Written by Matthew Hexter, based on an idea by Sam Parry and Rob Thomas
If the victory of Donald Trump and Brexit reveal one thing, it is that the classical dialogue of left and right wing politics is dead. In winning the presidential election, Trump won over people who had never voted Republican, had never voted for a ‘right wing’ candidate ( I will ignore here my personal views on how left wing the American Democratic Party are) yet now they are voting someone ‘who tells it like it is’. Similarly the rise of UKIP in the UK has shown that many former Labour voters are being drawn to a party on the right of the political spectrum, without having voted for a right wing party before. Never better was this displayed than with Brexit. The lines between left and right were blurred, becoming lines between the establishment and the man on the street. Most people who voted to leave the EU did so not because it was a decision based on their ideology rooted in the left or right wings of politics, but because they viewed it as a common sense decision. Many people wouldn’t have even considered the politics of left and right in their decision. It wouldn't have even entered their minds. All these truths appear self-evident in the victory of Donald Trump.
So if not left and right, what is there to fill its place? What shall exist in our newly formed political vacuum? Is it the politics of common sense? The Nigel Farage, Donald Trump style of straight talking man down the pub. A fanfare for the kind of people who do not speak in legalese, but in plain simple terms that engage the majority of the electorate. It is clear, that at least in part, this is the case. There is part of the human condition that desires simple answers to the complex questions of our time. Whether it be the existence of deities to explain why the sun rises daily or that it is the EU that has caused your economic hardship, it is clear that we are entering a time where as the issues appear to be becoming more complex the electorate desire simpler solutions. The ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card that also means you head straight past go. How viable this in the long term, will have to be discovered in due course.
If not left and right and if not common sense, then what else could fill the ideological vacuum that has appeared? Watching the coverage of the Presidential election and having followed UK politics over the last couple of years, one answer is clear. We are entering a new age where identity politics will be key. The rise of English Nationalism has been crucial for the success of UKIP. It has been widely identified by a number of Labour MPs, that the inability of Labour to deal with its English identity that has rapidly created the conditions for UKIP to thrive. In an area of great economic and social upheaval, people merely wish to belong to something tangible. The actions of MPs like Emily Thornberry who criticise this desire for belonging as racist have added to the problem, enhancing the conditions in which people will rally round this identity. The same happened in America, where Hillary’s ‘deplorables’ moniker became not a slur to hide behind, but a call behind which to rally. The acknowledgement of the paleongenisis of identity politics was clear to see in the election coverage. Never before has such focus been placed on how certain demographics will vote. Of course much of this was generalisation, but from looking at the amount of White voters who voted for Trump and Black voters who voted for Clinton, that in this age where left and right has heard its death knell, identity and demographic will be the new rally point where left and right once stood.