Proponents of the far-right are rejoicing as voters the world over give them a hearty lick of approval. Just like giant salted-caramel lollypops, this formerly unappealing flavour of political creed is now officially everyone’s favourite taste sensation.
By the simple act of plunging into a pool of populism, adding a few heartfelt sprinkles of common man and a dusting of ‘wasn’t life great in 1950’ nuance; Trumpsters, Brexiters, One Nationers and, heaven forbid, Alt-Righters, have become the mother of all Masterchef desserts — and incredibly, hardly anyone saw it coming.
While the usual suspects — you know, the left, the media, the political class, mum and dad investors (because we must always mention them) — were distracted by dead Syrian toddlers on Turkish beaches and kids with sewn-together lips on Manus Island, the salted caramel fascists were honing their baking skills.
While we were watching our secret crush, Justin Trudeau, dance like a boss while waving a rainbow flag at Toronto Pride Parade, the salted caramel fascists were adjusting their temperature gauges a few degrees at a time to get exactly the right crunch.
While we were singing ‘this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius’ and making garlands out of recycled shopping bags, the salted caramel fascistswere pulling tray after tray of sticky goodness out of their collective ovens and besoaking the world in the most tantalising aromas anyone has ever had forced up their nostrils.
And now, here we sit, wiping caramel crumbs off our chins while exclaiming “holy snappin’ duckshit, how did this happen?”.
So, what do we do now?
In short, we grin and bear it. Here’s why.
Much has been written about the abandonment of facts by politicians seeking to win over voters and discredit opponents. Donald Trump’s “China invented climate change”, Nigel Farage’s “we fund the EU £350 million a week”, and Pauline Hanson’s “swamped by Muslims” claims are cases in point. Each was fact-checked and deemed manifestly untrue, and yet voters either didn’t care about the lie, or believed it despite the lie. As long as the espoused claim aligned with their personal world view, they were on board.
This goes some way to explaining the willingness of many voters to be led by their hearts not their heads when deciding who to get up close and personal with in the ballot box.
With the greatest respect to #evilkermit, a typical ‘me’ versus ‘other me’ conversation might go something like this:
Head: This guy just contradicted himself for the tenth time.
Heart: Yeah, but he also said he’d build a wall and revamp the manufacturing sector so I can get my old job back.
Head: You lost that job years ago, and anyway machines do that work now. You do know you’re never getting that job back, right?
Heart: Yeah, I s’pose so, but he also says ‘winning’ all the time and I really love that word.
Head: Okay, you win.
Added to this, a growing lack of scrutiny by media outlets, seemingly happy to publish press releases and dubious statements unchallenged in order to attract eyeballs, gives credence to political falsehoods by broadcasting them to a wide audience via convincingly official channels.
Ironically, by doing this the press is hastening its own demise and adding to the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ of public trust in the once well regarded institutions of government and the Fourth Estate. When caught out, editors will tell you they don’t have the resources to verify every fact, or that the story was correct at the time of going to press.
Really? Is that the best you can do to justify dumping the most sacred principle of your profession?
Only this morning I read this brilliant article by Moira Weigal in The Guardian, on how Trump’s unrelenting abuse of the vague term ‘political correctness’ was one of his, dare I say, masterstrokes in winning the US election.
“Throughout an erratic campaign, Trump consistently blasted political correctness, blaming it for an extraordinary range of ills and using the phrase to deflect any and every criticism”, Weigal wrote.
Long story short, Trump was able to mask the fact that he has no real policy positions on anything — other than self-interest — by tapping into years of growing public resentment over falling living standards, rising inequality, a fear of migrants, broken promises and outright lies from politicians. He offered no solutions, not one, he simply raised issues and then assured people he could fix them.
“I’ll be the greatest jobs president that God ever created”, he chimed to rousing applause at one of his rallies. It worked like a charm, not least because people have so little trust in the press that whenever journalists countered Trump’s often ludicrous claims, it only reaffirmed their desire to vote for him.
The sad irony is that Trump has no intention of delivering that which those who voted for him crave, and in all likelihood, living standards will fall even lower and inequality will grow even wider under his stewardship. Adding extra bitterness to this pill is the rising tide of abuse against Muslims, LGBTIs, immigrants and non-whites in general, who many Trump supporters blame for their own lack of success.
A similar situation occurred in Britain, where untangling Blighty from Europe with anything like the prosperity promised by the Brexiteers is proving as likely as powdered toast tasting as good as the real thing.
So while politicians the world over are temporarily emboldened by Trump, Brexit, and the politics of fear and fact-fudging, it is only a matter of time before the sowers become the reapers. They will need to deliver on their promises, and quickly, or their supporters will turn on them quicker than they can say, “watch out, Isis is coming to get you”. It isn’t overstating things to say that they have set themselves a monumental task.
This writer, for one, doubts they are up to it and suggests it may be a good time for those of us not caught up in the headiness of the salted caramel fascist revolution to find a nice gelato shop, grab a scoop and chill out under a beach umbrella until it all blows over.
And blow over it will, because one thing is certain; even salted caramel will become ‘so last year’ eventually.
This story was originally published on the online publishing platform Medium. Read it here.