Anas Hassan: Why self-righteousness caused the rise of Brexit and Donald Trump


CommonSpace columnist Anas Hassan explores why he believes the political class have become too sanctimonious, why that attitude has caused shock political waves in the UK and USA and why it won't stop until politicians change their attitudes towards the electorate

MANY people all over the world are struggling to digest the news that Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States. His victory has come as an absolute global political earthquake on an unprecedented scale.

Mr Trump's triumph, alongside Brexit, are two uncommon yet prime examples of the electorate giving a "f*** you" salute to the political class (mild language does not provide the tone of this article any justice).

For years and years, many voters who feel they have been deemed irrelevant by their political representatives have once and for all performed the equivalent of tipping over the dinner table, smashing all of the cutlery and setting the kitchen in flames to record their complete and utter contempt for them.

Read more – Robin McAlpine: President Trump and the lessons for Scotland

The damage inflicted upon the political class has been absolutely relentless, to say the least. In the case of the United Kingdom, Brexit rumbled politicians to the humility of realisation that they had continuously failed to address the concerns of their electorate, particularly over the widely perceived lack of control over immigration.

And across the pond, American voters could not stomach the possibility of there being another president with the surname Clinton. The establishment was given a kicking by voters who opted instead to go for a billionaire businessman with virtually no political experience.

In both cases, what did much of both sets of the electorate have to lose? Many of those people have been stuck in communities which have faced very little prospect of social and economic regeneration. And many of them will probably be stuck in low paid jobs or stagnating work with no prospect of greater salaries or career progression.

And many of them feel that politicians in general just frankly do not care about their lives. Many of the voters who caused this year's two biggest political shocks had nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

They are sick, fed up and tired of the inequality and lack of leadership that is rife across the economy and society today.

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Politics is generally suffering from major reputational issues. The curse of the political ego has well and truly masked the real issues and lack of progress people face and have to put up with today.

Many politicians do serve their communities well and genuinely value the real meaning of public service, contrary to popular belief.

But if this is the case, then why are events such as Brexit and Donald Trump's rise happening?

And why do parts of the world feel that they could yet still see similar events unfolding in the months and even years ahead? It isn't difficult to list reasons – lack of economic prospects, poor social conditions and apathy towards politics are just a few.

But one of the biggest problems right now is the self-righteousness of politicians, the political class and politics in general. Nobody can afford to overlook this fact. It is the single biggest threat to the political culture of the world in every country and every community.

Read more – Craig Paterson: How it really could have been President Sanders

For the last two or three decades, it has been detected that politics has become a bit too robotic for people's liking. People have bemoaned the lack of independent thinking, leadership and personalities within politics and feel that it has led to the many problems that now exist within many communities.

It cannot be denied that the mainstream media and social media are two important vehicles for voices to be heard. But within the former, voters have had enough of switching the television or radio on or reading the newspapers to find many of their political representatives are less than inspiring, whether they agree with them or not.

Hence, the rise of the latter has opened up politics in a way never seen before. It is now so easy for someone to set themselves up a profile and start expressing themselves without fear nor favour. 

As a result, voters now have this particular vehicle to turn to for listening to others and revealing what they think.

Politics is also developing too much of a reputation today for being a minority interest. Political anoraks have been trapped in the bubble of political speak which has alienated the rest of the population around them. Why are many of them unable or even unwilling to approach the issues with a straight bat?

Read more – Bernie Sanders to fight Trump’s anti-establishment triumph from the left 

It would be unfair to say that certain individuals are responsible for the contempt politics generally faces today. The fact is, the whole of the political class and politics have big questions to properly answer.

Voters want their politicians and those standing for election to set their stalls out without having a dig at others. That doesn't mean to say that constructive, mature and thoughtful criticism of ideas isn't allowed – critical evaluation, if provided properly, certainly brings benefit in terms of the formulation of effective policies. And the electorate also desires to see their politicians being ambitious for the future.

It cannot be disputed that political parties, pressure groups and groups of people with many shared values should put teamwork at the heart of everything they want to achieve. Yet at the same time, politics needs to stop being too much about macro and micro management of issues, policies and visions.

People want real improvements in their lives and rightfully expect their political representatives to bend over backwards to improve their economic, political and social conditions. Politics needs to become more results driven and less petty.

Read more – "The anger is real": Alyn Smith MEP on "outsider with easy answers" Donald Trump after election win

Irrespective of political allegiance, the nonsense of silly squabbles over who said what, where and when, who deserves to claim the credit for success and who doesn't and the farcical finger pointing at opponents when things go wrong must all end.

And despite the rife immaturity of Donald Trump and his campaign, his success must be made to be an isolated example of how never to win an election. Everyone within politics at all levels must be humble in not ignoring the lessons of this acrimonious recent election campaign in America, because if they do then Brexit and Mr Trump's rise will no longer be deemed to be unusual examples of how to win.

To put it succinctly, the "them and us" gulf that divides the political class and the electorate stinks and the atmosphere must be perfumed. 

It's time for politics get a grip and get real.

Picture courtesy of Sam

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