By Dr Mihir Bholey
Proving the polls and statistics wrong
The recent election results of the world’s oldest and largest democracies – USA and India, have something in common. Both had leading candidates who were demonised and vehemently attacked for their so-called constricted and conservative views. They were relentlessly denigrated by their political opponents, the self-righteous left-liberals and a section of media.
They, however, proved all poll Pundits and psephologists wrong. Not only did they win, but they also obliterated the very bastion of their political opponents. The Congress was reduced to mere forty-four seats in the parliament after Modi’s win. Trump emerged heads and shoulders above Hillary in the US elections.
Many see it as the victory of the burgeoning neo-right wing sentiments in the world over the exaggerated, highly intellectualised ideology of the liberals who have lost their connect with the people and their concerns both in India and US alike.
The mainstream American media was relentlessly sending panic signals of a probable doomsday that would follow Trump’s triumph. Washington Post’s editorial on 22nd July called Trump a ‘unique threat to American democracy’. New York Times, which has a tradition of endorsing Presidential candidates and throwing the weight around its favourite also opposed Trump. Its editorial of 25th September titled ‘Why Donald Trump Should Not Be President’ called him ‘a man who dwells in bigotry, bluster and false promises’, hence unfit for the presidency.
Addressing and not evading the popular political sentiments
No doubt, Trump’s initial remarks vis-à-vis migrants, women, Mexicans, and Muslims are unpleasant and unconventional as compared to Clinton’s hallmark balanced and politically correct statements.
However, these two successive elections in India and US, underscore that popular sentiments can neither be manufactured nor evaded. They live with the people and need to be addressed. By setting aside political correctness and calling a spade a spade, Trump, like Modi, seemed more forthright and candid to the common man. Hillary, on the other hand, looked no different from other predictable conventional politicians who are increasingly being rejected by the people for avoiding real and critical issues.
Trump and Modi had their ears on the ground. They touched the economic and political aspirations of the silent majority who were pushed to the margins by the politics of opportunism for years. Modi in his campaign harped on the issue of black money and blamed it for India’s economic woes. Trump, as part of his economic agenda, promised to bring jobs that America is losing to China and other nations. Trump was able to figure out people’s anxiety and turn it into political rhetoric. Due to its own flawed policies, America has exasperated engagements with the Islamic world. It’s facing the threat of extremist Islamic groups and their sympathisers, both internally and externally.
It’s true that he completely sidestepped the political correctness. His initial rhetoric looked novice and hasty in comparison to Hillary’s experienced and balanced tone. But the silent majority, sick of the duplicity of conventional politicians, found an articulation of their sentiments in Trump’s tirades. His win now poses an important question: are people looking for alternative politics that prefers political truism over political correctness?
Bridging the disconnect between politicians and people
Mark Mardell, Presenter of The World This Weekend on BBC stated, ‘for years there has been a mounting mood, a disconnect between politicians and people which finds expression in a search for politics outside the old norms.’
And as you would have it. In a rather quick succession of events, defying all liberal ideals, the referendum in the UK favoured Brexit. A wave of a new kind of populism in Europe gave a right-wing government to Hungary and a left-wing government to Greece. Besides, it also gave rise to the AfD in Germany— a right-wing Eurosceptic political party that opposes Angela Markel’s lenient views on mass migration and asylum to the Syrian refugees and echoes Trump’s own views about migrants.
Alexander Gauland, the vice-chair of AfD has criticised Germany’s ‘hysterical’ reaction over Trump’s victory and has called it shameful. He even advised the German defence minister to work out a reasonable transatlantic security partnership with the upcoming US government rather than feel shocked. These are the emerging trends in global politics which reflect similar aspirations and sentiments. The question is, are the liberal democracies of the world unable to manage the emerging moral, political and intellectual challenges? Are they stretching their commitment to liberty, secularism, human rights etc. to such an extent that they’re losing their intended virtue and meaning?
No ideology – right or left, liberal or conservative is absolute in itself. It’s the context which makes it relevant. Post-elections, a section of American and world population are yet to reconcile with Trump’s victory. However, they need to look beyond the doom and gloom approach and deconstruct the message of the mandate. It’s important they read the message of the mandate carefully. It’s time for America and the world to recognise the emerging political realities.
Dr. Mihir Bholey is a Senior Faculty Member, Interdisciplinary Design Studies Coordinator, PG Science & Liberal Arts at the National Institute of Design, PG Campus, Gandhinagar, India.
Featured image credits: SBS