I spent most of my flight to New York reading ‘The Despot’s Apprentice’ by Brian Klaas. If a Liberal was hosting a dinner party this close to the US mid-term elections, this is a book that would be guaranteed to serve up a delicious topic of conversation. Brian Klaas has forensically analysed Trump’s actions and provides evidence to back it up too. It is a book well worth reading but for the purposes of this blog post, it is the concluding chapter titled ‘How to save democracy’ which is pertinent.

Within the ravages of despair it is the human condition to look for ways to fight back and reclaim what one thinks is lost or is being lost. While I don’t live in America it is quite evident that politics in the current Liberal order of Western countries is tilting towards ill-Liberalism with Donald Trump at the helm as a reckless captain of a careering speedboat. Britain often follows suit where America leads.

Delve into recent history and recall how Margaret Thatcher had an almost simpering like relationship with Ronald Reagan. After that we had Tony Blair who was quite happy to follow George Bush into war territory over Iraq. Latterly, we have had Theresa May literally cosy up to Trump (handholding and politically by rolling out the red carpet).

This is my strong point of interest and a reason why I took the opportunity to visit New York and experience the politics here. My corresponding interest is in the fight back. What do we Liberals do?

Brian Klaas offers a solution by separating Trump from American nationalism. He writes: “Loyalty to America does not mean loyalty to Trump. He is acting like a despot’s apprentice, borrowing tactics from authoritarian leaders I have seen elsewhere. It could happen here. Trump has put our democracy at risk, and in this moment of democracy in peril, he reminds us that we must sometimes fulfill the most important and, often, the most difficult duties of true patriots: to dissent and oppose”.

Michael Moore, the famous left leaning documentary film maker,  seems to have taken up the call to oppose via a documentary to be released on 21 September titled ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’. The title is a reminder of the date and month in 2016 when Trump won the Presidential election. In an interview given to the Huffpost Moore says that, “Donald Trump is an evil genius. He has no intention of leaving the White House…Once we come together in beautiful harmony, the Trump crime family will be prosecuted…The revolution is happening in the most unlikely of places. The resistance-the true resistance-is not coming from the Democratic Party or fro the liberal establishment…there is a real insurgency taking place…I don’t know if it will succed or not it might be too late…Hope is passive…We don’t need hope, we need action”.

There you have it. Keep protesting. Keep taking action. Keep talking to people. Keep trying to change minds.

 

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I am in New York and continue to be intrigued by the politics here that is dominated by stories about Donald Trump. He is the defining factor in American life and it’s not hard to see why this is the case. The man is a reckless and out of control rocket missile. When I previously visited New York the Democrats were in power. The change is, both, scary and intriguing. I wrote about it yesterday.

What we read and hear about Trump in the UK news is only a proportion of what is unfolding in America. This is the scary part – with Britain so desperate to be close mates with America it is disheartening to witness the state of affairs in the country that Britain tries so hard to hold hands with. As an example, just this week Boris Johnson has ridiculed Muslim women. In America, Trump is making plans to penalise legal immigrants.

‘When lacking in substance blame immigrants’ has got to be the contemporary version of leadership. Forget about policy making, attempting to provide cohesion or basing your arguments or rhetoric on evidence and go for the jugular instead. The jugular, in this case, is represented by the immigrants.

Trump is planning on sanctioning legal immigrants who have accepted any form of welfare such as food stamps and public housing. This proposal is being seen as a move to garner more votes from the immigrant hating voters in the November mid-term elections. Trump made hatred of foreigners a mainstay of his Presidential election campaign and has lived up to his promise by consistently referencing the ‘them and us’ boundary. One could say that this is the only thing that Trump has shown any consistency in.

Legal immigrants who are accessing any type of welfare benefit provided by the Government may face sanctions ranging from having the benefit withdrawn to losing their legal status as immigrants. The fact that this order will produce economic suffering is not factored into the political decision making. The New York Times reports that increased legal immigration has led to higher, not lower, wages. The paper also reports that immigration leads to greater productivity in the United States and has a propensity for lowering prices for some goods and services. We have had the same evidence produced countless times in Britain but it is ignored for political convenience.

This proposal is being presented by the administration as an exercise in ensuring that the tax payer gets value out of his/her taxes. Doesn’t this sound familiar to you when put another way – ‘the will of the people’? It is convenient to ignore the minion citizen till the moment of need i.e when you need their vote. Suddenly the minion citizen becomes a valued minion citizen but only for a short amount of time. The ‘minion’ status is ever present though and, post-election, minion citizens are consigned to the dustbin marked ‘political inconvenience’. Till the next election.

I am all the more determined to carry on my fight when back in the UK against immigrant bashing for fear that a slow drip feed by the likes of Boris Johnson will become Americanesque like.

 

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I was last in New York 19 years ago. The opportunity to visit again arose and I grabbed it. The thought of blogging from New York was too good to resist. Another point of my interest stems from the primacy being placed by British politicians on a trade deal with the USA at the expense of strategic relations with the EU. If we are giving up a strategic long established relationship with the EU I was keen to see what it is we are letting ourselves in for.

From a personal point of view, I remembered New York as a buzzy place. The city that never sleeps. A real estate place but with soul. I was keen to experience it again. It was like no other. The Democrats were in power then under Bill Clinton. Fast forward almost two decades later and something has changed.

If I have to distill my perception down to one concept it is this: The American Dream seems to have scarpered and is nowhere to be seen.

