Friday, March 29, 2019

Coincidence, Or Have We Lost All the Real Leaders?

Donald Trump, Theresa May, Justin Trudeau - what has happened to the leaders of western liberal democracies? Is there no A-list talent left?

Macron seems to have made a botch of it in France. Angela Merkel, today's leader of the Free World, will be packing it in within a couple of years.

Even the pols in waiting - think Andrew Scheer or Jeremy Corbyn - aren't exactly inspirational.

Authoritarians are running the show - in America, the Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Turkey, Brazil and they're not out to safeguard liberal democracy. These are xenophobes and bigots. Many of them are actively working to undermine action to thwart climate change.

Britain has been wrecked by Brexit. Theresa May has utterly failed to lead the UK to some workable accommodation with the EU. The country is deeply divided. Canadians are being warned by their own government to steer clear of dangerous demonstrations and the prospect of terrorism in Britain. Say what?

Trump, armed with a pretend "get out of jail free" letter from his Attorney General vows revenge on traitors. Now he's threatening to seal the US-Mexico border, even to the point of cutting off trade.

At home, Justin Trudeau looks like a one-man "gang who couldn't shoot straight." He's in a quagmire largely of his own making. One scandal (at least in the public's eye) is followed by the next. Even the resignation of Butts and the clerk of the Privy Council, Wernick, hasn't done him any good. Few seem to be rushing to his side even as what appears to be a slow-moving coup - akin to the take down of Diefenbaker, Joe Clark, John Turner and Stephane Dion - appears to be underway.

I've been following events in Westminster and Brussels lately and it's almost enough to plunge you into a double migraine. Here the Brits are, about three years since the referendum, and still no one has any idea what Brexit is or even if it is.

Trump - chaos. Theresa May - chaos. Trudeau - chaos.

Is this really a trans-national coincidence? Have we suddenly run out of leaders?

Are we watching something unfold that we might not, as yet, recognize? Are these democratic spams a sign of a different, more dangerous order setting in? Who can tell?


Karl Kolchak said...

We haven't run out of leaders, what's happened is that thanks to the world wide bank bailouts, the oligarchs have now achieved a level of wealth that not only makes them completely unaccountable but they are easily able to rig the political system so that no matter which group of bought-and-paid-for toadies "loses," they still win. Example: Bush said he wouldn't do "nation-building," Obama campaigned as a "peace candidate," and Trump was propelled to the Republican nomination in part by stating out loud that the Iraq War was a "mistake." Yet every one of them has either expanded America's wars, or in Trump's case just gone ahead and greatly fattened up the military industrial complex directly through the federal budget process.

Thus, even though the American public seems to was to end or at least scale back the empire's overseas entanglements, they get even more of the same no matter which party wins. That is, of course, because both parties are deep in the pockets of the war contractors. The most recent example of this phenomenon was the Russia collusion nonsense which was drummed up in large part to ensure Trump would toe the line so the Washington establishment could push us into a hugely profitable second Cold War.

Never forget that the billionaire oligarchs are our real "leaders," and they know EXACTLY what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

The world has changed a lot, in the last 10 years.

Climate change effects, the Precairiate expanding, blending and the chages of who’s immigrating, wealth transfer, income stagnation, endless wars of choice, online radicalization, etc.

In different countries, voters responded differently, and there were often major external actors putting their fingers on the scales.

And, as it turned out, it’s not a political meritocracy for the most part, just a gaggle of inherited wealth mediocracy’s coasting off wealth worship.

Still, the Democrats Freshman Class shows promise and maybe the path forward.

Trailblazer said...

With every % tax break given to the rich and infamous come a % increase in their influence.
We have reached a point where we have bought governments be it the USA, Canada or the UK.
Trump could very well take us over the top to a totalitarian state that will be replicated in other countries.
There once was hope in a united Europe that could challenge the old school Anglophile world ; alas it is struggling.


John B. said...

I'm reminded of something that we should have known was bound to happen once the rich, however foolishly, stopped worrying about the bomb and started snorting coke. We're witnessing the noblesse oblige of those totally wiped out on money.

Owen Gray said...

May, Macron, Trump, Trudeau. They were all elected. What happened to "we, the people?"

The Mound of Sound said...

It caused a stir in 2014 when the Gilens and Page study was published by Princeton but they were right. The authors scrutinized voting in Congress and presented a compelling case that the Senate and the House no longer served the public interest, at least not when it clashed with private interests. This, to them, evidenced the quiet suffocation of democracy in America and the ascendancy of a plutocratic state captured by oligarchs.

