I recently read an analysis of inequality that made a sort of sense to me. It doesn't matter how much inequality there is. It matters how much inequality people perceive. This is why most Americans are comfortable with inequality. They see it as an inspiration or aspiration. British people are much more disdainful about wealth and so prefer to redistribute wealth.
I'm not sure I see wealth as an inspiration or aspiration, but inequality doesn't bother me.
But it does strike me that you could make the same argument about democratic inequality. There is a large section of society that feels like it doesn't matter how they vote. The same old bien-pensant shit keeps on coming out of government.
Of course, a large section of society is comfortable with the same old bien-pensant shit. They're the ones that vote. They hold earnest discussions with their peers. They tweet pious messages of virtue, solidarity and instruction.
Along came the Scottish independence referendum. An unusual opportunity to effect real change. And the Scots leapt at it. Of course, the case for independence was too optimistic. The Scots declined the opportunity.
The Brexit referendum was an appalling display of the worst of British politics. Neither side made a compelling case. The unique history of Britain means Britons are sceptical about the European project. I think Britons don't trust the EU. The ongoing accusations of racism and xenophobia are wide of the mark. Of course there are some bigots who are anti-EU. But most Britons just don't trust the opaque, rapacious EU. I don't think claims of money for the NHS swayed a single person.
But this wasn't just about the rumbling mistrust of the EU. This was a chance for British people who feel like their votes don't matter to change things. To upset the bien-pensant apple cart.
And so to the US election. I'm pretty sure there were some racists and xenophobes who voted for Trump. I'm pretty sure he's a prick. But although he's moneyed and a gobshite, he's not a politician. I think a lot of people looked at the Clinton machine and thought: that's going to be more of the same. The chattering classes who like the way things are going just assumed she'd walk it. But it turns out that enough people are sick of the same-old, same-old to change it.
Of course, Trumpism won't change anything. It won't herald a new white supremacist era. It won't lead to walls. I don't think it will lead to any significant drained swamps. I don't think he'll sit on the the Big Red Button by mistake.
I hope Trump's election will make politicians and the commentariat think. Especially about how they treat people they just dismiss now.