We should take note of a disturbing trend in society that is accelerating. We all know that America is sharply divided between red and blue or Republican and Democrat if you prefer. Friends from the USA mentioned the other day that this trend is accelerating, and they are hearing that people are moving from red to blue state or vice versa, in order to be in a society or environment they feel comfortable with.
I read the other day that the Texas governor has signed into law a total ban on abortion in everything but name. This bill is one of several across the country banning abortion at the 6 week stage, at which point many women may not even know that they are pregnant. But what’s most insidious about this bill is that it turns the legal system inside out. Whereas normally such laws would be effected in practice by government officials, in this case the bill privatizes the enforcement of the law. It grants the right to private individuals including those outside the state, to sue people in Texas who are in any way involved in assisting an abortion or an abortion patient. And further, the litigant is encouraged by a clause that allows the a payout of at least $10,000 if they win. So this bill will be a threat to anyone involved in a clinic or its supply chain. We might imagine that this bill might enable any misogynist or anti-choice person to impose their intolerance on Texas residents through harassing lawsuits.
Given the strongly conservative nature of the US Supreme court we might expect that regardless of appeal actions, this bill is likely to become law and copied in many other red states. Whatever your views on abortion, and I fully respect those, I am most concerned that this upending of the legal system might be cloned for various other purposes. The outcome of this might be compared to Germany in the pre-war years, and East Germany during the cold war years where neighbours, colleagues etc were threatened or blackmailed by forces of law to report on the status or activities of others that were regarded as undesirable.
As we all know, there is a similar societal separation occurring in the UK. This is less to do with political party affiliation than with opinion on Brexit. We can see that cities and or areas in the UK are becoming clearly identified with Remain or Leave. Cities with significant Remain majorities include London, Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester, Cardiff, Belfast, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Notable cities with Leave majorities include Boston, Great Yarmouth, Hartlepool, Stoke-on-Trent, Doncaster, Basildon, Harlow and Burnley. And again I hear anecdotal evidence that people are voting with their feet and choosing places to live that reflect their strongly held opinions.
So this suggests that Red and Blue, Leave and Remain are similar patterns that merit analysis. In both cases we can see that conventional political affiliations have been thrown to one side. In the USA blue collar workers might have been conventionally more inclined to the left wing politics and hence the Democrats. However Trump collected a huge swathe of blue collars. Similarly, in the UK the Conservatives are said to have broken down the red wall and collected huge swathes of traditionally left wing Labour voters, because Brexit was sold as overthrowing the conventional forces of the EU, and it must be said, stopping immigration. But beyond change of political affiliation, we might wonder if there is something deeper happening. The cases made for Red and Brexit voters respectively were ridden with illogicality and falsehoods mixed with calls for patriotism. Both Red and Brexit choices were sold by populist leaders Trump and (initially) Farage succeeded by Johnson, who lied through their teeth and knew they were making promises that could never be delivered.
Whilst it might be highly contentious, I would assert that Blue and Remain supporters are likely to be more logical, less likely to be swayed by populist rhetoric and able to make their own analyses. In contrast Red and Brexit supporters are more credulous, able to absorb and believe contradictory statements and to develop a form of religious like belief and adherence to an individual and or a proposition.
Democracies are always compromises. In Europe many of us consciously support the EU precisely because it provides an enduring system of laws that to some extent stops constantly changing national parliaments making irresponsible, tactical changes. I would assert that many countries, the USA and the UK and many others could well benefit from a similar high level legal system. Yet populist leaders have been able to persuade majorities that good sense is actually bad.
What we can see is that populist political parties become disconnected from their policy and strategy origins. UK Conservatives have embraced much left wing thinking. Republicans have become obsessed with protecting their political future by engineering minority winning strategies at state level. Inevitably populist parties will become cult like, allowing personalities to dominate rather than policies.
I include a couple of references which I recommend:
EU Parliament Delivering Govern EU Parliament Delivering Government for Grownups