I read the paper (still available online in pdf.) and found it hard to believe. I really didn't want to believe it. It was too demoralizing.

It's like blood poisoning that, at first, spreads slowly through the limbs but reaches a point of no return well before it kills. Is that where we are today?

Trudeau and Trans Mountain. Trudeau and a DPA amendment specifically designed to take SNC-Lavalin off the hook. Trudeau and the KPMG-Isle of Man tax evasion that landed no one in jail. Trudeau and "cash for access." These are just the scandals that might otherwise have been kept out of the public eye.

Lorne said...

What is happening seems to be the inevitable outcome of politicians seeking office, not for some higher purpose of serving the public good, but rather of serving themselves. Seeking power for its own sake, Mound, to serve narrow interests, has poisoned the body politic.

Here in Ontario, the most transparent example of this I can think of is Caroline Mulroney, officially our Attorney General but in reality a supine Ford puppet who, in her own mind, is probably biding her time until she can take another crack at the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives. Strangely, that she has demonstrated over and over again that she stands for nothing does not seem to disqualify her ambitions.

Troy said...

Good government has to be built up, brick by brick. It always faces opposition by the self-interested, greedy, and evil, who work to tear down good government, often wielding sledgehammers.

It only takes one, though. One good man, or one evil man, to tip the scales one direction or another. After over a dreary decade after the inevitable Confederation of Canada, Laurier was elected. He was a decent enough leader, who brought into his government a talented pool of lawmakers. Laurier brought in King, who brought in Pearson, who brought in Trudeau, and finally Trudeau brought in Chr├ętien.

However, something borked in the 1980's in Canadian politics. Talented people stopped gravitating to politics. Nixon's politics of division had entered into Canada around then: Preston Manning, and then Harper, and now Scheer.

Also, in the US, the political tactics nations used to use only on foreign powers and domestic ethnic groups began to be used on other white people. And this was shocking. Voting numbers began to decline, and people began to stay away from politics. And that feeling pervaded Canada, too. That's how far Nixon's evil influence reached, especially after the rise of Reagonism, in which we've been living for forty years now (I've lived my whole life under Reagonomics, and have never experienced Keynesian economics).

This, too, is coming to an end, as a new voting cohort emerges with the decline of the old bloc. I hate to use the term "generations", but as Millennials begin to flex their new found near-majority with the decline of the super majority of Boomers and Busters (heh), new politics will emerge. However, this may not necessarily be a good thing, as the politics of Millenials will probably be increasingly radical. The politics of divisiveness that has defined the Boomer and Buster generations (not through any choice of their own, but Nixon was incredibly influential) will now transform into the politics of conflict. That's my gut instinct, anyway. These current times are slowly metamorphosing into the sort of intermissions you get before major pivot points in history: pre-Civil War, pre-French Revolution, pre-October Revolution times. There may yet be one last hurrah, one last gasp for neo-liberalism, but it's critical now. Shambling along, zombie-like.

Canada is laggard at this moment. Just a step behind the US, per usual. After this mess with the Liberals is sorted out, then something new will emerge. The old will be swept out in nearly one go. After the next election cycle, half of the party leaders will be replaced. Probably Liberal and NDP. In that case, the NDP will probably purge centrists, and the Liberals will continue to be beset by infighting, but Trudeau is trounced out of power. If somehow, the Liberals hold onto a minority, the NDP will probably still purge its centrists, but the Conservatives will continue to splinter due to its divisive politics not gaining traction with a majority of voters. Scheer will be put out then.

Happily, the Greens should maintain. Unless May's support for Israel does her in.

At this rate, politics will continue to stagnate for probably half a decade to another decade. One or two more cycles, and then what's next will emerge. And it may not be nice.

Troy said...

Of course, I'm sure I made a similar claim prior to the previous election, so I'm probably wrong again.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

The West has gone neoliberal, combined with the support of the U.S. Military Industrial complex advancements and global reach, including the sharing of profits made by the plundering of any sovereign countries wealth acquired by force. Scheer can be seen lusting to get in as leader, so he can be a part of the corporate/neoliberal/political/neocon elites club called our government.

Trudeau takes orders,Trump thinks he gives them, Theresa May doe not have to bend over because she's already on her knees begging the U.S. neocon elites and especially Trump to approve of her and Macron is dead in the water,now ordering his Police Force to use violence to stop the French people from protesting.

