Wednesday, December 18, 2019

My Log 773 Dec 18 2019: Chronicles from my Tenth Decade 208: Instead of a rant, I borrow from a Labour insider for the lessons to be learned from Labour’s defeat; along with a warning of a massive Republican dirty trick under way in the U.S.

 Shocked as I was by the total rejection of the Labour Party in the British elections by its hitherto loyal working class supporters, I have felt it better to wait for a week or so before commenting, rather that to engage in a tiresome anti-establishment rant. My mind was full of the publicly acknowledged ferocious campaign of character assassination conducted against Jeremy Corbyn since he was elected to lead the Labour Party in 2015, and by the fact that the mainstream media of information had acted as if this had never happened.

I had even begun to doubt that I had ever seen the AlJazeera show produced a couple of years ago in which they proved conclusively that for a year or more, until he was unmasked,  the Israeli embassy actually had a man on their staff --- his name was Shai Masot, a senior political officer ---whose full-time job was to undermine Corbyn so that he would never  become Prime Minister of a leading western nation, him being a lifelong supporter of the Palestinians. This job he carried out with spectacular success.
Still, I realized that the successful character assassination of Corbyn could not be put down to that reason alone, and that if I wrote anything suggesting its importance it would appear to be no more than special pleading, I decided to hang fire, waiting for commonsense to rescue me from my disappointment.
To take the edge off my anti-establishment fury, I am able to point to a similarly egregious, equally disgusting,  campaign, directed at interfering in the last, and the coming,  U.S. elections, that has been exposed by the dogged investigative American reporter Greg Palast, who calls what he has revealed “the nationwide Jim Crow Interstate Crosscheck purge operation that cost more than 1.1 million voters of colour their registrations and elected Donald Trump.”
Palast has worked on this for six years during which he exposed Kris Kobach, the Republican secretary of state in Kansas, as the point man in a campaign that has, by what Palast concedes are legal although democratically disreputable means,  cancelled the registration to vote from millions of properly qualified American voters, a campaign  that, although since publicly exposed and cancelled by some states, is still continuing in at least a dozen states with Kobach boasting of his intention to spread it into all 50 states of the union. Indeed, only in the last few days I have reads of some huge number, 200,000 or more, voters having been newly scrubbed by these means from the voter rolls in another American state.
The means to this is simple: Kobach compared voter lists from states which shared their lists with him. Here is Palast’s explanation:
When he at last gained access to these voter lists from insiders he discovered that the supposed “cross-checking” had resulted in the Republican investigators, led by Kobach,making some incredible leaps of faith. As Palast writes:

