Wag the dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Amy Gray

It’s natural that the US presidential race has focused the world’s attention. As a country that’s assumed the role of leading the “Free World” (which the rest of the world pays for), we’re preparing for a new leader who will influence the world, its economies and safety.

Naturally, news of the presidential race has inundated Australian and online media. We’re sharing links, reading up and trading gifs and becoming armchair (not quite) experts making sense of the rules. We’re invested in the outcome but don’t understand the full context of America’s issues and how some of the most historically and logically impossible candidates in recent history have emerged.

Particularly Donald Trump, nominated Republican candidate and caricature.

Linda Tirado, US writer and activist, believes his emergence can be explained as part of the rise in politicians who stoke fear for political gain.

“Fear of becoming poor is largely what drives our incredibly mercantile society, so it’s used during election cycles to drive behavior”, Tirado explains.

Tirado knows poor, especially after her blog post “Why I make terrible decisions, or, poverty thoughts ,” went viral.  She has since devoted herself to activism and writing, exploring the intersection between poverty and politics.

Scarily, Tirado believes Trump’s election is “pretty” likely given his use of fear and regressive statements about society which, for some has gone quicker than they can handle. “We went from not discussing AIDS to legalizing gay marriage in my adult memory. Women have made huge gains. It’s an inevitable backlash, but a strong one“, she says.

Yet it may be a reaction that could benefit Trump. “I don’t think [poor white men] will en bloc vote Trump, but if they do it will be largely backlash to societal change.

In a society where change feels accelerated and changing their level of privilege, there’s a need for simple answers. A politician who will give a simple answer and promise of quick action they can understand – it’s not that they’re without intelligence but a simple and fast answer is often more compelling than a longer narrative that requires ongoing discussion.

Democrat Bernie Sanders offered that longer narrative about reform that scared some but energised others into hoping he could reset the cynicism and corruption in modern politics.

“I think they don’t go for Sanders because he doesn’t give the easy blame. Sanders says ‘I know you’re hurting’ but Trump adds ‘and I know who’s going to pay’. That vengeance validates all the fear people are feeling in a visceral way.

Ultimately though, Sanders’ campaign to reduce poverty and inequality failed to build the base he needed to progress, especially among Americans would would have benefited from his economic reforms.

Tirado is Team Bernie. She liked “his economic agenda and the fact that I have such strong distaste for the Kabuki of a two-party system. In America, the best you can hope for is that occasionally a Bernie will come along to realign the party farther from the opposition.”

Sanders’ defeat in the primaries doesn’t necessarily mean Tirado has become a fan of Democractic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Hillary is emblematic of the imperial Presidency, from my vantage”, she says. “Hillary has led her party for decades, to be sure; [but] it’s not really something you want to brag about when we’re setting records for intransigence and inability to actually govern.”

Linda Tirado will be at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre August 15 to share her thoughts on poverty, the US election and what lessons Australia can learn. Tickets are available via trybooking.com

 

 

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