Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Irrational Fear of the Loony Left

Lately the left side of the political spectrum is picking up some steam among more liberal minded political circles. Progressives are moving further in that direction; reacting to years of increasing income inequality, and the dominance of neo-conservative austerity economics. More progressive, socialist leaning parties and candidates have been making a splash in America, the UK, and Canada. But the narrative in the media is always the same. Fear mongering about the economy, more relaxed immigration, and weakness on terrorism. Progressive policies scare big business, with candidates saying crazy things like how they want to make sure that everyone can live affordably and that maybe we shouldn't give all our money to corporations and instead create a fairer society. Even crazier, the idea that we need to regulate banks, that privatization of services isn't always a good idea, and that the richest of the rich should actually pay their fair share of taxes instead of hiding their money offshore. Or that maybe we need to be more active in developing green energy instead of fracking. Are these really such ridiculous ideas?

Right now in the UK, the Labour Party is in disarray. They are up in arms because the so called  hard line socialist Jeremy Corbyn might win the Labour leadership. And that his ideas are actually popular among the average Labour voter. Tony Blair warned that the sky would fall if they elected him, and that the Labour Party would be relegated to nothingness if he was to lead them. But the reality is that Labour lots almost all of its seats in Scotland, and it wasn't because they were too far to the left.

People think that Corbyn promotes the failed old school Labour left policies that Blair tried hard to eradicate to make Labour electable in the 90s. But things have changed since the 90s. The deep recession and decades of failed trickle down economics have moved the political landscape. Millennials are less conservative than their parents were, and are starting to approach the age where they are  more likely to vote in large numbers. People on the left, particularly in Scotland, who would have voted Labour were unimpressed in the last election because they saw Labour as being no different in their policies than the Conservatives. Progressives won't be inspired by policies that are no different than right wing ones. The truth is that Labour shouldn't fear going to the left, because there are actually a lot of voters on the left, who if properly motivated, will get out to vote. These are people who are anti austerity, anti big business and big banks, for sustainable development, and shrinking the gap between rich and poor. The party that stands for those things will get those votes.

Similarly, in the US Presidential race, Bernie Sanders, a very left wing candidate by American standards, is picking up steam in his race against Hillary Clinton. He appeals to the growing progressive political movement online, and these people are the ones coming out in huge numbers to support him. Some might say he is a long shot, but they would be wise not to count him out just because he is "too far to the left". Hillary Clinton is not all that palatable to the left wing of the Democratic Party, and many younger voters are turning to Sanders, with his very consistent views about making America more equitable and strengthening the shrinking middle class.

In Canada, the social democratic NDP are leading in the polls during the current election, and what was once seen as a fringe socialist party is now a serious contender, with its leader Tom Mulcair leading in favorability ratings. The Liberal Party; the so called 'natural governing  party of Canada' is seeing its fortunes rise, but many progressives do not think their policies go far enough, and are choosing instead to park their votes with Mulcair and the NDP, as a stark reaction to 10 years of neo-conservative rule by Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

It also seems that the more the media and big business try to discredit the left, the more support their leaders and parties get, even in the case of Sanders who was completely ignored by the mainstream media until recently, but whose following online helped him to rise in the polls. It's not the 90s anymore. We have learned that making the rich richer doesn't help grow the economy. People are tired of mainstream politicians, and old governing parties, and those on the left are going further to the left to find options. And when the people realize that these choices are actually electable, their popularity surges. Time to stop fearing the loony left, because it's not going anywhere.

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