‘Authentic’ voices vs manufactured politics

Interesting comment by Gideon Lichfield of Quartz on the significance of Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump:

All the two men really share, of course, is that they’ve gained a following by emerging as “authentic” voices in an era of manufactured politics. Aside from being political opposites, they’re also in quite different roles vis-a-vis their respective parties. Corbyn is a sincere and consistent dissident—a lot more like the US’s Bernie Sanders than like Trump, who is mainly a provocateur. And the notoriously thrifty Corbyn can fairly claim to represent a lost ideal of Labour values—while Trump, though perhaps a bit less rich than he claims, is about as far removed both from Republican working-class voters and from his party’s own core beliefs (paywall) as can be.

Superficial as the Trump-Corbyn parallel may be, however, it speaks to a broader commonality. Each man embodies a crisis, both in his party and in his country’s broader politics. Like all such crises, these schisms present opportunities. They’ll spur the parties to seek out fresh blood and ideas and rediscover what voters want. In other words, this is healthy. The main question is how much upset it takes for a party to truly grasp that it has lost its way. Judging by its responses to Trump, the Republican party hasn’t grasped it yet. Judging by Corbyn’s impact, Trump may yet win the nomination before it does.

Run, Lessig, Run

My OpEd piece about Larry Lessig’s bid for the Democratic nomination:

Intellectually, he is always seeking ways to turn the adversary’s strengths against him. His first idea was to harness the Citizens United judgment to create a new “super PAC” (a type of political action committee) – Mayday.US – that would support politicians who campaigned against corporate interests. The PAC raised nearly $11m in 2014, but its plan of electing candidates friendly to campaign-finance reform turned out to be, at best, an honourable failure.

Last month, Lessig came up with a new idea: that he would seek the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential election if he could raise $1m by tomorrow. He added an original twist. If nominated, he would run on a single, overriding issue: getting a single bill – the Citizen Equality Act – through Congress. And if he were elected, once that was done, he would resign, enabling the vice president to become the next president.

Sounds daft? Sure. The probability of a Lessig presidency is lower than that of a Trump one. But it’s another neat hack. And as a way of raising the profile of the key issue in American politics, it has a touch of genius. We could use that kind of thinking over here. Run, Lessig, run.

Read on.

UPDATE He passed the $1m mark.

Refugees: back to the Middle Ages


Some of the photographs coming out of Turkey and Hungary at the moment are as striking as some of the pictures that emerged from the Vietnam war. My eye was caught by this NYT front page, for example.

Just look at the detail:


Not only is it ‘painterly’ in its texture, but it could be part of one of those allegorical paintings from the 1650s. Except that it’s much more moving. These are not creatures from a long-distant past, but our fellow-humans.

Lessig for President?

I never thought I’d have a friend who contemplated running for President of the United States, but that’s exactly what Larry Lessig is contemplating. And if his Kickstarter fund reaches a $1m in pledges by Labor Day (next Monday), he’ll do it. As ever with Larry, it’s based on an ingenious idea for hacking the dysfunctional political system that is crippling America. (He did the same thing with Creative Commons — i.e. to use the system [in this case copyright law] to give people a legal way of sharing creative work while retaining as many [or as few] rights as they wished.)

This (long) interview gives him the space to explain his Presidential idea.

Worth watching in full. But make some coffee first.

Footnote Just checked (Friday 19:25 UK time) and the pledges now stand at $854,712. He’s going to get there, goddammit.

Quote of the Day

“Now I don’t want anything. Even if you give me all the countries in the world, I don’t want them. What was precious is gone.”

Abdullah Kurdi, the Syrian Kurd whose wife and two young sons drowned as they tried to cross from Turkey to Greece in a rubber raft.