“James Randolph Johnson of Virginia is supposed to be the same voter as James Bidie Johnson of Kansas. James Hunter Johnson of Virginia is supposed to be the same voter as James Cody Johnson of Kansas. Note that in this example, not a single middle name matches.
But don’t laugh, these so-called ‘matches’ were critical to Trump’s supposed victory. Altogether, we calculated that 1.1 million voters, overwhelmingly voters of colour, lost their vote in key states.
In 2016, Micah Kubic, head of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)  Kansas, joined me for the launch of our film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, in which I confront Kobach with the secret lists he never thought I would see. Flustered, he lied to me on camera, then lied again and again, though he called me later to try to walk back his fabrications. I wasn’t fooled, Micah wasn’t fooled, nor was the Women's League for Kansas which sponsored showings of our film all over the state.
“But here’s (another)  problem: Crosscheck is just one of 11 Jim Crow tricks we’ve uncovered. Defeat one, and Jim Crow returns with two.”
Well, so much for democracy in America. “Voter suppression”, as it is now called, is regarded by dissenting people as a possible major factor in the forthcoming U.S election. No joke, this.
In Britain I have discovered an interesting posting, on an obscure website called Will to Truth,  by a Labour Party canvasser who went  door-to-door in eight constituencies in the English north-west, all safe Labour seats, all but one substantially Leave voters in the infamous 2016 referendum, and all lost to the Tories in this election. This contributor, who prefers to work under an alias EYAL,  has worked out four main reasons for the labour defeat. His insights are revealing, and I am stealing the major conclusions of his piece for the edification of my small band of readers:
 “Having knocked on tens of thousands of doors, and met with a wide range of targeted voters, I was not very surprised by last night’s results. Anyone who has been listening openly to the repeating narratives and emotions at the doorsteps of these traditional Labour voters, could not have expected a different result.
“While totally broken politically this morning, I do feel a great sense of gratitude for the opportunity I had to visit and converse with the people of Leigh, Crew, Bolton, Calder Valley, Altrincham, Blackpool, Bury, Newcastle, etc. Indeed, we lost all these seats, but this fieldwork was an invaluable experience of getting familiar with, listening to, and touring in person mainly working class and poverty areas, outside of the big metropolises, that I have never visited before. I saw their towns, homes, communities and lives. I walked for many hours up and down their streets and estates and front gardens or front doors. I saw the different
ways of living, smelt the smells, heard the sounds and voices, saw their neighbourhoods and sometimes neglect or distress, and sensed the places in which they experience. I listened to their stories, saw their faces and bodies and clothes, shook their hands, and felt their frustrations…. But, in all honesty, it wasn’t all that difficult to know. Many voters were very open outright about not giving us their vote this time, while emphasising that they have never voted Tory before, and many still preferred not to vote altogether over having to vote Tory now, because they knew what that would mean to their rights and condition, yet they would
still not vote for us.”
As for his conclusions, they are:
the most common frustration among them was, without a doubt, Brexit…For Leave voters, Brexit now symbolises the way in which their voices were being ignored, repeatedly and undemocratically, by the losing Remainers, who are also associated with other classes and more privileged social groups. The way they see it is
this: before the referendum, all the parties pledged to respect its results, but then didn’t. ….As far as they are concerned, Labour (and others) did not fully respect the will of the working class, and a democratic result. They feel betrayed….I suspect that had Labour advocated Leave in these elections, thus respecting the vote of the working class and the results of a democratic referendum, things would have looked different for Labour today.
Corbyn’s image. Surprisingly, Only a relative few, in my experience, resonated the vilifications that they were
fed through the media, (like that he is a terrorist sympathiser, an extremist or an anti-Semite). It was more common to encounter a vague emotional negative hunch, a discomfort from the way they ‘felt’ about him. For whatever reasons that they struggled to verbalise when asked, many explicitly ‘didn’t like him,’ regardless of their strong rational agreement with his social policies. The media contributed to this image, sure, but if I may guess, I think that the voters did not want a ‘nice old man,’ who ‘never did any wrong’ almost inhumanely, who always engages in calm discussions, but would favour a more relatable and animated person, who gets angry sometimes (after all, we have much to be angry about), and who is perhaps more dominant in conversations and offers simple messages, like Johnson. Remember that people vote more emotionally than rationally, as an expression of their identities and wishes, and, sadly, our leader, whose policies and personality were my own reasons for joining the canvassing, wasn’t screen popular with the masses.
A third topic was the breadth of Labour’s manifesto, especially when compared to the oversimplified non-manifesto of the Tories, which they hammered repeatedly in soundbites over and over again. Simply put, our broad scope has backfired. It felt to many like too much, causing the plan and its funding to feel unrealistic and risky. ‘How are you going to pay for all that?’ and ‘You will never be able to achieve so much’ were common responses. Of course, we had our answers to such statements, and some canvassers did turn many people around, yet overall, we only met with small parts of the general population, and for a very short time, so the main benefit of these conversations was allowing us to listen, sense and make sense of these interactions, rather than, again, to ‘educate’ the voters about all the things that “we” can teach “them.”.
Finally, a fourth frustration was seeing us only before elections. Here, we should have had an advantage, because nobody would ever volunteer to canvass for the Tories, whereas we brought large numbers. Still, the timing and our plea for votes inevitably casts doubt on the purity of our intentions, although, understandably, it is difficult to mobilise volunteers – who usually have their own work, study and family commitments – outside of election times. Nevertheless, it is important to surface this dominant issue and think about it further.
My biggest lesson from the intense canvassing was one of humility, to which I can only hope others on the Left in middle class and big cities would be willing to listen to, too. I truly learnt a lot from these two weeks, about being there, seeing and listening, and about the task ahead for the British Left, if we are to overcome their alienation and justified sense of being left, forgotten and not listened to. While last night brought us horrible news, which will affect ‘them’ worse than me, and the scope of which we can only dread, this outcome is not necessarily the end of the Left in Britain, but can be, if we dare listen more openly, a new beginning.

To all of which I can only add my mantra: wot the hell, wot the hell, toujours gai, toujours gai!

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