Brexit and Trump: It’s All Your Fault

Ms Soapbox was just getting her head around the fact that Donald Trump was her fault when they blamed her for Brexit.

Wait, what?

Political philosophers and journalists on both sides of the Atlantic point out that not everyone who supports Trump or voted “Leave” in the Brexit referendum is a xenophobic bigot; they may simply be disillusioned citizens tired of being left behind by globalization.

OK, I’m with you so far.

However political philosophers like Michael Sandel go further.

Mr Sandel, a Harvard professor, says a large group of working-class voters feel that they’ve been left behind not just by the economy but also by the culture which erodes and mocks the dignity of their labour.

Culture mocks the dignity of labour?

Mr Sandel says “…the culture no longer respects work and labour.  This is connected to the enormous rewards that…have been lavished on Wall Street and those who work in the financial industry, the growing financialisation of the American economy and the decline of manufacturing and of work in the traditional sense.”

Donald Trump announces his Candidacy for President

Donald Trump – My fault?


With all due respect, arguing a causal relationship between culture and a lack of respect for work and labour in first world countries sounds a bit strained.

Ms Soapbox can’t speak on behalf of all labourers but she’s just lived through a kitchen renovation that morphed into a living room and dining room renovation.  She’s shared her living space, indeed her kitchen table (what was left of it) with the demo guy, the drywall guy, the electricians, the plumber, the granite guy, the tiler, the cabinet guy, the fireplace guy, the appliance guys (twins, very unnerving) and the wonderful wonderful painter who was so meticulous he took an artist’s brush to the awkward space between the kitchen cabinets and the door jamb.

Every one of these guys (sadly they were all men) took enormous pride in their work, sharing the details of what they were doing and how they were going to do it with Ms Soapbox who emerged from the basement periodically to see how things were going.

And yes, this is just a personal anecdote, but Ms Soapbox notes that Mr Sandel provides no facts to support his assertion that the culture of globalization, not just its economic impact, destroys the dignity of labour.

Okay, back to the main point…

Mr Sandel, together with journalists like Chris Hedges and Glenn Greenwald, blame the rise of Trump and his European counterparts on the failure of progressive parties to support working-class and middle-class communities.

They have a point.

Starting with Clinton’s Democrats and Chretien’s Liberals and continuing through to the present day, progressive political parties have made a point of satisfying their high-rolling corporate backers, often at the expense of everyone else.


Brexit–Also my fault?

Journalist George Monbiot suggests a solution.  He argues that the Brexit vote creates an opportunity for the left and the centre to develop a new economic and political philosophy that will “contain corporate power” by demanding that corporations “…offer proper contracts, share their profits, cut their emissions and pay their taxes”.  He adds that now is the time to regain control of public services.

Hmmm, that rings a bell. 

Let’s look at Alberta.

Since the NDP were elected a little over a year ago the Notley government has increased corporate taxes, increased personal taxes on high earners, restored funding to public services, imposed a carbon levy and modernized the royalty structure.  It’s also running deficit budgets until oil prices rise.

One might argue the NDP government has taken Monbiot’s suggestion to heart but hasn’t gone far enough, however recent opinion polls indicate the opposite is true.  Most Albertans think the government is moving too far and too fast.  NDP support has dropped to 27% while the Wildrose has moved up to 33% and the PCs are at 31%.

Ms Soapbox’s husband, Mr Soapbox, can attest to that.  Mr Soapbox has a charming personality.  He makes friends with everyone.  His pub friends include tradesmen, small business owners, IT guys and accountants.  They’re not worried about globalization but are mad as hell that Notley’s raised personal taxes and the minimum wage and are convinced her carbon levy will cripple Alberta’s energy based economy.  They want Notley to cut the deficit and clobber the unions.

So now what?

Here’s a thought.  We could adopt Public Interest Alberta’s “advocacy in times of opportunity” strategy.  PIA supports the NDP government when it’s moving in the right direction and provides strong advocacy in areas that could be improved.

One of PIA’s most significant submissions to the government is a call for democratic reform and renewal.

