Monday 29 August 2016

From Student Farce To American Tragedy.

The Governor: "With his wing-collars up and his undergrad gown on, he looks like a cross between Dracula and Batman". Paul Gourlie wasn’t interested in the votes of the student “activists” who wore badges and carried placards. The votes he was after were those of the students who didn’t protest. The “scarfies” who saw life at university as an opportunity to have fun. The ones who found student politics “boring”.
PAUL GOURLIE broke all the rules of student politics. In pre-student loans New Zealand, when the universities were still capable of disgorging thousands of student protesters on to the streets, Paul re-defined what it meant to be a student politician.
Not for him the varsity student uniform of jeans and T-shirts. To the consternation of the Otago student body, “The Governor” (as Paul styled himself) sailed across their campus in a starched wing-collar and a flapping under-graduate gown.
His critics may have described him as “a cross between Dracula and Batman” – but Paul didn’t care. He wasn’t interested in the votes of the student “activists” who wore badges and carried placards. The votes he was after were those of the students who didn’t protest. The “scarfies” who saw life at university as an opportunity to have fun. The ones who found student politics “boring”.
Paul’s crucial political insight was that student activism was a minority sport, and that the left-wing rhetoric spouted by those activists left most students cold. What he offered the “great silent majority” of Otago students (who were neither active nor left-wing) was a wildly charismatic, fun-loving alternative to the stereotypical student politician. Paul’s flamboyant speeches were fast, furious, funny and almost completely devoid of content. Ordinary students cheered him to the echo.
The left-wingers on campus were completely flummoxed. No one had the slightest idea how to fight – let alone beat – a candidate who appeared to have escaped from the pages of Tom Brown’s Schooldays (or, for the benefit of younger readers, Hogwarts). The Left’s obvious discomfiture only increased Paul’s popularity: his merciless mocking of their candidates drawing wild applause. For a while, Paul Gourlie was invincible: one of only a handful of student presidents to serve two consecutive terms.
Though they unfolded nearly forty years ago, there is something disturbingly contemporary about “The Gourlie Years”. The US presidential election campaign of 2016 is stirring up old memories. Paul Gourlie, the student anti-politician, and Donald Trump, the populist anti-President, have more than a little in common.
Not the least of these commonalities is the challenge presented to the Left by right-wing candidates of such uninhibited flamboyance. And, if comparing Trump to Otago University’s student president of 1979-1980 seems just a little too weird, then think instead of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi. He, too, built a political career on the insight that, eventually, a great many voters become tired – even resentful – of social-democracy’s high-minded expectations. Sometimes all the punters want is a little “bunga-bunga” – and lower taxes.
As the Democratic National Convention gets underway in Philadelphia, the world is about to discover how Hillary Clinton and her campaign team propose to counter Trump’s flamboyant contempt for the rules of conventional politics.
The first indication of how she intends to meet Trump’s challenge may be seen in her choice of Senator Tim Kaine as her Vice-Presidential running-mate. Kaine is a solid Democrat of quietly expressed liberal views, with a reputation for executive competence. In choosing the Senator from – and former Governor of – the state of Virginia, Clinton has opted for personal and political safety. Certainly, there is nothing remotely flamboyant about Tim Kaine.
Those on the left of the Democratic Party had been hoping that Clinton would nominate the Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren, as her running mate. Their argument was that, in a year when the “Establishment” and conventional politics were being rejected by an angry and disaffected electorate, the novelty and out-there-ness of two women on the ticket (one of whom, Warren, is an outspoken left-winger) would undercut the widespread characterisation of the Clinton Campaign as both uninspired and uninspiring.
The “Clinton-Kaine” ticket suggests that the Democratic Convention will be long on worthiness and short on spark. If this is the way it plays out, then the Clinton Campaign will find itself in serious bother. Conventional pundits may have slammed the chaos and confusion of the Republican Convention, but in doing so they entirely missed the point. Trump wasn’t interested in staging a well-run convention. What he wanted, and what he produced, was a riveting political mini-series; replete with heroes and heroines, hucksters and villains. For a whole week it was all anyone was talking about.
What distinguishes Trump’s campaigning from Gourlie’s and Berlusconi’s is the darkness and brutality of his rhetorical palette. The latter exploited voters grown weary of the Left’s moral exhortations. They ran on the alluring promise of exuberant amorality and laissez-faire administration. Trump’s voters, by contrast, are driven by a toxic mixture of moral indignation and the violent desire to discipline and punish an America they no longer recognise as their own.
Trump’s campaign blends flamboyance, demagoguery and recklessness in equal measure. My gut feeling is that the cautious Hillary Clinton will fare as badly against “The Donald” as I did against “The Governor”.
This essay was originally published in The Press of 26 July 2016.


peteswriteplace said...

