The only US election piece in Australia worth your time

It was an extraordinary outpouring of US election guff in the MSM on the weekend. Feel some pity for your humble blogger because I had to read it all. Our media is has become a kind of squawking parlour of mediocrity chock full of self-promoters, narrow identities and, above all, siloed viewpoints that are too limited to integrate politics, economics and social trends into a useful narrative.

The only piece worthy of your time (amid what seemed like hundreds) was Alan Kohler who summed it all up nicely with a bow on top this morning:

…a more fundamental lesson from the US election, and it is perhaps more an issue for the left of centre parties that embraced globalisation at the expense of their working-class roots.

The Republican Party didn’t lose the election, Trump did, because of his shocking mishandling of the pandemic. Joe Biden wisely turned it into the key election issue, and without that he probably would have lost.

…The Liberal and National Parties in Australia, and their supporters in the media, are trying to appeal to the working classes, but only through climate change, not trade. That is, by supporting fossil fuel industry workers against the so-called “green-left elites,” but not manufacturing workers against Chinese imports.

…China’s entry into the WTO in 2001 and the rush by the world’s retailers and brand owners to source cheaper product from there to expand their margins ended up disenfranchising large parts of the western world’s working classes, who got no real support from their traditional left-wing political parties because they were chasing the new breed of professional urban voters who enjoyed the lower prices and who prioritised the environment.

Their disgruntlement led directly to the populist demagogue Trump. Unfortunately for the Republican Party, the man is incompetent, possibly corrupt, and a narcissist incapable of rising to the challenge presented by a pandemic. So he’s been sacked after one term.

But neither he nor the working class discontent he crystallised and rode to victory in 2016 is going away. Trump will nurture the discontent from the sidelines, either simply to make money or run again in 2024.

…A week ago legendary investor, Jeremy Grantham of GMO published a paper suggesting a sort of green Marshall Plan – “tens of trillions of dollars over several decades” to invest in renewable infrastructure and achieve a “stable global civilisation. If financed at negative real rates, it is the commercial bargain of all time”.

…The US and Australia should see it as a Marshall Plan not only to transition the world to zero carbon, but to reconstruct not just their economies, but their politics and society. The success of the Republicans in the election shows how necessary that is.

Exactly. This is why the failure of the Dems to win the senate may prove to be the most decisive outcome for the Biden Administration. If Republicans block attempted remediations of these circumstances in the form of tax hikes for the rich, boosts to the minimum wage and a Green New Deal – and they almost certainly will – then the working base captured by Trump remains disenfranchised, angry and ripe for the picking.

It is also another reason why Labor’s China problem is SO toxic. And the Coalition is only very marginally (if fatefully) better.

David Llewellyn-Smith
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