Just woke up in Beirut to US Brexit surprise. Retitling my lecture this afternoon to WTF?? First thoughts: There are at least 4 big things going on–class, race, global context and gender.
1) Class: The neoliberal governing consensus is collapsing and the elites can not believe it. The polls, pundits and media were wrong all through primary season, underestimating both Sanders and Trump. The big money donors could not believe that Sanders could almost win the nomination, that JEB Bush could fail. In the US, this collapse could cut either left or right. Sanders pulled it left, Trump pulled it right. Meanwhile no elite institution in the country could read the tea leaves–because the interests of Wall St, MSM, global traders, Dem and Repub establishment really believe they have an unshakeable lock on governing. They no longer do. These dynamics are why I thought Sanders could beat Trump, but Clinton might not be able to–she personifies the dying elite consensus.
2) Race: The US history of settler colonialism and expansionist empire gives whiteness a super toxic cast here. Threatened by both sides of globalization–the “free trade” based erosion of workers access to a middle class life, and the migration based erosion of white worker claims to superior numbers and conditions–white nationalism has energized and expanded into the alt right base fueling the Trump racial threat. Police, legislative, corporate and popular violence against black people, Muslims and Native protestors all manifest the energy and visibility of persistent racist assertions of power in the face of challenge and change.
3) Global context: Greece, Britain, Brazil, so many indicators that shit is happening with broad implications for US governance. We coulda hadda a Syriza moment with Bernie–the emergence of a moderate social democratic governing coalition. Instead we went down, not to the forces of zombie neoliberalism (as Syriza did, and what Clinton represented) but to the forces of racist nationalist reaction (like Brexit). The US left is SO insular, for the most part. Our best hope is to follow the global connections that Occupy reflected and BLM is expanding (via alliances with Palestinians and others), and that the DAPL protestors represent, fundamentally via water protection and opposition to unchallenged US sovereignty claims. The Sanders campaign was not especially good on global politics. We all need to follow the global left model and shed the insularity and provincialism of too much US left thinking and organizing.
4) Gender: White people have elected Trump, across class and gender lines. It’s not all working class men. It’s prosperous whites and women too, in large proportions. But the element of misogyny and anti feminist reaction is prominent. Clinton was indeed attacked in overtly and covertly sexist ways at every point, including by Sanders supporters. The level of pure misogyny has shocked me all along (even though, I hope I don’t need to add, I was a *strong* Bernie supporter, and an aggressive Clinton critic on policy grounds).