The choice of a running mate is extremely important, a vice president may have to step up as an alternative president if the elected one dies in office ie JFK.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Just about every man and his dog has made suggestions about why people support Trump. And some of them may even be right. Personally I think there's a lot to be said for the 'angry old white man' theory, because there's a huge element of racial animus in Trump supporters. Samantha Bee has produced a couple of programs where Trump supporters are interviewed. Well worth watching.

Unknown said...

And from the recent comments that I have been getting from Paul via Facebook, it seems that he is now standing for the local council. Board meetings will indeed be very 'colourful'.

Patricia said...

And where did Paul Gourlie end up Chris?

greywarbler said...

Looking at Paul Gourlie speaking about Dunedin's Multi Ethnic Council I think his talents have taken him to important capable work in the community far ahead of what Clinton and Trump will ever achieve. They should take cognisance of our local firebrands of quality, such as Gourlie, and perhaps Shadbolt.
Also note that Dunedin has, or had?, a local channel - 39 Dunedin News.
There is more to that place than Jaffa rolling and isolating snow dumps and rotten student accommodation - (pull up your socks on that you Dunedin worthies!)

jh said...

The liberal progressives declared war on ethnocentrism. Robert Putman was stunned by the effect of diversity on community cohesion but declared "immigration brings a host of benefits to the United States, far beyond introducing cultural and gustatory diversity".
So stuff that: New World Order it is:

Obama has also lit the “dry kindling” of a more civically engaged young generation, attracting
millions of young Americans to the ballot box, Americans far less likely than their parents to see the world through racial or ethnic lenses. In this sense, too, his election represents a hopeful new epoch in the long-term American adjustment to diversity.
We live in interesting times. Let us learn from all that is interesting out there on issues of racial and ethnic solidarity, and chart a new course.

Diversity, Social Capital, and Immigrant Integration
Robert D Putnam

It's Social Change -Stupid!

Dennis Frank said...

You're right, the current Clinton strategy is to pose this choice to the electorate: "Me, or the buffoon?" Assuming voters will make the sensible choice could be a fatal flaw. Voters: "Okay, do I want a conventional machine politician, or shall we have some edgy fun for a while?" "Yet more establishment crap, or something different?"

Trump's off-the-wall style suggests he does indeed see the campaign as just another reality tv show. His failure to reach for the political center is probably due to perceptions in the US that the center is no longer holding, so polarisation is the only viable game (but it could just be incompetence).

Your '79/'80 student politician analogy is apt, inasmuch as he won by appealing to the center (where the decisive numbers always are) and by providing a fun alternative. Shadbolt & the yippies were exemplars for the New Left a decade earlier - but most leftists failed to learn their lesson! Life's a drudge for many, a struggle for many, and seems only ever satisfying for a small minority of humanity. Any political player who gives politics a dimension of fun has a tremendous advantage - they catalyse enjoyment of the process. Lange succeeded on that basis. If Labour were to employ me as a political consultant to do team-building, my advice would include using comedians as well as focus groups..

jh said...

GS says:
I think there's a lot to be said for the 'angry old white man' theory,
Putnam also says:
"one quite safe prediction is that all advanced societies will be far more diverse a generation from now. Figure 1 charts recent immigration data for the United States and various European
countries, but inexorable diversification in the future is equally true for Japan or New ealand. In fact,even if the United States halted immigration tomorrow (which I can’t fathom happening), the nation would continue to grow more diverse through a high birth rate among nonwhites and because the U.S. youth population is heavily nonwhite."
Despite claims of increasing "super" diversity migrations to Americas and the Pacific haven't seen increases in diversity . Also while migrations have increased world population has increased faster. Nor has it been a two way street:

The concentration of migrants in a “shrinking pool of prime destination countries” (p. 315), many of them small countries in Western Europe, led Czajka and de Haas’ (2014) to conclude that “the idea that immigration has become more diverse may partly reveal a Eurocentric worldview”
Someones been telling porkies?

Polly said...

Chris, I believe you are misguided in your opinion, Trumps blatant racism will cause the Black and Latino vote to go overwhelmingly to Clinton.
Charisma will not beat racism. Charisma will not beat the numbers. Charisma with bigotry will cause Clinton to win.

jh said...

Maybe Blacks may vote for Trump:

Paul Krugman

Nick J said...

