Conservative columnist and Labour Party apologist Chris Trotter has attacked Rachel Stewart for suggesting that we live in an undemocratic democracy.
MY RECENT post about Rachel Stewart’s New Zealand Herald column has been very popular. The last time I looked some 2,000 people had viewed it. The fact that Rachel referenced my post on Twitter no doubt has helped to boost the figure, but I also think it also further illustrates how a growing number of New Zealanders are frustrated and dissatisfied with the country’s so-called ‘representative democracy’.
Despite this widespread concern, Rachel Stewart is possibly the only columnist in the mainstream media to have unequivocally voiced this dissatisfaction with the political status quo. She deserves our thanks so, naturally enough, conservative columnist Chris Trotter has, along with some other older gentlemen, attacked her. Rachel's response to that attack can be read here.
Trotter’s pomposity and complacency is well known, his arrogant defence of the political status quo unwavering, and his attack on Rachel’s column entirely predictable. She joins a long list of people, including yours truly, who Trotter has patronised and tut-tutted over the years, – as his own politics has moved inexorably rightwards.
At the heart of Rachel’s column is this statement:
“Because democracy should mean elected people looking after people. Instead it has morphed into elected people looking after unelected corporate interests, and themselves. They have fallen for the neo-liberal neonicotinoid. If you think bees are in trouble maybe have a good look around at the current state of humanity.’
Rachel’s contention is that we no longer have a representative democracy but an oligopoly that protects the interests of the capitalist class and their political representatives. What Bernie Sanders and his 15 million strong movement would describe as ‘the one percent’.
|Chris Trotter: "Yes, I am right about everything."|
This is the substantive issue that Rachel raises so, not unsurprisingly, Trotter ignores it. Instead he chooses to prattle on about other irrelevant matters instead. I would describe this as Trotter “blowing smoke’, which he often does. Rachel refers to it as Trotter’s “sheer technicalities and red herrings’ and she’s right. Either way, its intellectual and political cowardice.
Trotter resorts to playing the columnist rather than debating the real issues. I run the risk of being dragged down one of Trotter’s irrelevant side alleys, so I will confine myself to his claim that Rachel got it all wrong abut Bernie Sanders. He spouts:
‘…but to suggest that the Democratic Party “fiddled with the dials and switches to ensure Bernie Sanders never got the nod” is just plain wrong. Bernie lost because he got fewer votes than Hillary – pure and simple. He made the cardinal error of not competing hard and early in the American South – the very same mistake that cost Hillary the nomination back in 2008.”
In the light of the Wikileaks dump of a truckload of Democratic National Committee emails that exposed how the DNC was intent on sabotaging Sanders campaign – and which subsequently led to the resignation of DNC chairperson Debbie Wassermann Schultz – for Trotter to claim that Sanders lost fairly and squarely is simply staggering. The only explanation can be that he is truly stupid or he’s deliberately lying.
In Florida a lawsuit was filed by supporters of Bernie Sanders against the DNC and Debbie Wassermann Schultz for rigging the Democratic Party primaries in favour of Hillary Clinton.
The DNC’S defence team have admitted in court that such rigging did take place but that the DNC were well within their rights to “go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.”
The DNC’s defence attorney’s have even argued that the words “impartial” and “evenhanded”—used in the DNC Charter—can’t be interpreted by a court of law.
But, according to Trotter, Bernie lost because he just didn’t get enough votes and, oh, he didn’t campaign hard enough in the southern states. Even the Democratic National Committee itself isn’t arguing this in a court of law!
Trotter quotes Spin Off writer Danyl McLauchlan who views politics in purely techocratic terms (like keeping the trains running on time, for instance) but says that it is inevitably “compromised because pluralism – the challenge of different groups in society holding different and conflicting but reasonable and valid views – is the central problem in politics.”
Its not surprising that the conservative Trotter should endorse McLauchlan’s view because it denies that there is a ruling elite – or even a working class for that matter – rather just a set of competing groups.
But if we do live in such a ‘plural’ society as McLauchlan and Trotter suggest, then why is economic and political power concentrated in a tiny percentage of the population? Why is any ‘democratic’ participation confined to voting for political parties that are all loyal to neoliberal rule? Although Trotter continues to peddle the lie that Labour is 'progressive', so he clearly isn't concerned about this.
As Rachel says, democracy “has morphed into elected people looking after unelected corporate interests, and themselves.”
I personally believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. That would require fundamental and radical change. But Danyl McLauchlan, in contrast, counsels that “…political reform should be cautious”. This is little more than a defence of the status quo. It's little wonder that Trotter, a cheerleader for the political establishment, should wholeheartedly support this ultimately undemocratic view.