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