Hillary Clinton cannot save America

Hot take: Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders are reinvigorating politics and shaking up the left wing establishment. It's a cliche of political blogging, drawing out the obvious comparisons between old white men, both veteran socialist campaigners who are enjoying an unlikely period of success despite many people writing off their ideology in the early 90s.

It shows how complacent the centre left in Britain and America have become. Before the UK general election, and when the American Presidential election had only been going on for 6 months (why does it last 2 years?), no one would have imagined that Jeremy Corbyn would win a landslide victory to lead the Labour Party and that Bernie Sanders would give Hillary Clinton a run for her money. Then again, a year ago we were told that Donald Trump could never be the Republican Nominee.

The centre left (the Clintons, Coopers and Burnhams of this world) have been startled by a surge in support for the far left, mainly amongst younger and more disenfranchised party members. Their only response has been scare tactics. The conversation has been remarkably similar on both sides of the Atlantic: "he'll alienate moderates, he's unelectable, look at that awful right wing guy with freaky hair who will get power if we choose him".

If Sanders and Corbyn are so completely unelectable, then how come professional centre left politicians with years of experience, huge amounts of money, massive popular recognition and opinions that (apparently) everyone agrees with cannot beat them? Could it be because the centre left has completely lost its way and has nothing to offer anymore? Does anyone seriously think that electing Hillary Clinton as President will change much?

When Barack Obama was elected President back in 2008 I was hopefully for change. Eight long, painful years of George Bush Jr's presidency was coming to an end. A young, energetic, exciting politician was sweeping his way to victory. Surely after the disastrous wars and economic collapse of previous Republican government, things were going to be different this time.

For a while that hope lasted, Obama said he would close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and deliver healthcare for millions of uninsured poor Americans. Then the Republicans took back the House of Representatives and the rest of the Obama presidency became a slow war of attrition between the Democratic White House and the Republican Congress. The pettiness reached its height in Autumn 2013 when the Republican shutdown the entire US government simply because they could.

I do not think Clinton will tackle the deep rooted problems of America: the huge economic inequality, the systematic unemployment, the criminalisation and intense poverty of African Americans, the openly xenophobic politics, the systematic assault on women's rights, the hollowing out of worker's rights, the sense of hopelessness and powerlessness that gives rise to extremism. I had more confidence that Obama would tackle these problems when he was re-elected in 2012 (despite four years of painfully slow struggle) than I do in a future Clinton presidency. What does Clinton have to offer to tackle America’s problems? Not much that is particularly inspiring.

The issue in Britain and America is that the centre left has nothing to offer to fix the problems of society (a lot of which were caused by their past periods of power, i.e. Blair and Clinton I). The centre left has run out of things to offer other than being opposed to the centre right, which they look quite similar to. The only reason why the centre left is in less of a crisis in America than in Britain is because the right is in thrall to the far right, which is scaring moderate voters. Trump is a gift to Clinton; I do not think she could have beaten Jed Bush or Marco Rubio.

Obama has achieved a lot in his 8 years, he did provide the healthcare he promised and stopped the Republican Congress from defunding it. He did pull America out of Afghanistan and Iraq (after a while). He brought Iran in from the cold and avoided the worst effects of the stagnating global economy. He did not close Guantanamo and he has taken America into wars in Libya and Syria. Clinton does not fill me with the confidence that she can even achieve this much. Her centre left politics do not seem capable of responding to the more complex and frightening world of the 21st century. They seem more appropriate to the mid 1990s when we thought the good times will never stop rolling. A slightly more compassionate neoliberalism is not what the world needs now. The world's needs change, now more than ever.

Bernie Sanders offers the change that America needs. Unfortunately his campaign was doomed from the start. His poll ratings among ethnic minorities are very low and he cannot win the democratic nomination without the support of black and Hispanic democrats. The current delegates spit is 2,228 to Clinton and 1,454 to Sanders, with 2,383 being the magic number to win the race. It looks like it will be Hillary Clinton.

Clinton will most likely defeat Trump to become the next President. I am sure she will be a good liberal President. She is unlikely to ban Muslims from entering the country or pass a national ban on abortions. However, I do not think she will tackle the deep rooted structural problems in American society. Oppression, hopelessness and feelings of powerlessness are rising and this breeds extremism of all flavours. America needs the type of change that Sanders promises and it needs it soon.

The rise of Trump shows the failings of American politics

I will refer you to all the moderate conservatives who said that Donald Trump will never be the Republican candidate for president. At the time of writing Trump is the frontrunner in the Republican race; it is still mathematically possible for Ted Cruz to win the nomination but it would require an unusual reversal of fortune.

Trump's campaign has been characterised by the rhetoric of the extreme right and has horrified both liberals and moderate conservatives. We were told that he would never get this far. We were told wrong. The success of Trump requires everyone to rethink how they see American politics. The reasons for Trump's success are complicated, but I believe that the rise of Trump shows a failure of American politics to tackle two critical issues: the decline in living standards of white working class Americans and the Islamophobia of American politics.

