Owen Jones in his latest Guardian column “Labour can’t turn it around by peddling misery. It must exude hope” writes:
Did Donald Trump go on to run a campaign of hope? Manifestly not. But “Make America great again” certainly was about empowerment. Americans had a choice to infuse their country with greatness once more: that’s how many sincerely felt. Or indeed watch Bernie Sanders’ “America” political ad: he didn’t win the Democratic nomination, but he came a lot closer than many predicted. Set to the tune of the Simon and Garfunkel song of the same name, it showcases everyday Americans in small towns and big cities, on farms and in family homes.
This isn’t how Trump’s voters saw it. For them, #MAGA was just as hopeful as “Yes We Can” and Jones doesn’t seem to realize that it was white Obama voters in the midwest who elected Trump president via America’s electoral college.
The core of Sanders’ message wasn’t hope — although hope was part of the equation — it was struggle (translated as “empowerment” by Jones for the Guardian’s liberal readership). Stand up and fight back against Corporate America, stand up and fight back against a rigged economy held in place by a corrupt political system. Tens of millions of people taking on the billionaire class, their media, their lobbyists, and their expensive attack ads with millions of grassroots $27 donations was the vision of the Sanders campaign.
This resonated with millions of Americans who felt shit on, dissed, and forgotten fleeced by economic and political elites not just since the 2008 crash but for the better part of three decades. Once Sanders was eliminated in the Democratic primary, the only option for voters to deal a blow to a corrupt and broken system was the most corrupt and broken person to ever run for the presidency: Donald Trump. People wanted to fight back against the system with their votes and if Trump was their only way to do so, too many of them said “so be it.”
Corbyn’s message thus far is neither “peddling misery” nor is it “empowerment” — it is, for lack of a better word, whining. ‘Such-and-such is unfair but it could be more fair.’ ‘We can do better’ would be another way of putting it. This is the kind of tame ‘aspirational’ truism you see in corporate employee handbooks; it’s not something that is going to resonate either deeply with individuals or widely with the electorate.
Jones’ closing lines are big — but also rather empty — dreams:
This is a country with great potential. There is so much we can be proud of and build on. There is no problem we cannot solve. We’ve had great challenges in the past, and we’ve always won them. Our history is littered with stories of courage, determination and resilience in the face of adversary. Let’s capture that all over again. Dare to have dreams. A society run in the interests of people’s needs and aspirations — not profit for a few — is possible. A wealthy nation can cure all of its ills: we just need the willpower and determination.
“A society run in the interests of people’s needs and aspirations — not profit for a few” is the socialist dream, a dream that I share, but the vast majority of people are not against the for-profit system. Dreams have to be at least appealing (if not compelling) to the vast majority if you want a fighting chance at winning their active support on election day.
Corbyn and his supporters have had over one and a half years to come up with exciting, compelling, awe-inspiring policies, dreams, slogans, and pronouncements and all they’ve come up with is Millibandism 2.0. Actually Labour still hasn’t released an election manifesto despite Corbyn’s bogus claim that the party was “very, very ready” for a snap election.
It’s too late in the game for Labour to ‘turn it around’ by ‘exuding hope.’
The only compelling arguments for Labour now given unprecedented Tory dominance in opinion polls now:
1) “No blank check for May/Tory hard Brexit.”
2) “Corbyn won’t be leader forever and Labour in opposition will become functional again once he is gone” (i.e. vote Labour, not Corbyn).
The task facing progressives in Britain in the 2017 general election is not to dream big, but to stop the bleeding and save the Labour Party from total annihilation. Don’t bullshit people.