It’s a funny old world, really. Sort of.
According to many, we live in times dominated by populism. But from where I’m standing, this era will be remembered for un-populism- a desperate jump towards what we believe offers the best of a bad (if not fucking shocking) bunch of deals.
Let’s look at the facts. In the U.S. last week, Donald Trump’s approval rating had dropped to 34%. The lowest depths any president in recent history has managed to plumb within their first four months of office.
This news follows a GenForward poll in March that revealed a staggering 57% of 18-30 year old Americans don’t even consider The Donald to be a legitimate president. The numbers don’t add up, unless, of course, people opted for someone they hate purely because they think- or perhaps thought- they would hate the alternative even more.
On this side of the big pond things are arguably more confusing. Theresa May, an advocate of the U.K. remaining in the E.U. before the decision, is now a key spokesperson for the Brexit equivalent of throwing yourself out of a party, smashing several bottles of Zubrowka en route to the door, and pissing in the garden whilst waiting for a cab.
What’s happened in the last six months is an incredible feat of negligence. When you consider the leave campaign of last May- when hysteria had reached its peak- arguments for getting the hell out of dodge look positively liberal now, and level-headed when compared with what we have at the moment.
“No deal is better than a bad deal” has replaced the promise of ‘exactly the same’, only with less immigration.
No matter how much spin and angling is involved, the stats are telling. In February a survey by research giant ICM reported just 35% of people in the U.K. think hard Brexit is a good idea. And yet those responsible for negotiations from our end seem to know our own minds much better than we do. This is despite the fact that everyday realities of what hard Brexit means are less likely to impact on those in positions of influence than they are the majority of the 65% voicing concerns.
There’s another twist in this tale of victory, too. Cast a mind back to Gordon Brown’s period as our first amongst equals. What we have today is an unelected Prime Minister who has not only escaped a general election to see if we would actually vote for her, but is also refusing to listen to the people that didn’t vote for her in the first place when it comes to Europe. In the case of Scotland it’s even worse- refusing to consider a second referendum on independence that only reared its head when she began dragging the population north of Hadrian’s Wall towards the most extreme version of an outcome they wanted no part of.
Is this what winning looks like? People we do not consent to, demanding that we fall in line with mantras that never appeared on the ballot paper? As a remain voter I immediately accepted- admittedly with embarrassment and dismay- last June’s marginal majority decision, but the difference between what was then and what is today seems so pronounced it’s impossible not to feel infuriated and altogether angered.
We have been tricked into collectively forgetting that those in Westminster- just like those in the White House- are there to enact our will. They are supposed to represent our beliefs, not frogmarch us into situations they deem to be in our best interests.
Hence populism being the biggest falsity in contemporary politics, and the notion that we are gaining more power for ourselves and greater freedoms being so out of sync with what’s actually happening. Brexiteers claim the E.U. is meddling, interfering, too demanding and too focussed on nanny state tactics. I say the current situation is equal to, or more likely greater than, the sum of all those fears. We’ve finished high school as drop outs, only to be told our only chance of a decent future lies in boot camp.
N.B.- The title of this article is inspired by the 2013 Ben Anderson documentary ‘This Is What Winning Looks Like’. Produced for VICE News, the film looked at the downward spiral in Afghanistan as U.S. troops were sent back home, handing increasing responsibility over to local Afghan security forces that were ill-prepared, poorly equipped, and- in some cases- highly corrupt. It remains relevant today, not to mention one of the best things I’ve watched in the last few years. Have a look for yourself here: