Credit - AP Photo / Mark Lennihan

How should the Left respond to right-wing populism?

Let’s make it clear. I am in no way under the impression that I have the authority to tell any single person what to do, let alone the sheer mass of people who identify with the values presented on the left of the political spectrum. In all honesty, no one does. All we can do is engage in as many discussions as possible until hopefully we form our own, well-reasoned, opinion.

It has to be said that the prospect of Donald Trump becoming the President of the world’s leading superpower is not a cheery thought for any leftie. Indeed, it is truly terrifying.

It is worth bearing in mind, however, that even though Trump did not win the popular vote (47.4 per cent as opposed to Hilary’s 47.7 per cent) he did win 290 electoral college votes, with only 270 needed to win. In other words, a lot of people voted for Trump. It simply cannot be true that such a vast quantity of people are all misogynists, xenophobic, and a whole host of other pejorative labels, as is the man that they voted for.

Of course there will be a fair few who look at Trump with a worryingly loving gaze and hang on to his every word. But if the left carry on hurling such abuse at the majority of ordinary people who voted Trump, there is a very real chance that those who are unsure of their political allegiances will start resenting the ideology behind liberalism as whole. One reason stands out as being the one why so many people voted for Trump – they were disillusioned with the state of current politics. It was a protest vote. Nevertheless, the idea that Hilary Clinton was the lesser of the two evils, but still not a brilliant candidate, is an entirely different article.

The point remains that people are becoming afraid to express their views if they are anything other than left wing. The polls predicted that Clinton was going to win, because people did not want to admit that they were going to vote for anyone else. The only time they could take action without being judged was when they were voting.
A similar situation emerged after Brexit; anyone who voted Leave was immediately branded ‘old, racist, and white’. As Jonathan Pie says in his brilliant satirical video about Trump winning, “the left won the cultural war”. It seems as though any opinion which is not firmly rooted in progressive principles does not have a right to be articulated, or if it is, makes you a terrible person.

Yet this is completely paradoxical as it goes against fundamental leftist ideas about tolerance and equality – surely these mean that everyone is entitled to think as they please. Needless to say, this does not mean that you have to agree. The way to respond to this is not with resentment and bitterness, but with communication. If you wholeheartedly disagree with someone, try to make them see where you are coming from. If you make a good enough argument (and you certainly can with respect to Trump) then perhaps people will be persuaded. No good will ever come from slandering people for what they believe in. We have already seen what happens when people do not engage in discussions in a calm and open minded manner: let’s try and prevent any further global damage.

 

Image: AP Photo/ Mark Lennihan

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