This story has not played out in full. We are in the middle of it. But while we do not know how this story story will end, the meaning of some fragments of the story have become more obvious.
What is the story? It is the decline of left-wing politics. That decline is evidenced by the recent successes of the right in various places. It is equally evidenced by a trend that is less obvious.And that trend is brought out by the play, “Returning to Reims”.
What is that trend? The left started out as a workers’ coalition. It protested on behalf of those who had been ignored or mistreated by the governing class. It has morphed into a govenring coalition. A vision of governance that is rational – pareto optimal, utilitarian in its tolerance for income inequality as long as the poor get a fair share of the pie. Full employment, fair wages and dignified treatment.
In US politics, Bill Clinton seemed to have mastered this approach to governance. It seemed smart. But Bill failed to build long-term coalitions around the approach. You could say the same about Barack Obama. And I think you can say the same for the EU. Whether Trump et al are aberations, the pull of the left wing ideology based on rational allocatoins of goods and services is not turning on voters. And despite its obvious weaknesses, the far right appeals to many.
The obvious question is where do we go from here? A person like Trump might say less pooled responsibilities, more “every man for himself!” Let’s duke it out and see who wins! And perhaps Putin’s combative stance is what appeals to the Donald. He wants to be on the side of fighters, not “losers”.
You may have noticed a certain irony here. At its beginnings, the left thrived because it was the coalition that wanted to fight. And the left fought for what it achieved for workers and others. Now the right wants to fight. Has the left lost its fighting spirit? Or is this just a cyclical sort of thing. Perhaps the left will wake up in 2018 and fight to regain its power.
My own view is that if the elft relies on old fashioned ideas to energize our political debate, the left will be disappointed. A new political vocabulary is needed. And that vocabulary has to be less boring – more engaging around people and our shared future.
What do you think? Are we in a crisis? If so, is there another way out?
Follow – If you are interested in the way US democrats are struggling to develop new leadership, check out the primary race for the upcoming Georgia govern’s race.