Being partisan is the new liberal. Last week, a New York Times article referred to Gallup polls in the 1950s asking Americans which political party their sons-in-law should belong to. 18 per cent chose Democrat, 10 per cent Republican. Significantly, the remaining 72 per cent either didn’t answer or didn’t care. In 2016, only 45 per cent Amercians didn’t give a damn.
Trump’s America is no longer the Land of the Carefree. Many Indians, who celebrated his victory, were dismayed at his order which made Indian professionals unwelcome in the US. The Donald’s victory and the subsequent anti-Trump consolidation of non-partisan state governments, mayors, social groups, opinion blocs and even Republicans within the administration, reveal that a pitched battle for opinion rights has begun. In the rest of the world, too, including India, political conservatism has got a life. Decades of ideological drift were to blame. A despot like Putin is the new poster boy of the radical right, while the jury is still out on Turkey’s Erdogan—though Trump’s America may assume he is a bird.
In the fifties, the world, fresh from the horrors of World War II started by an Aryan supremacist, was finding its feet. The British empire was packing up. People craved for universality as a bonding experience. Societies opened up to diverse influences, culture flourished, and borders became less stringent. The Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Brotherhood were just jokes on the fringe. Immigrants brought ideas and business concepts to the West, which made society vibrant. Until Islam declared war on the civilised world and changed it forever.
Whenever an established way of life is threatened, people circle their wagons. They prefer minded people among friends and family. Positions harden. Offense is easily taken. In most democracies, people believe governments have become soft. The refrain for a strong leader is soaring—in France, Germany and the UK, where Islamic immigration was once not only tolerated, but encouraged. People are even fine with a benevolent dictator who does not even trust them and appeals to their inner masochist.
The irony of democracy today is that people have stopped trusting themselves and need leaders to redefine their identity. They forget certainty kills the spirit of inquiry. The new choice is frighteningly simplistic: fight for what you believe or fight against what others believe in. Millions of women marched against Trump in cosmopolitan American cities, and millions of Midwesterners defended him.
in the US, the secondary middle-class, consisting of blue-collar workers and small businessmen in smaller towns and suburbs, is challenging the established order everywhere. The exclusivity of the urban middle-class, with quality education, jobs and inclusive lifestyle, is a threat to their aspirations. An Indian globalist will experiment with French cuisine, while an American from the Bible belt will stick to burgers with extra fries on the side. The first is comfortable in their skin. The second is defiantly aggressive to a perceived assault on identity. Both sides defend their ways as right.
Being partisan is the new normal. Both for conservatives and liberals. And they are getting the shock of their lives.