Absurdly. the West has governments who are not interested in governing. They've gone down the neoliberal rabbit whole and Secrecy is the name of the game. Throw the people a bone once in a while. or better still just keep lying to them. Changing Nation States into neoliberal Post Nation States can now be seen just on the horizon. Neocon's are desperate to get there, it's so close! In Canada Trudeau is accelerating its arrival, wanting Canada to be the first country to be the first Post Nation State. He actually brags about this. He actually needs 4 more years to achieve this and he will do anything to get those 4 years.

It doesn't matter though which of the 3 parties wins because their all supportive of the neoliberal Imperialist agenda.The dismantling of Canada's welfare and democratic state by incrementally implementing his neoliberal policies was what defined Harper's 8 yrs. in office. His obsession with Pierre Trudeau a man whose intellect he dwarfed and whose legacy he wanted to desperately wipe out and replac with his neoliberal/evangelical christian believing Reform party agenda, didn't quite come to fruition. It's now left to the son Justin Trudeau, now the Prime Minister of Canada to complete Harper's neoliberal/Imperial goal,of the the Canadian government becoming a Post Nation State. Who is going to stop him?

Anonymous said...

And.....PM Morrison of Australia declares.....
Scott Morrison declares that he is a 'champion of women' after being slammed for International Women's Day speech saying men shouldn't have to make way to let females succeed. Aww-huh! Anyong

The Mound of Sound said...

Lorne, I heard an American put it eloquently that, today, the purpose of seeking office is the benefits of holding office. The public interest be damned.

The danger is this leaves the public frustrated and discontent, many of them easy pickings for some unscrupulous populist - Trump, Orban, Duterte, Erdogan.

The beating heart of liberal democracy is progressivism, something that has been purged in the neoliberal era.

Today there's an enormous progressive deficit in our politics. Trudeau has been a handmaiden to KPMG, Kinder-Morgan, the Canadian Petroleum Assocation, Irvine, SNC-Lavalin.


The Mound of Sound said...

Troy, I really wish there was a generational cure for what ails our democracy but I'm not that optimistic.

It isn't broadly recognized but we're in a global emergency right now and, based on what I've read and scientists I've spoken with, it will probably blossom over the course of the 20s. If and when it does, we'll be largely unprepared - as a nation and as individuals.

How will this play out if we're still stuck with as deeply a flawed iteration of democracy and as deeply divided a society as we have now?

The Mound of Sound said...

Pamela, you might find my latest post, "Democracy on Trial" interesting. I was reading an article in the New York Times on how the British public have soured on their democracy and want something new. At the same time I had on a call-in show on LBC radio, London. Callers were debating democratic restoration including - gasp - an end to First Past the Post voting.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anyong - it's Australia. 'Nuff said.

John B. said...

Those that we might now call “centrists” built the CCF and NDP. I knew them. The lefties are star-boarders who put up the signs that scared the neighbours and passers-by away. The Waffle and their reeking remnants and successors accomplished little but that as they gobbled the grub off others’ plates. There was and is really nothing truly “progressive” about any of them. Progress comes to a halt when you don’t realize that something always comes next and that putting up the wrong sign and waiting for the world to change won’t accomplish anything. It’s been their house off and on for the last forty years, but the “centrists” are always stuck with the mortgage and repair bills after each gang of borders skips out and begins to seek passage to a personal Libertopia, leaving their bedrooms in a mess. For some that journey has been as simple as finding a personal connection to a band of scabby raiders or just a sinecure in some bureaucracy. I think what we’re going to see soon as electors with an understanding of labour economics migrate to and begin to influence the Greens will be an overdue acknowledgement that this party’s over.

Anonymous said...

Karl summed the current situation nicely:...the billionaire oligarchs are our real "leaders," and they know EXACTLY what they are doing.
And, as he said, they bid both sides so they are always the winners.

While on a subject of those oligarchs: nearly all folks are still clinging to the old notion of military-industrial descriptor, but the financial institutions' oligarchs are nowadays at least as important as their cousins.
As for FPTP, that system has roots in a medieval society where most folks would never leave their riding and had to have local representative. In a modern society with extensive connectivity, the system is illogical, and even dangerous. The danger stems from the limited # of parties likely to be front-runners in that riding, mostly just two, which establishment/oligarchy can easily bid on and later control. Gaming (by the oligarchs) of the system with, let's say 5 or 7 parties, which then can later form unpredictable coalitions is very difficult.