PIA argues that our electoral system is undemocratic and undermines the elements of representative democracy.  It calls upon the government to effectively engage citizens and civil society groups in governance, decision-making and policy development in order to build a stronger democracy.

A stronger democracy will ensure that no one is left behind, economically or culturally.

Surely that’s a more effective solution that blaming the elites for paving the way for Donald Trump and Brexit.

This entry was posted in Culture, Economy, Politics and Government and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Brexit and Trump: It’s All Your Fault

  1. Excellent piece Susan; gracias. No doubts that demagoguery won the day on Brexit | lies and deceptions were the order of the day during the long campaign – having said that, I am hoping the broad family of political progressives at home and abroad pay close attention to its undercurrents as you wisely point out …

    • I agree Leo. The NDs are social democrats. They of all the governments, federal or provincial, have it in them to respond appropriately to what we’re seeing play out across the globe. I worry that they won’t get the support of Albertans who like the followers of Trump and Farage don’t understand that that the drop in their standard of living is due to an unchecked free market (the pace and scale of development in the oilsands has come back to bite us) and not as a result of taxation to support public services.

  2. cyberclark says:

    Merkel is in more danger over this vote than is Britain. The US and Britain were holding 100 billion dollars in assetts belonging to Iran. The British in pounds and the US of course in USD. The Ayatollah laid down the law. A equities and considerable cash (Britain held most at last count) was immediately going to be changed to the EURO at prevailing rates while saying the other two were “so much paper”

    I imagine Iran’s boys are very busy even in unseen in the melee!

    Brexit has to follow Euro rules in its separation. We all watched the enormous protests in England over the results of the vote. Meanwhile British Parliament is saying Britain cannot be ruled by a bunch of ordinary people what these same people voted for by way of referendum is totally invalid. Only a vote taken and passed through British Parliament can be considered legal and binding. They may be right; no one expected this and everyone is unprepared. It’s all patchwork with Greece, Spain and Italy stirring their own pots.

    We shall hear much, much more in the future.

    • Cyberclark: watching Brexit play out is like watching a bad soap opera. It gets worse with each passing day.

      • cyberclark says:

        And there lies the problem Susan. Brexit it not playing out and won’t start for another 2 years. The people who are going to leave or stay are not in office yet! Merklei is facing a major chance of election defeat over immigration. It is slow motion political suicide by 2/3rds of the world. If wasn’t so horrible It could be a great comedy.

      • Cyberclark: it looks like many of the politicians who led the Remain or Leave campaigns have resigned. David Cameron, Boris Johnson and now Nigel Farage are gone. Who’s next? Jeremy Corbyn?

      • cyberclark says:

        Next to go? Angela Merkel would be my guess but not by choice.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Jeremy Corbyn lost a non-confidence vote but he stayed. I think the reason being that he has been under direct fire from some factions of the labour party because of his very left wing ideas. In an extreme right wing world, his ideas are too extreme left for the Blairites who were never left wing at all.
        What is happening in Britain is quite shocking. I do not mean the Brexit, I mean the politicians’ behavior. Another nail in their democratic system. Suddenly their families became extremely important.

        Britain has a problem in their hands for many years to come. I would not be surprised to see the Queen interfering if the collapse continues. It is her constitutional right to force an emergency government when necessary.

  3. jerrymacgp says:

    “…the growing financialisation of the American [and Canadian, and British, and Western European, and Australasian… ] economy and the decline of manufacturing and of work in the traditional sense…” This is a theme I have worried about for quite some time: the devaluation of economic activity that makes stuff, versus the increased valuation of the buying and selling of money itself. Under the veil of so-called “free trade”, the corporate world has exported high-quality, secure manufacturing jobs to low-wage and unregulated labour markets overseas, from Bangladesh to the American Deep South with its right-to-work laws, leaving only minimum-wage and precarious service-sector work here at home. And then we wonder why economic growth remains sluggish and families are ever more saddled with consumer debt … when fewer and fewer Canadian workers can afford to buy the products made by those same corporations. Not everybody is well suited to the kind of intensely academic education to become employable in the tech sector; there will always be people who are best suited, either by intellectual capacity or by innate temperament, to working with their hands, and we need to offer those people the opportunity to do more than just sling double-doubles at the local Timmy’s.

