First Brexit. Now Trump. It seems fairly clear who holds the responsibility for this: those smarmy world leaders that are at the heart of the political establishment, which now has been very much shaken and could even be crumbling. They didn’t take Greece’s pain seriously. They chose to bail out the banks rather than let them gracefully unwind. They trounced all over Keynes’ legacy and dogmatically welded themselves to the idea behind austerity and then, when people pointed out that actually curtailing spending might not be the best way to stimulate growth, growled and snarled.
But this initial analysis is simple and unfair. It is certainly true that the politicians have for too many years acted with contempt for a large portion of society, but it seems that they are not alone.
Where are all these Trump supporters? Where are all the Brexit voters? Hidden? Ashamed? Frightened of being seen to rock this cozy establishment?
On social media, the only comments I seem to be reading is that the world is in some sort of crisis and a kind of incredulity that people could actually consider voting for Brexit or electing Trump. I.e, are people really this stupid?
But this misses the fundamental point of what has driven people in this direction, and until people start reflecting on that society is going to have a hard time stitching itself back together. Yes, politicians have acted with arrogance and contempt that beggars belief, but they appear not to be alone.
Suddenly, those who for years have lent their support to the political establishment find themselves in the minority, and that is an uncomfortable feeling.
With Brexit, I was strongly divided. I saw the benefits that staying could bring, but I also see the EU as an undemocratic supranational entity that does things its own way with little regard for due legal process upon which our societies have been built.
Had I been able to vote in the US election, though, there is not a snowball’s chance in Hell that I would have chosen Trump. There was nothing in his rhetoric that endeared me to him and, although Clinton had her baggage, she was the least bad choice of the two.
But recoiling in horror from the outcome and despairing at the stupidity of the supporters of Trump – or for that manner the voters for Brexit, who I do feel some affinity towards – just misses the point.
Something is changing with our societies and people are rocking the boat.
Politicians must start to understand why. We must, too.