A generation from now, maybe two, we will look back and see the 2010s as the beginning of mainstream politics’ death.
Mainstream politics is dying. And it isn’t going to be a slow, drawn out death, a gradually-developing tumour that corrupts the base of establishment politics and brings it down cell by cell over decades or centuries. It will be a quick death. In fact, it may well be a car crash.
Across the Western world, voters are beginning to reject the establishment and the mainstream politics it has for so long endorsed. Whether we look at Austria, Spain, France, or even the bastion of status quo mainstream politics that is the USA, people are turning away from the same old same old that has dominated the West since the end of WWII.
And it is precisely that timeframe which should make us worried.
Whilst the rejection of establishment politics is beneficial to those further to both the left and right than the mainstream, it seems to me as if the far right is doing more than the left to capture the minds of the – to use a surprisingly establishment piece of political jargon – “disenfranchised”. We need look no further than UKIP’s rapid rise in this country for proof of this.
Unfortunately, the current far right tactic of scaremongering and demonising is, for many, a lot easier to swallow and a lot more inspiring than the left’s idealistic promises and progressive policies. And it’s not hard to see why.
By scapegoating and demonising, promising crackdowns and offering dreams of the good old days when [insert country] was about being [insert nationality], and everybody shared [insert nationality] values, the right has conjured an associative nostalgia based on the basic notion that [insert country] was and would again be better off on its own, without any foreign influences or anyone from the outside or any namby-pampy loony-lefty utopianism.
I mean, come on, you remember those values, right?. Man, I love those values. Those were good times, weren’t they? With the values and the nationality and the pride we all had. Back then, in the Good Old Days, we didn’t have any foreigners invading Our land and nobody told Us how to run Our country. Don’t you miss those days?
Currently, the left’s alternative isn’t quite as catchy or as easily palatable. Suggesting radical new change taking us further away from the current establishment instead of harking back to the establishment we used to have is a bit more difficult to get on board with for many. While the right proposes going back to what we know and what we’ve done before, the left proposes a bold new frontier, a leap into the relative unknown. And convincing people to make that leap isn’t exactly easy, especially when they’ve been used to standing still for so long.
And yet, while people are perhaps not quite leaping yet, they are certainly starting to take a run at the chasm that has opened up before them. Nowhere is this more evident than the USA, where, despite the headlines of Trump’s bigotry, there have been monumental gains for Sanders. If the left can make such gains in a country where socialism is still something of a dirty word, then surely it is not long before the rest of the West embraces it. To what extent it does so remains to be seen. The right may be winning the race at the minute, but there’s plenty of time for the left to catch up.
There is no question, in my mind, that radical change is coming. What is yet to be decided is exactly what form this change will take. The battle for this change will probably be bloody and it will definitely be hard-fought. But if enough is done to promote a politics of new hope instead of one of fear, then we can raise a phoenix from the ashes of mainstream politics.