Democratic Party who put paid to Sanders’s candidacy. Their hubris has resulted in a right-wing rabble-rouser being inflicted on the people of the US and elevated onto the world stage with potentially catastrophic consequences.
What a sad irony that a party, known as the “Democratic Party,” trashed its own internal democratic procedures to inflict a candidate who ultimately lost a contest that would have been won by her Democratic rival.
This debacle has echoes in what happened with the British Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn made it onto the ballot for the first leadership election last year. The crucial difference is that where the Democratic Party’s grandees succeeded, the Labour Party’s equivalents failed — twice!
It’s time that those in senior positions, on both sides of the Atlantic, listened to their members. As Ed Miliband said back in 2010: “Some of the mistakes of the last decade could have been avoided if we had been prepared to listen more to our party.” It’s a pity Miliband didn’t take his own advice after June’s Brexit vote, instead of backing the contemptible coup attempt against Corbyn.
It is however encouraging to see the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) beginning to function like a proper parliamentary opposition, but there is still some way to go. This was evident when we saw more than 40 per cent of the PLP ignore a three-line whip to abstain on the vote in the House of Commons on Yemen.
The serial malcontents behind “Continuity New Labour” need to understand that they have already pushed the patience of members to breaking point, yet they are continuing to damage Labour’s electoral prospects.
One of these MPs is Ian Austin who sent me an abusive email earlier this month in which he displayed a spectacular absence of any self-awareness. This is part of what he wrote to me:
“Selfish, indulgent idiots like you are destroying our party and its ability to win elections and help ordinary people But as long as you feel virtuous, I suppose that’s OK.”
He also said I was “infantile, self-indulgent” and “promoting a deluded fantasy.” This kind of misplaced self-righteousness and ignorant pomposity is quite breathtaking to behold.
But these characters would do well to remember the old adage that pride comes before a fall. Unless these MPs stop their incessant invective against Corbyn, and the policy programme that won him two landslide leadership victories, they shouldn’t be surprised if local members trigger selection contests in their constituencies.
The progressive social movements that have been unleashed by Corbyn and Sanders will not be extinguished by corporate apostles and neoliberal apologists. Sanders is already being touted as the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nominee and unless Theresa May decides to cut and run, Corbyn will lead Labour into a general election the same year.
So although the political outlook seems bleak at the moment with May in Number 10 and Trump in the White House, the longer term scenario remains positive. We could be on course for a different kind of special relationship between Britain and the US with Corbyn and Sanders collaborating to deliver peace and prosperity across the globe.
Isn’t that something worth striving for?
Chris Williamson was the Labour MP for Derby North until 2015.