Whatever happens in the French presidential election, there is a reality that will need to be confronted. It’s a phenomenon we have seen in the last two US presidential elections, in the Brexit referendum, and will no doubt be a feature in future elections.
It is the huge danger caused by reckless voters.
Now, let me be clear: this is not your standard Metropolitan Globalist Liberal (of which I am all three) complaining about how disappointed I am about people who don’t share my views, or their level of intelligence or prejudice. I accept that there are many decent people who voted for Trump, Brexit and yes, even Marine Le Pen. People who in many cases did not share the more extreme views of those candidates.
I even accept that there are people, particularly non-urban, low-income and low-educational achievers who vote for candidates I would regard as extremist because they simply feel they are being ignored by the mainstream parties. I get that too., and it may surprise you that I don’t blame them.
But here’s my point: those voters, whilst significant, are simply not numerous enough to deliver the sort of scale of victory that the extremists are seeing.
Take Brexit. One of the arguments given for working class voters to vote for Brexit was the loss of traditional industrialized jobs paying good wages and proving the sort of jobs that traditionally give working class men a sense of dignity. Fair enough.
Why did Sunderland vote by 61% for Brexit then? A margin that big meant that many workers in the Nissan factory and the various ancillary businesses voted for Brexit for reasons other than the ones stated about. They had good jobs in a respected industry, housing, socialized healthcare, relatively low taxes, everything that delivery off would make people not for for the more extreme option.
It’s the same with the Trump vote. It’s not enough to say that angry white men and white supremacists in rural states voted for Trump. He also got 38% of the vote in solid blue New York state and 25% of the vote in Queens.
Are there really that many neo-nazis in Queens? The answer, I suspect, is no. In the same way that the millions who voted for Marine Le Pen can’t all be pro-Putin Islamophobes.
The coalition these candidates and causes attract are broad, of genuine extremists and people with various grievances, often legitimate, who seize the candidate or cause as the nearest blunt object with which to beat the establishment.
They’re not who I am talking about. I’m talking about the “Sure, they can’t be any worse than the current crowd” voter. The guy (and it mostly is guys) who are just in a permanent state of anger with THEM. I meet many of them in the industry I work in. They have nice homes, nice cars, good salaries, good holidays and are nice people yet have a burning anger against mainstream politics for no reason they can actually articulate.
To them it’s the norm to be angry against The Government despite the fact that they are doing quite nicely under the government.
The one thing I notice with them all (and I know because I ask casually) is that none of them pay any real attention to current affairs in any depth, and what current affairs they do get is through social media/Joe Rogan etc. They literally would struggle to voice a view paragraphs on most current affairs issues, and I have to stress, this is not from a lack of intelligence, but interest in the detail of that subject. These guys have a firm command of the complexity and details of their often demanding jobs.
But ask them about government/politics and they will take it as read that everything in that sphere is corrupt, even when government delivers. Yet tell them that one of their subordinates thinks that THEY got their job through Who You Know and they’ll be outraged.
The really interesting, and for me most worrying aspect of it, however, is their belief that if they vote for an extremist party, anything the government is doing which they like will not be effected.
That there is no such thing as a High-Risk vote. Like those Brexit-supporting UK farmers complaining about having no one to pick their crops, or that Trump voter who didn’t think Trump was going to deport HER Mexican husband.
Our fate is in their hands, and it scares the shit out of me.