Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn are two disparate characters. Corbyn is self-deprecating, noble in aim ( the quote on his website is “prioritising the needs of the poor and human rights for all”), a veteran campaigner for human rights, and an MP who was first elected in 1983 for the constituency of Islington North. He’s likeable and convincing when you hear him speak. He stood for the leadership not for personal glory, but as he argued in the Guardian ‘because it was felt by those on the left of the party that they needed a policy debate, and after Diane Abbott and John McDonnell have both stood (and lost) it was my turn’. His aims are grandiose, to eliminate poverty, implement a living wage, rid the world of nuclear weapons starting with Britain’s, stop wars, and create a truly redistributive economy. He also doesn’t buy into personal attacks, something which the other candidate mentioned in this piece often does.
There is only one major problem with Jeremy Corbyn, and that is he is a socialist. He’s on the very left of the Parliamentary Party. The Labour Party in modern times has electorally been decimated when they’ve reverted to the left wing of the movement. Labour in the last 49 years have only won 3 election victories without Tony Blair at the helm, and two of those were in the same year (1974). The political centre ground is where elections are won in Britain, the Conservatives learned that when they started to wake up to the social dawn which had hit us all. Labour need to learn this if they want power again. Blairism is seen as a dirty word in many Labour circles, a truly bizarre state of affairs since he is the most successful leader in the Party’s history. While I’m not advocating a complete return to Blairism, moving further to the left will not work. The Greens after all the tv time, campaigning, and relentless articles about a ‘surge’ barely touched 4% and were only competitive in a few constituencies. Labour also eviscerated the dying Liberal Democrats, but this was not enough, The simple truth is there cannot be a coalition of the left which will win a majority.
Donald Trump the idiosyncratic idiot which Republicans are petrified of. Yes while the rest of us are openly scoffing at this rich man turned egocentric bewildering politician, the Republicans are petrified of him, why you may ask? is it because he’s going to win the nomination? Well no, however many Republicans are concerned he can win exert influence over the campaign and stay in the game due to his vast fortune. For the Republican Party this would be a disaster, for the party that is struggling to sell itself to an increasingly diverse America this is the last candidate they need. Donald Trump would be the oil in the well if he were to enter the race in any significant manner, and the nightmare scenario is if he gets into the debates and starts pulling the other candidates to the right.
The problems with Trump are unique. One could write a book on the obstacles Trump has to overcome, for his vocabulary to expand beyond the word ‘great’, to fast forward from the 1950’s social positions, and of course not to sound like a man whose arrogance matches, well no-one currently in existence. Firstly, he has no political experience whatsoever, and it seems no interest in really understanding the world of politics. He has lambasted politicians for not getting anything done, has claimed the system is broken, and within the same interview has claimed he could be the greatest jobs creator in the oval office in history. This claim comes without any ideas for structural reform to change the broken system which he analyses. His grasp on economics seems to be tenuous at best, he seemed befuddled at the idea that GDP can contract, a worrying sign from a so called great businessman.
His most toxic is his rhetoric on immigration, which is simply frightening. He was previously a ‘birther’. The movement’s sole goal was to ‘prove’ that President Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii, but in a different country. He was one of the few who went on to the end. Even after the President had released his birth certificate, he decided to question the validity of it. Almost surreally, he even went on to argue President Obama’s parents had forged an announcement of his birth in a paper. His arguments on immigration are full of vitriol, spite, and meant to whip up fear, and hatred. Maybe he feels this is how he appeals to a part of the Republican base? However the backlash with normal people is rising. Macy’s have discontinued their relationship with him, as has NBC, who will not feature him in the Apprentice, or show his beauty pageants. For the Republicans who are courting the hispanic vote, they must be wishing Trump would run as a third-party candidate and keep out of a race which they badly need to win.
On his knowledge of foreign affairs which is key to any presidential contender, he constantly refers back to a 2004 article in Reuters where he wasn’t too complimentary of the invasion of Iraq. He uses this as his reason d’être for his foreign policy knowledge. It’s true to argue that Iraq was as badly handled as a war could be, and pointing it out doesn’t make you a foreign policy genius. He talks about other countries as if they’re dirt on his shoe. He thinks the way to stop migration from Mexico is to economically strangle the country and impose tariffs on Mexican products. (something which isn’t allowed due to NAFTA)…..
He thinks the best way to defeat ISIS is to destroy all their oil fields, by bombing and encircling them, while demeaning Iraq as a country saying “There is no Iraq, I don’t respect them”. I’m sure that will help extinguish the attraction to ISIS to those in the Middle East and here at home…. He misses out the Syrian oil fields and thinks he can send in ground troops in the middle of a four-way civil war where they would be encircled. In essence, he makes George Bush look like Kofi Annan. His answers for trade are simply tariff after tariff, he must think they’re the gold dust of diplomacy. On the Iran nuclear deal he wanted to double or triple the sanctions before any deal took place, it seems he believes this is his own reality tv show all over again. This harks back to the early Bush days of ‘you’re with us or with the terrorists’ talk. This is a reality which the Republicans, and the country want to forget. There’s a reason why America in 2008, and 2012, elected a leader who is conciliatory and cerebral in foreign affairs.
Both Corbyn and Trump, present the ugly past to these parties which neither want to be repeated. Neither of these visions resonate with the public at large anymore in their home countries. Granted Corbyn’s vision while incorrect in my view is at least noble, born out of the desire to enhance people’s lives in a positive way. Trump’s tactic seems to be playing on the traditional racial tensions, which not only haunt the United States, but a great many countries. The social conservative politics of casting denigration on migrants, and calling out politicians as useless idiots is an easy route out of a genuine debate. His other tactic is to gain media time so everyone else has to respond to him. Corbyn is also taking up the conversation, he is relentlessly dragging the other Labour candidates to talk about the left and to the left of the party. These candidates couldn’t be further apart if they tried, but both could end up damaging their fragile parties in the same way, by creating an image of the party which both have tried years to shake off.