Sunday, May 15, 2016

Alt-Right or SJWs, Populism is winning

A few months ago, around the start of the year, I had written this blog post trying to analyse the trends in political and cultural clashes around the world. Things have moved on from there, of course but all trends seem to indicate a further sharpening of the divide. Donald Trump has won the Republican nomination, while even though it looks like the Socialist Bernie Sanders, will not win, it is quite likely that he will push the eventual Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton more towards the Left. In fact, we have already seen something like that in India - it is now quite a popular view among Pundits, that the Suit-Boot jibe by the weakened Congress party, in opposition, pushed the Modi govt to a much more populist trajectory than initially expected. On a more contemporary note, the now recurring clashes between the entrenched Far Left  and the upcoming Right in India's elite universities is another illustration of this sharpening divide.

If Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) was the buzzword for 2015, with their trigger warnings, micro aggressions and enforcement of PC culture across the board, the new phenomenon gaining headlines in 2016 seems to be the Alternate Right (Alt-Right). To be clear, the Alt-Right, in it's various avatars is not a new thing per se and has been around for a few years, it's just that it is now beginning to get a lot more mainstream attention. Just over the last few months, many major "Liberal" publications have covered it, like Ross Douthat in The NYT and this more detailed piece in Vox. The reason for this heightened awareness is of course the Donald Trump presidency campaign and it is believed that most of the Alt-Right are Trump supporters. For those who have absolutely no idea of these groups, they are interesting

Well, some random YouTube surfing landed me to this talk by Jeff, Deist, who is the President of the Mises Institute, a Libertarian institute promoting Austrian economics. I was not aware of the speaker or the institute till now, but the topic "Alt-Right vs. Socialist Left: What It Means for Liberty" was interesting enough for me to listen. It turned out to be an excellent talk in which Deist breaks down - what used to be the so-called Clinton-Bush consensus at the center of American politics, and how these two growing movements are totally smashing this consensus.

I took a screen grab of the talk and this list gives an excellent idea of the positions of the Socialist Left / SJWs, the Alt-Right and the Mythical Consensus, as Deist, puts it.

I recommend anyone interested in all this, to listen to the video. If one has to summarize this rather complex clash in terms of it's cultural dimension, it is basically Identity Politics gone global. And while there are major divergences on the economic front as well, it is very important to note that Market Liberalism isn't exactly the flavor of the day. From a spectrum of Socialism to Populism, free trade and market capitalism aren't necessarily a given anymore even in the United States.

In India, of course, Socialism is part of the preamble to the constitution. So called Right Wing governments are those which happen to be less socialist/ populist than the opposition, rather than true champions of free markets. Sure, India's socio-economic realities are very different, however populism has always been popular and continues to remain so.

The Rajya Sabha MP, B.J. Panda recently wrote a piece on how India needs to overcome market phobia to join the group of prosperous countries. Such opinions from India's mainstream politicians are incredibly rare and Mr Panda, often appears to be a totally lone voice in India's politics. Meanwhile Sadanand Dhume was lamenting how Arvind Kejriwal's economics resembles economics policies of the 1970s. And while he is absolutely right on how bad the outcomes are going to be, populism seems to be winning the battle everywhere globally; expecting India to buck this trend given our own history is a bit far fetched.

Among all this, one crucial point. The youth seem particularly enamored by Socialism and Populism. Bernie Sanders wins "yuuuge" among the youth bracket. Conversely the Alt-Right too is a youth based movement right now. Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party and his brand of populism is quite popular with the educated youth, at least till now. Well, given colleges worldwide teach Karl Marx a hell of a lot more than say Milton Friedman, given universities are almost exclusively left leaning what else can be expected. Add increased polarization and politics will be more and more toxic all round.

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