    We need to restructure our tax system to treat investment in production of real goods differently than investment in the buying and selling of money and financial instruments. We need to allow deduction of the purchase of raw materials, parts and components, and manufacturing labour from corporate income for tax purposes, but disallow the claiming of similar deductions for the buying and selling of money, which employs nobody.

    We also need to tear up all of our existing trade agreements, which are in fact not about free trade at all, but about putting the rights of corporations above the authority of sovereign governments. We need a new trade regime that applies the principles of the 60s-era Auto Pact to the broader economy; this can be summed up as, “if you want to sell to Canadians [free of tariffs], then you must buy from Canadians and buy from Canadians”.

    Finally, the Left needs to abandon the so-called New Labour pragmatism that became so popular not only in the UK, where it originated, but here in North America as well, and to also re-focus on the needs and aspirations of ordinary working Canadians. It needs to speak more directly to workers, and convince them to vote in their own best interests instead of in the interests of the corporate sector that is attacking their very economic security.

    • cyberclark says:

      Problem is, we don’t as world have many choices. The world save none, is broke! When there is nothing in the kitty to deal from the politic is reduced to words. Speaking of which I think Trudeau is doing a good job while conservatives are snapping at NDP and Liberal heels saying “we have to make a plan to pay down the debt” Fat chance there is no coin left loose anywhere.

      In this situation countries typically “forgive foreign debt” that makes there balance sheet look a little better and makes friends abroad. I thinks soon enough we will hear of the foreign debt being released.
      As for speaking more to the workers, that is all they can do. There is no money to pay them more and we are heavily into debt financing.
      The NDs were brave to publish the sunshine list. Are they brave enough to trim it? Yet to be seen. While I’m on this rant Buckminser Fuller ended up buying all the Alberta power lines with the blessing of the Conservatives. A guarantee of 8.5% on what is a cost plus operation is obscene and I would have expected more muscle shown by the NDP.
      When Klein first sold the power lines in his market program, power lines the alberta taxpayers paid every cent of, we lost an initial 7 Billion dollars. Now we are paying premium to use our own power lines? What’s wrong with this picture?’

      The Conservatives put a 7% tax on the power line build which is now helping us somewhat.

    • Jerrymacgp: All excellent points particularly the comment that we need to convince Canadians to vote in their own best interests. This is a formidable task. When I ran in the 2014 by-election I met a great number of people who proudly told me they weren’t interested in politics. Their reasons ranged from all politicians are crooks to being too busy. I could respond to those who said they were too busy (politics determines the quality of your children’s education, your healthcare, whether you have a job). It was much harder to respond to the criticism that all politicians are crooks or puppets for big business because so many of them are. All this is to say convincing the public to vote in their own interests is a very good idea, but a difficult task in the current environment.

    • cyberclark says:

      It was about 2 months ago the “Group of 20” of which Canada, the US and Mexico are members released a short statement and a family photo say in essence we know we are broke; we know we don’t have an economy going any more but we are resolved to fix this by means other than just spending money,


  4. Sam Gunsch says:

    re: stronger democracy

    The NDP need to bring in proportional representation, while they have the chance.

    With PropRep, the success of extreme AB RW politics in the ’93 election and RW policy extremism subsequently would not have happened.

    The current NDP seems to have forgotten their AB history.,_1993

    • Carlos Beca says:

      I agree. What are these people waiting for. Have they now convinced themselves they can win again? Hmmm that is a bad assumption.
      The Right will nave change the undemocratic system and the NDP is sleeping on the job on this one. I knew they would do this because they were never really committed to it. I would like to understand why.
      I have sent emails on this and it does not make any darn difference. They do not even bother reply.

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        re: I have sent emails on this and it does not make any darn difference. They do not even bother reply.

