For much of last year, left wing media invoked ‘2016’ as a rod with which to chasten the insufficiently progressive. Whenever a story was drummed up about, say, Islamophobia, or homophobia, or America’s policemen whinging about being gunned down in the street, clickbait headlines insisted we adopt the views appropriate for the current year: ‘IT’S 2016, PEOPLE!’. After Trump, Brexit, and what started to resemble a genocide on beloved celebrities, the phenomenon was reversed. Increasingly, 2016 was somehow the cause for all the world’s ills. By New Year’s Eve the year was to blame for both Ronda Rousey’s UFC loss and Mariah Carey’s imperfect Times Square performance (he’s a wretched sexist, that 2016). 2017 is going to be deplorable for the basket of tolerables. Far Right parties are on the threshold of victory across Europe. The success of the Trump and Brexit campaigns will be realised in legislature. The Baby Boomers’ ageing idols will continue to die. At home in Australia, Cory Bernardi might actually do whatever it is he keeps threatening to do. Happy New Year!
Modern leftism has failed at the ballot box. Political correctness, identity politics and globalism have brought their proponents electoral ruin, and white working class voters have reciprocally abandoned the parties which long ago abandoned them. The British Labour Party is immensely unpopular. Hillary Clinton lost states that should never have been in play. The incumbent French Socialists will not even qualify for the second stage of the presidential election. What will the Left do now? Conventional wisdom is that the collectivists will reinvent themselves, as they have done so many times before. Political correctness will be thrown out, and the fellow travellers will shroud themselves in a new, shiny, cynical combination of socialist economics and permissive ethics. That was the genius of Blair, Rudd, and Bill Clinton. Their policies, electorates and decades differed, but their strategy of triangulation (and their hollow, humanoid personas) were fundamentally the same. That would be the sensible thing to do once more. That is, however, not what is happening.
The Left is doubling down. After the Brexit vote, the UK’s Labour party had a chance to dump the anti-Israel, IRA-supporting, Falkland-damning, unelectable Jeremy Corbyn. Instead, they returned him to the leadership with an increased majority. In America, the Democrats are intent on finding scapegoats for Hillary Clinton’s loss: so called fake-news, Russian intervention, ‘post-truth’, the anti-democratic electoral college, ‘whitelash’, sexism, and so on. The politics haven’t changed, and neither has the culture. Turn on CNN, or MSNBC. Pick up a copy of the New Yorker, or the Washington Post. Trump’s victory has scarcely given them pause for thought. If you can stomach it, watch MTV’s ‘2017 resolutions for white guys’. This is, one remembers, the very same MTV that refused to play Michael Jackson’s videos in the early 80s because he was black (at the time). Like the Democratic Party before it, MTV is clinging to the bigotry of the day.
The task of ye olde centre-left parties was to hold onto their working class base and drag a chunk of middle class voters across the aisle. The newfangled centre-left parties no longer even think in these terms. There is no upper class, upper middle class, middle class, working class, or lumpenproletariat. There is only the despicable 1 per cent and the downtrodden 99 per cent. There are no longer thousands of different, divided races. There is only wretched whitey and the oppressed ‘people of colour’. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered/sexual/vestites have precious little in common with each other, but progressivism unifies them under the rainbow banner of ‘Queerness’, and sets them against the cis-heteronormative man. Progressivism is not a coalition that can be renegotiated. It is, rather, a monoculture. Hipsters, feminists, post-colonial academics, environmentalists and Black Lives Matter protesters are, at their core, one and the same. Politically correct progressivism is like Sauron’s one ring; it binds them all.
How different is the ascendant populist Right! Brexit supporters were practically ambushed by their victory – if they were united and had planned ahead, Boris Johnson would be Prime Minister today.
Nor are Trump voters ideology-bound. Despite what you might have heard, the nasty Nazi alt-right is entirely distinct from the Breitbart-reading followers of the mercurial Milo Yiannopoulos. Neither white nationalists nor free speech fundamentalists have much in common with the freshly Republican blue collar workers of the Rust Belt, and none of those groups have a thing in common with the Evangelicals of the Bible Belt. These disparate groups are united only by their loathing of the progressive establishment, and by the (admittedly immense) charisma of Donald J. Trump. It is, at best, a precarious coalition; how will Trump appease the big business dimension of the party, and the new pro-tariff factory workers, and libertarian free-marketeers, all at the same time?
2016 was a year of great victories against élites, but the numbers remain on their side. They are still in control of the academy and, short of a revolution, universities will continue to transform undergraduates into cultural relativist automatons. Western electorates will continue to become more cosmopolitan and, to quote Obama, ‘browner’. Social media will remain an echo chamber, and bad ideas will remain unchallenged. Corporations, terrified of social media lynch mobs, will continue to dictate a progressive agenda for the mainstream media. Sure, people with common sense are horrified by the zealous progressives. But how long before the contagion spreads far enough to routinely win elections?
It is not enough that 2016 was annus horribilis for progressivism, or that there are comparatively easy victories ahead this year. Purging the puritanical left from the body politic requires a new orthodoxy on the right. The citadels of power that have been lost – academia, the news, Hollywood – must be won back. Politicians must stay strong on immigration. There are already worrying signs that Trump is backpedaling on his wall, that Brexit will not really mean Brexit, and that the ALP – who may well win our next election – has already forgotten its recent history on boats.
The old institutions that are the foundation of our society – the family, the church, even the recreational sporting clubs – must again be made strong. Most importantly, wherever PC bigotry rears its ugly head, it must be crushed. IT’S 2017, PEOPLE!