Polly that all depends upon whether they turn out to vote. And you are assuming that Hillary is not equally repugnant to Black and Latinos. Ultimately neither of them is "racist" in the old fashioned Southern Democrat manner. But both represent the grey privileged mainly WASP cohort. They might invite you to a social but unless you have megabucks you cant marry in. Thats real racism in action.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"GS says:
I think there's a lot to be said for the 'angry old white man' theory,

Yes he does, and as usual you reply with a load of gibberish which essentially has nothing to do with what I was saying.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It is early days yet, but I did read somewhere that Trump could take all of the white male vote and still lose the election quite handily.

jh said...

but if it wasn’t him [Hoskings] whipping up all the latent bigotry in middle New Zealand, who’s to say there wouldn’t be someone else even worse in his place doing just the same?
That's from the Spin off.

same as Helen Clark thought: "I congratulated her on the public's enlightened attitudes towards racial issues, but she disagreed. She said to me that New Zealand was really a very racist country, and she was determined to do everything she could as prime minister to change that".
And unfortunately these people get into the mainstream parties like weavels into flour (if they were honest they would stay in the Alliance). I think Trumpists sense the weirdness of the liberal left establishment and see Trump as a stick of dynamite placed underneath that putrid pile.

and how do these loud opinions and illusions of superiority come to be?:

"Growing up in suburban Wellington I was often surrounded by broadcasting types. This was due to my Dad’s job in radio, and that slightly 80’s habit parents had of letting the kids stay up at boozy parties later than they probably should have. These men (the biggest names in Wellington broadcasting were all men) were endlessly fascinating to a chubby, shy and impressionable kid such as myself. Booming voices, bad jokes, and very loud and unshakeable opinions on every aspect of life abounded. My obsession with these kind of larger-than-life personalities, and in particular their opinions on things they probably should know better than to comment on, was therefore forged early on."

Polly said...

Nick J, I am not "assuming that Hillary is not equally repugnant" the leading polls in America are showing that Hillary overwhelmingly leading in polls of Black and Latino eligible voters.
I do not accept your standard of real racism, certainly it is a form of racism but being shot and killed by a law enforcement officer because you are Black is a common, almost daily occurrence in America.
That is real and factual racism in action.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"She said to me that New Zealand was really a very racist country, and she was determined to do everything she could as prime minister to change that"

She was correct, although she did very little to change it.

jh said...

She was correct, although she did very little to change it.
Evolutionary psychology? Humans evolved in a monocultural environment? In addition to that Anti Racism requires social change through mass migration (economic consequences take a backseat) and copious social engineering (which people detect and resent).

Meanwhile who really benefits:

you don't want to get immigration down , to fall though, do you. I just got to say something. I saw you in a speech after the budget and you were in a big room of business people, now some of those were the biggest business minds of the country and you stood up and said: “don't worry about treasuries figure the estimation that it will go back to 12000, you were confident the figure was going to be a lot higher than that.

I just think it is likely to be higher than that

Corrin Dann
But it's like telling them you wanted immigration to be up. You were telling them “ don't worry the demand will be there, the economies going to stay there, that's what's keeping New Zealand afloat"

and the media is largely off the hook (siloed) eg Nigel Latta's The New New Zealand never managed to find anyone remotely skeptical of immigration.

Chris Trotter said...

To: jh

I know you have a passionate interest in immigration, jh, but please, try to restrict your commentary to the theme of the posting.

Just to be clear, the theme is: The role of charismatic, "anti-political" populists in the discomfiture of the Left.

jh said...

Just to be clear, the theme is: The role of charismatic, "anti-political" populists in the discomfiture of the Left.
I have applauded Trump (being anti-establishment) but at the same time he has been raising my eyebrows for his lack of nuanced argument. When you look around the media and blogosphere there is no platform for nuanced argument to be articulated. It is assumed there is no nuanced reasonable argument the left having declared victory in the 1990's [Mr Brown - Hug ; HRC and Race Relations Office v's Clydesdale]. The left have bloggers here there and everywhere (people trained in critical theory) while the right is dominated by people who own private yachts and jets. Complex ideas are like seeds they need a bit of soil and water just like every other seed yet they do not get an airing: witness the other candidates in the US Presidential election?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I know you have a passionate interest in immigration, jh, but please, try to restrict your commentary to the theme of the posting."


"but at the same time he has been raising my eyebrows for his lack of nuanced argument."

If you call what you are doing nuanced, you really have got another think coming. For one thing, you rarely argue, you just post STUFF and expect people to mind read how it fits into the topic, which it invariably doesn't cause always about immigration. That. Is. Not. Nuance.

jh said...

Bu nuance I mean the ability to hear both sides of a story so pros or antis can refine their arguments. You would be hard pushed to find a balanced argument in Aotearoa that includes evolutionary psychology in a discussion of multiculturalism (for instance).