        I’ve also learned over the last year that the NDP I worked to get elected can be just as deaf when they want to be as the PCs. Even people who’ve been active for decades, if they are on the wrong side of the issue for the NDP, don’t get calls or emails returned.
        Their arrogance is remarkable. It may be just certain ministries, but some ministries are operating as if they had the PCs for a government.
        I’ve never been more cynical about political parties.
        Sam Gunsch

      • Carlos Beca says:

        ‘I’ve never been more cynical about political parties’

        You are not alone. We are witnessing the political crisis brought about by neo-conservatism. The consequences are pretty obvious. After all the trade agreements, after all the talk the economy was going to resolve everything and the destructive rage against anything public, we are worse off than ever before. We managed to get 62 people to own more than 3.5 billion of the 99%. We are lost in a sea of confusion about what governments can accomplish and what democracy really means now that the power is in the hands of the corporate elite and the morally bankrupt banks, saved with the money of those who are now left to the lions in the coliseum, like Greece. A strange world indeed. To me possibly the last show of the capitalist circus. Let us not worry, after all we still have the Donald and Hillary show and they will sing the blues.

      • Sam and Carlos: I’ve heard the same thing from many others who’ve tried to talk to their new ND MLAs in person or online. This is tremendously upsetting given our experience with the PCs. Public Interest Alberta is focused on improving the interaction between the public and government. PIA is advocating hard for democratic renewal. PIA gives the NDs credit for banning campaign contributions from corporations and unions but says it must go much further. It’s arguing for better conflict of interest rules and whistle blower protection, more openness and transparency and says too much power has been concentrated in the hands of the premier resulting in the marginalization of the legislature and individual MLAs.

      • cyberclark says:

        I got 1 reply from Rachel. I must be special? This was during the federal election when I told a fund raiser I wouldn’t part with a penny until I heard back from Notley on a previous question.

        2 days later I got her reply. Guess she only responds to potential fund raisers.

      • carlosbeca says:

        CyberClark – I too received an email saying that she did support changing the voting system, but that was then, before they got elected.
        The only emails I get now is to ask for money. I have unsubscribed.

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        On the value of responding, and damage that silence can do to social(political capital) Don Lenihan has a useful column today.

        Maybe I should also be posting this link on the AB NDP Facebook sites? Especially with regard to environment and agricultural policies and ministries, I might add.

      • Sam, thanks for the link. Lenihan set out four common excuses: I’m too busy, do you know how many messages I get?, I’m too disorganized and my non-response was my response. None of those excuses would cut it if you were a corporate executive let alone if you were a government official or MLA. Perhaps the next step is to take a page from the Seniors Action and Liaison Team. After trying for months to schedule a meeting with the former health minister, Fred Horne, SALT staged a sit-in (in today’s parlance “a rally”) at Horne’s constituency office. Horne didn’t show his face, leaving his aides to deal with it. They called the police to clear the demonstrators out. The police did so at 1 a.m. However SALT had alerted the the press and as a result of the publicity Horne managed to find time in his “busy” schedule to meet with the demonstrators. He didn’t do anything to help them but the sit-in made it crystal clear just how utterly unresponsive the PC government had become over their 44 year reign.

  5. Sam Gunsch says:

    re: They have a point.
    Starting with Clinton’s Democrats and Chretien’s Liberals and continuing through to the present day, progressive political parties have made a point of satisfying their high-rolling corporate backers, often at the expense of everyone else.

    I think these two op-ed’s at the links below are persuasive and go further than the point that excerpt makes, in important ways.
    Especially the ‘smug style’ post by Rensin. A long read, but worth it.

    IMHO…Most of Alberta and Canada’s political class, including the MSM, reporters and columnists, and most bloggers, are, relatively, too wealthy to really appreciate the perspective of the poor and lower-middle class and hence, are limited in the effectiveness of their political communication. And that is why, in part, there exists the populist traction for the reactionary columnists in the RW media, e.g. Sun/Herald/Rebel.

