Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Bidenist International?

In Biden's campaign, one can see the outlines of what a new and successful left might be in the United States. And no, I don't mean the politics of AOC and other like-minded metropolitan leftists who have appointed themselves the new vanguard. I mean the kind of economically radical (check out his program!) and socially moderate politics that actually has a chance of uniting a broad progressive coalition and transforming the country.

A similar evolution can be seen in UK under Keir Starmer, Labour's new leader. After Labour's demoralizing defeat in 2019, he is adopting a different approach which bears some significant similarities to Biden's in the current campaign. The excellent Stephen Bush describes Starmer's new politics well in an article in The New Statesman.

"[David Cameron] wanted to persuade those who were in sympathy with Tory economic objectives that they could have both social liberalism and traditional right-wing economies (the “double liberalism” championed by the Economist). Starmer’s aims run the other way: he wants to woo voters who are socially and culturally conservative but are economically on the left....

On both the left and the right, observers of Starmer detect the influence of his chief of policy, Claire Ainsley, who previously worked for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and in the trade union movement. She is the author of a book called The New Working Class (2018), in which she mapped out the concerns and experiences of the voters in the “Red Wall” of once solidly Labour constituencies that voted Conservative for the first time in December 2019.....

Since becoming leader Starmer has appealed to the preoccupations and priorities of the new Tory-voting, Brexit-supporting working class. His tactical silences have been notable too. There have been small but significant gestures: opposition frontbenchers taking care to tweet their respects on the anniversary of the soldier Lee Rigby’s murder; Starmer’s support for retaining “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Rule Britannia” at the Proms. And there have been larger ones, such as Starmer’s vocal opposition to the Black Lives Matter campaign to abolish the police. Starmer is positioning himself against Corbyn on cultural matters.

Westminster loves an influential adviser, but the reality is that Starmer’s hiring of Ainsley is a consequence, not a cause, of his political focus. He is both more calculating – Nafzir Afzal, who served as chief prosecutor while Starmer was head of the Crime Prosecution Service, recently told me that Starmer was “always” thinking about politics – and more economically radical than he can appear....

A preoccupation with the “new working class” also drives Starmer’s chief of staff, Morgan McSweeney, who managed his triumphant leadership campaign. (He had previously worked on Liz Kendall’s failed campaign in 2015.) The leader’s office understands, too, that the party’s problem is not confined to the seats lost in 2019. There are towns that are demographically similar to the 2019 losses, such as Harlow in Essex and Stevenage in Hertfordshire (both former new towns), which are now Conservative strongholds but remain vital if Labour is to win power."

In my view, this kind of politics is what we need to have an actual "progressive 2020's" that leaves the right wing populist upsurge behind.

Shortly before the general election in December 2019, Remain campaigners used focus groups to assess the prospects of the various leading pro-European politicians and their opponents. They wanted to test ways to limit the expected Tory surge. But they had a problem: hardly anyone in the focus groups...

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