Oscar surprises: The Emerging Culture Wars in American politics

The Oscars this week were a welcome diversion from the flood of American primary politics that have monopolized the media over the past few weeks. The spectre of a very politically incorrect Donald Trump sweeping the Republican nomination from the populist right has conjured up worrisome aspects of American politics from the perspective of Canadian liberal and social democratic pragmatism. Trump has positioned himself as an outspoken opponent of free trade and globalism in favour of American isolationism and narrow assertion of American power. A United States repositioned in this way will pose serious dilemmas for Canada and NAFTA. On the Democratic side the race between Sanders and Clinton is a fascinating one in terms of the choices being posed between radical progressivism on the populist left and a more traditional institutionally rooted pragmatic politics of the Democratic centre and centre left.For the moment Clinton has a substantial lead but this may change in the weeks to come. Even on Super Tuesday while Hilary Clinton swept six southern states by large margins Senator Sanders managed to win 4 states Colorado, Minnesota, Vermont and Oklahoma and come very close in Massachusetts.In addition, Clinton opposes the TPP as does Sanders. Politics is always rooted in both the economy and in popular culture.It is important to understand that every action in a liberal progressive direction will elicit a counter force, a reaction that pushes back from conservative interests.

The broad coalition of the progressive left that includes the feminist movement, the GLBT communities,the trade unions, the democratic socialists and the environmentalists have made considerable progress in both politics and popular culture. This was clear at the Oscars where a number of feature films and shorter documentaries and Oscar winners and nominees from all over the world including Mexico,Canada,Brazil, Italy, Sweden,Ireland, Australia and Pakistan advanced the values and views of this progressive coalition. The push back however has been prominent and sustained on the populist evangelical side to which Trump and his fellow republicans has been appealing. Every since Weimar gave political birth to fascism western societies have to be sensitive to the processes by which extremist views can gain currency in mass democratic societies. So the US race bears watching.

As for the Oscars the fact that Spotlight the film which tells the story of the Boston Globe journalists’ courageous campaign to tell the true story of the abuse by some priests in the Catholic church won the award for best picture was an example of how the liberal coalition was leading the way forward. The fact that it was chosen over the favorite The Revenant,a film which has grossed more than six times the 63 million that Spotlight has and is a story of the wild west much more in the American tradition of the new frontier was also significant. The other also ran nominees included films which also made clear their liberal values like The Big Short and Brooklyn and Bridge of Spies. The theme of liberal tolerance and the inherent goodness of globalism was celebrated by a number of winners. But the Republican race in particular shows us that there are large numbers of people who oppose these values and see the world in a markedly different way.We shall see in the coming months how this all turns out but the rise of Trumpism is a development we must not ignore.


About haroldchorneyeconomist

I am Professor of political economy at Concordia university in Montréal, Québec, Canada. I received my B.A.Hons (econ.&poli sci) from the University of Manitoba. I also completed my M.A. degree in economics there. Went on to spend two years at the London School of Economics as a Ph.D. student in economics and then completed my Ph.D. in political economy at the University of Toronto. Was named a John W.Dafoe fellow, a CMHC fellow and a Canada Council fellow. I also was named a Woodrow Wilson fellow in 1968 after completing my first class honours undergraduate degree. Worked as an economist in the area of education, labour economics and as the senior economist with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation for the Government of Manitoba from 1972 to 1978. I also have worked as an economic consultant for MDT socio-economic consultants and have been consulted on urban planning, health policy, linguistic duality and public sector finance questions by the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan,the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, Ontario and the Federal government of Canada. I have also been consulted by senior leaders of the British Labour party, MPs from the Progressive Conservative party, the Liberal party and the New Democrats on economic policy questions. Members of the Government of France under the Presidency of Francois Mitterand discussed my work on public sector deficits. I have also run for elected office at the municipal level. I first began to write about quantitative easing as a useful policy option during the early 1980s.
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