The dream seemed to be the anchor of hope for all those people who either already lived here or who aspired to live here. The UK has never had an equivalent self-defining tenet. Yet, you didn’t have to experience the American Dream personally to understand and sense it.

America is now seeing a second-quarter rise of 4.1% in GDP. As is often the case, leaders spout statistics and an upward trajectory is taken as a sign of stout leadership. Donald Trump, the American President, is taking great delight and personal responsibility for this bounce.  What these types of figures don’t show though is the reality on the ground of how people are coping.

The lived experiences of people are the shadow stories that lurk underneath the boasting and gloating of a supposed good news story. People’s battles with inequality through class and race struggles and coping with ensuing poverty are never factored into headlining economic stories. Yet, much like in the UK, their inability to break through the structural obstacles is an inconvenient truth. Listen to the Trump fawning press and you start to think that you are living in a parallel universe.

The level of homelessness is shocking. There are large numbers of men and women. Among the men, it is common place to find some holding up torn pieces of cardboard with handwritten messages telling you that they are former veterans.  Wasn’t Donald Trump going to help the veterans?  A disproportionate number of homeless people are Black. Weren’t these streets meant to have been paved with gold for everyone? Or is that Gold now reserved for Trump Tower?

 

A common nightly sight is of pensioners, often bent from old age, going through recycling bags left outside hotels and restaurants. They collect plastic bottles which they sell on to the waste management industry for 5 cents a bottle. A rather large bag of bottles nets these pensioners $5.

Who really is benefitting from Trump’s promise to ‘Make America Great Again’? Trump’s $5.1 trillion tax cut isn’t quite turning out to be the pot of gold at the end of the American rainbow. According to the New York Times, the ‘initial jolt of the …cuts, mostly for corporations and the wealthy is wearing off’ with corporations buying back most of their shares and spending even less, as a result, on new production methods or wages.  Wealth isn’t being shared with workers. A rise in inflation of 2.9% is absorbing wage increases where these exist. You factor in the trade war which Trump is now fighting against the world and the resulting picture isn’t looking so good.

In parts of New York I struggle to believe that I am not in Athens. Perhaps in the future, post Brexit, I will be pinching myself back in London to remind myself that I am not in New York.

 

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Contentious wording on immigration is to form part of a policy motion to be debated at the Lib Dem party conference in the autumn. It sends a message that I never envisaged would come from the party that I have long been a member of.

While this is not adopted party policy and is, at this stage, only a proposal from a working group I am still stunned that a Liberal party would even suggest that immigrants are to be blamed for economic ills.

The policy working group has come up with the following:

Leading Lib Dem blogger and an editor of Lib Dem Voice, Caron Lindsay, has written this great post and it is really quite heartening that many members do not subscribe to the view people like me, an Asian immigrant, bring discord and disharmony to the country. For isn’t that what the first sentence of the proposal states? If migration is not peaceful and equitable the strong implication is that immigrations have brought strife with them. This is the rhetoric of the Daily Mail, Nigel Farage and such ilk.

It makes me question what it is that has changed within the Lib Dems that such a proposal is deemed satisfactory enough to have passed a threshold to qualify as a conference motion.

It is hard to reconcile this motion with the strong centrist ground that the party has maintained. By all means, address the concerns that people have over immigration but, quite clearly, the proposal attempts to scapegoat rather than exonerate. I do think that it is possible to exonerate immigrants as human beings without collapsing the human angle with the economic arguments.  Scapegoating immigrants is dirty down in the ditch dog whistle politics of racism.

Granted the last sentence of the quote does recognise the racism that exists against immigrants but it almost appears as an after thought. As if someone piped up at the final working group meeting to advocate some sort of toning down posturing without actually retracting the blame game.

The motion reeks of exclusive nationalism, them and us. Despite study after study showing that immigration does bring benefits in huge doses, the default position regardless of which political party is involved seems to be ‘blame immigrants’. I do expect this of the main political parties but NOT the Lib Dems.

 

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The stock phrase, “I wish they would just get on with it”, is, frankly, a gift to the Brexiteers.  It is a phrase and, far more importantly, a mind set that reeks of apathy. It is the sort of apathy that speaks of a disassociated attitude thereby giving the Brexiteers the ammunition that they need.

While the Brexiteers lack any single original contribution to the whole issue of the EU negotiations the one thing that they do have on their side is time.  As we fast approach the deadline date of 29 March in 2019 and with no consensus in sight, the possibility of crashing out of the EU without a deal seems likely. By voters telling the government to “…get on with it” time becomes a signifier of power to the Brexiteers.

I am reminded of the time when the Lib Dems were negotiating with the Conservatives in 2010 about the terms of the coalition and time was considered to be of the essence. Pressure was put on the negotiating parties to reach a deal quickly without due regard for substance. Time is a useful resource for the mitigation of democracy. Forget about striking a good deal that comes up with a balanced consideration of the costs and benefits lost and possibly to be gained.

Just hurry up.

In typically true British fashion a stereotypical phraseology is used instead in place of hard headed wisdom. This is so British. It is cultural. Everything has to be done in a hurry. The failing is in drawing an equivalence between telling your, for example, children to hurry up and telling the Government to hurry up. In the former case your children will probably still arrive at their destination even if late. With politics, telling the powers that be to quicken their pace is the sort of voter apathy that could result in a car crash.

It is, pure and simply put, an abdication of democratic citizenry.

 

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