Trump’s rise as a political force is a result of his ability to exploit the rhetoric of Islamophobia. He is not the first politician to be Islamophobic, but his popularity is a result of the collective failure to stand up to Islamophobia. What was once a dog-whistle of Islamophobic political rhetoric has become just a whistle. We have had 14 years of blaming every Muslim for the actions of the few that have committed acts of terrorism and this has brought us to a point where a politician can be openly hostile to all Muslims. Trump is not new in being an openly Islamophobic, he is just better at it than everyone else.

It was inevitable that we would reach a point where a politician can call for a complete ban on Muslim immigration and imply that all Muslims should be made to identify wear badges that public identify them. It was inevitable when liberals and moderate conservatives failed to stand up to Islamophobia. We all act surprised when Trump says these awful things but he is only following an established narrative.

Liberals are to blame for the rise of Trump as much as moderate conservatives. Liberals in America have failed to stand up to Islamophobia and have been paying lip service to it whenever we talk about "criticising Islam". This is the dog whistle for being hostile to people who follow a minority religion and (usually) belong to a minority ethnic group. By not standing up to the dog whistle, or using it themselves, liberal Americans have aided Trump in turning it into an actual whistle.

Lack of moderate conservative opposition to Islamophobia, as well as exploiting this view, has allowed the conversation to be dictated by the far right. In many ways the the different candidates in the primary stage of the American presidential race are the different parties that would exist in any other country. Like in France, America has rounds of elections to narrow the field to two candidates who represent two political ideologies. Usually this ends up as being the moderate left and the moderate right, but occasionally (as in 2002 in France) a candidate from the far right makes it to the final round.

Trump represented the far right in this race and currently he is winning. Anyone who is a moderate conservative needs to think about how they have allowed this climate of Islamophobia to grow and how they have exploited it for their own ends until it was used by Trump to make moderate conservative voices irrelevant in this election. Moderates have no decent response to Trump's Islamophobia so they have been swept away by it.

A climate of Islamophobia has helped Trump get as far as he has, but this is not the only thing contributing to his success. Trump's followers are mainly white and working class, a demographic with problems that American politics has failed to tackle.

Liberal middle class Americans do not care about the loss of living standards of poor white people. Liberal Americans have other political objectives, such as defending Obama's healthcare program and tackling the massive racism in America. These are noble aims, but there is a real lack of interest in dealing with the problems of the white working class.

This failure to engage with the white working class is because the left does not want to ignore problems of race at this critical time for race relations and there are concerns about undercurrents of racism in poor white people’s politics. If liberal middle class America were willing to engage with the problems of white working class America then they might find that their political complaints are not rooted in racism but in the way they have been marginalised.

The moderate conservatives are also to blame for ignoring the problems faced by white class Americans. The moderate right has not tackled the problem of poor white people because it involves criticising capitalism, which they are not prepared to do. Conservative support for neo-liberalism on both sides of the Atlantic has created a ticking time bomb of ground down white working class people whose lives have been destroyed by prevailing economic thought. Poor white people were hit hard by the financial crash, de-industrialisation and globalisation. They have lost jobs and income. In Britain, poor white people are the lowest performing ethnic group in educational attainment. Now the white working class want answers that the moderate right do not have for them.

Bernie Sanders does appeal to some of the white working class in America, but the Hillary Clinton campaign does not fully appreciate how bad the fall in living standards of poor whites is. In many ways Clinton's politics is as bad as the moderate conservatives, she is not willing to criticise neo-liberalism and prefers platitudes about making America whole again. The left is generally focused on Clinton and their hopes that she will be the figure that unites America. She maybe that person that can span the growing left/right divide to win the presidential election, but she will not help poor white people. A vote for Clinton is a vote to kick this can down the road and hope that the problem will be dealt with in the future. It is a vote for the vague hope that the far right cannot mobilise this anger for electoral success.

Let me be clear here: I do not think that Trump cares about or will help white working class Americans. However he is willing to engage with these victims, which liberals and moderate conservatives are ignoring. Trump is a used car salesman, he will tell you everything you want to hear until he has his hand in your wallet and you drive off his lot with an overpriced, terrible car that you cannot claim a refund on. To help white working class America we must first stop Trump and to stop Trump we must understand his success, even if it involves asking painful question about how the American left has conducted itself.

It is very hard to say that would happen if Trump were actually elected president, partly because Trump has not mentioned many actual policies he intends to intact. I can imagine that it will be worse than George W. Bush's time in office, which is frightening enough. Liberals and moderate conservatives need to act together to defeat Trump, but as I said, this can only be done by understanding what has brought us to this juncture.

Trump will probably lose to Clinton because he frightens people too much, which is the only hope to cling to right now. Although we were told that he would never win the nomination and that looks likely. America needs to tackle the problems of Islamophobia and the loss of living standards by the white working class before someone comes along who is even more awful than Trump. If you think this will never happen then, I will refer you to all the moderate conservatives who said that Donald Trump will never be the Republican candidate for president.