    How a Quest by Elites Is Driving ‘Brexit’ and Trump
    Economic View
    By NEIL IRWIN JULY 1, 2016

    The smug style in American liberalism

    by Emmett Rensin on April 21, 2016

    • Sam: the Irwin article states the case very well. Economists look at the “big picture” expressed in GDP. They’re not overly concerned about the individuals who’ll lose their jobs as a result of the job churn. As Irwin says: But there’s an obligation to think about individual lives. Life isn’t just about money, and jobs aren’t just about income. A sense of stability, of purpose, of social standing — all these things matter in ways that economic models don’t do a very good job of taking into account. Rachel Notley made a comment that touched on this at the NDP convention. She said life isn’t all about selling things. The ND government needs to put these words into action.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Yes life is not just selling things but Rachel Notley is in an environment where I believe very few people actually believe that. It is very difficult to implement anything that does not sound like making money in Alberta. Even the social democrats in this province are very right wing and I am not at all sure they will support the NDP government in any attempt to move to the left into more progressive politics.

        Why do we even bother having a minister responsible for democratic renewal if nothing has even been suggested in one year. Do they actually have any plan? Do they really believe in changing the voting system? I doubt it.

        At the Federal level, as soon as the system preferred by the majority of MPs in the committee was proportional representation and not the preferential one Justin Trudeau wants, the enthusiasm disappeared and it is basically in the compost bin again for another ten years.

    • Carlos, wasn’t this an interesting turn of events, Jason Kenney running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party so he can erase its progressive elements and fold it into the Wildrose who’ll be renamed the Conservative Party of Alberta. Anyone who votes for this man needs to have his head examined.

  6. Jim Lees says:

    I have a problem with incurring debt until oil prices rise – what happens if they don’t? I feel the debt level has gone far beyond what we were led to expect, and people Including myself are not comfortable with the growing numbers. Election reform is a great idea, however governments tend to reform in ways that will help them get re-elected, after all they are politicians…..

    • Jim, I too have a problem with incurring debt until oil prices rise…relying on oil revenues to fill a gap in the budget is not sustainable. We need to give serious consideration to a sales tax and while we’re at it we need to ensure that every public service is delivered in the most efficient way possible (and by that I don’t mean giving it to the private sector, that would just make things worse).

  7. ronmac says:

    The way some people talk you’d think globalization is new, that it is a recent trend invented by global elites designed to lift humanity out of its funk, and anyone who opposes it is either stupid, ignorant, got their head in the sand or just plain racist.

    Globalization has been around since the dawn of civilization, long before the journeys of Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo, long before the EU and NAFTA.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Yes globalization can be good but not the one we are promoting.
      I am totally against it especially when companies use their right to sue governments, not in the regular courts, but in special units created by their own choice. 🙂
      Yes I am stupid, ignorant, have my head in the sand and I am racist, but I still live in a pseudo-democracy and I am smart enough to choose and I still have the right to do it. Not sure for how long.

      • Carlos, I noted an article in today’s Globe that said Canada was going to take its time working towards a trade deal with China. Apparently Chrstia Freeland is concerned about China’s lack of respect for human rights. I must say it took her long enough to finally get to this point. I only wish she was equally concerned about Canada’s loss of sovereignty in TPP, CETA and NAFTA.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Unfortunately it is looking more and more that the Liberal side of Justin Trudeau’s government is slowly turning into neo-liberal. I am sorry to say but I never trusted Christa Freeland and she is being sucked into TPP and they are going to sign it. She was against inequality and the elites but that was when she wrote the book. Now it is a different story. And they wonder why people are turning to people like Donald Trump. At least they have the guts to say who they really are.
        Is Donald Trump really worse than Cameron, Farage and Johnson?

      • cyberclark says:

        Trump is not saying anything the Democrats have not said before. His delivery is quite different but his circle the wagons variations are the same as put forward by past democrats. He’s exciting, noisy and in your face yes! But, new stuff walls and immigrants is playing out across the world. His theatrics are pretty dam good you have to admit!

    • ronmac: I’d agree that empire building has been around since the dawn of time, I’m not so sure about globalization. The “bargain” being foisted upon us–reduced tariff barriers in exchange for a loss of sovereignty–seems to be a new concept, but I could be wrong and need to research this before I say much more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s