US Elections, Populism and Politics Collection

 

As a taster of our publishing in Politics ahead of the forthcoming US elections, we put together a collection of free articles, chapters and open access titles. If you are interested in trying out more content from our Global Social Challenges collections or subject areas, including Politics and International Relationsask your librarian to sign up for a free trial.

US Elections, Populism and Politics Collection

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Chapter 4 discusses the most clown-like political leaders in recent history: George W. Bush, Donald J. Trump, and Boris Johnson. Over the last decade, a number of professional funnymen have entered the world of politics: Jimmy Morales in Guatemala, Beppe Grillo in Italy, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Ukraine. Unlike these comedians-turned-politicians, Bush, Trump, and Johnson engage in a hybrid form of politics we might call ‘clownsmanship’, a portmanteau that combines clowning and statesmanship. In the same way as circus clowns, these world leaders are simultaneously amusing and terrifying, and we don’t know whether to laugh or cry at their repeated blunders and provocations. Bush’s unintentionally funny slips of the tongue, Trump’s ludicrous boasts and insults, and Johnson’s shambling persona and comic exaggeration – these are more than personal defects. As the chapter demonstrates, they’re politico-comic strategies to gain power, deflect criticism, and avoid accountability. Taboo-busting humour is the backdrop to a certain type of anti-establishment politics, yet we’re so preoccupied by all the monkey business that we fail to realize that the joke’s ultimately on us.

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Several books have appeared since the early 2000 forecasting the erosion of liberal democracy in connection with what is identified as deep disruptions of media and communications. Much collected evidence suggests that the best days of democracy are over, and that democracy might soon come to an end. But what binds democracy and the media so closely together? Why is the destiny of democracy so intimately related to the health of public communication and the media? This chapter proposes a research framework that locates spaces of democracy within the ongoing ‘structural transformation of the public sphere’ in the digital age. According to this account, public sphere transformations are driven by internal critical forces of disruptions and renewal. With its emphasis on the linkage between the identification of public sphere disruptions in the digital age and critical forces of public sphere renewal, the chapter contributes to our understanding of digital society as a space for the contestation of democracy.

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This article introduces the concept of dialectic icons: public figures who feature in contentious and polarising political discourse. The inflammatory quality of dialectic icons and their role as highly mediated symbols of conflict creates long-lasting emotional energy among audiences, who cluster in ideological camps as a response. However, these audiences can also actively and directly engage in and shape these discourses, particularly through social media. Examples of the public discourse about quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests illustrate how the controversiality, newsworthiness, interactivity and visibility of dialectic icons ultimately contribute to social polarisation. By focusing on dialectic icons as proxy battlegrounds for public audiences, this article establishes a useful concept for gaining fresh insights into collective meaning- and truth-making processes.

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One domain of global political economy (GPE) that warrants more serious scholarly attention is the plane of what Jessop (2010) calls ‘cultural political economy’ (CPE). This article connects GPE and CPE, through an exploration of the production and exchange of meaning (semiosis) in the global politics of ‘values’. The point of departure for this exploration is a series of overlapping crises in GPE. From the Great Recession to the global COVID-19 pandemic, these crises are often associated with the rise of dangerous new reactionary forces. Conspiracist far-right and increasingly authoritarian centre-right movements continue their ascendancy. Meanwhile, a (neo)liberal self-proclaimed ‘centre’ decries this ‘rise of populisms’, lamenting a perceived backlash against liberal democracy itself.

This article offers a novel reading of the present conjunctural crisis, through the cultural theory of bell hooks. Specifically, hooks’ ([1984] 2000 identification of ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ as the real Western social model, her analyses of the political-economic crises of the 1990s and her development of Martin Luther King’s notion of a ‘revolution of values’ are all crucial to explaining the present crisis, and exploring the potential of progressive politics today. Reframing ‘liberal democracy’ as white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, it is argued, enables a number of further insights. In particular, this analysis allows us to understand our present moment as a confrontation between truly progressive values – including anti-racist, anti-capitalist and feminist values – and what turn out to be the shared regressive and reactionary values of (neo)liberalism and the far right. The aim of the article is to show, in the terms of Stuart Hall’s Gramscian analysis, ‘how different forces come together, conjuncturally, to create the new terrain, on which a different politics must form up’ (Hall, 1987: 16).

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The extent to which policies are genuinely responsive to public opinion is a key indicator of democratic performance. The media plays an agenda-setting role between the public and the legislators, serving as a mechanism through which policies can be responsive to the public. Existing literature has explored policy responsiveness, the media’s agenda-setting power, and how the media’s effect on the political agenda is contingent on socio-political contextual factors. However, the literature has yet to provide rigorous empirical evidence with chronological precision that policies do respond to media attention. This study examines the driving forces behind the responsiveness of energy development policies to media discourse with a novel methodological approach. Using a machine-learning approach, the author analyses thousands of state-level media reports and legislation featuring hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) issues in 15 US states from 2007 to 2017. To model legislation’s responsiveness to media reports, the author identifies topic models for prevalent topics in news articles published in the period leading up to the proposal of a bill. Logistic regression models are estimated with political and socio-economic factors as the predictor variables and whether the bill targets prevalent topics in the news as the dependent variable. The findings suggest that state government ideology, legislators’ partisan affiliations, and unemployment rates predict state-level policy responsiveness to media attention on fracking issues. This study advances our understanding of policymaking’s democratic implications for unconventional energy development and highlights how policymakers can respond strategically to media attention.

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This chapter sets out how the spread of different forms of populist ideas challenges democratic politics when wider engagement in public issues calls for much more informed participation. It points to constructive responses based on Freirean arguments for replacing banking education by problem-posing education, and the application of the organisational power theories of Mary Parker Follett to structure control and authority through cooperation rather than subordination. These are illustrated with practical examples of pedagogy that shares authority, including public sensemaking in high school mathematics that cultivates respect and acknowledgement of one another’s perspectives; expressing civic agency through science education collaboration; and the use of controversial issues discussions designed to give students practice in inclusive deliberation, critical reasoning and explorations of and tolerance for political and other forms of difference

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This chapter lays out the central arguments of the book. It proposes empathy “from the side” as a promising alternative to the two most common responses to populism today: opposition (populism must be immobilized because it threatens democracy) and empathy “from the front” (populism merits compassion as an understandable reaction to circumstance). In contrast, lateral empathy shows curiosity for the symptom rather than taking it at face value. It brackets the content of communication to name what has gone communicable: aggrieved masculinity. The chapter introduces the book’s focus on gendered feeling, the concepts of “aggrieved” and “viral” masculinity, the notion of a feeling pandemic, and the resulting need to reorient to populism as a matter of public health.

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Thirty years ago following the collapse of the USSR, the United States had every reason to believe that its dominant position in the international order was assured. What then happened to undermine this confidence and to lead so many writers to conclude the ‘America Century’ was over and that a post-American world beckoned? This book explains how this occurred and explains its deeper causes, but concludes that in spite of all the challenges it faces at home post-Trump – not to mention the rise of China and the re-emergence of Russia – what is called the American empire here still remains the most powerful nation in the international system.

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“We can’t breathe” – a cry heard around the world in the summer of 2020. One of the more egregious forms of discrimination against Black people on both sides of the Atlantic is police violence. In May of 2020 protests broke out around the world after the horrifying death of an African American man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mr. Floyd had been apprehended after being accused of passing a counterfeit US$20 bill. It’s not clear that he knew the bill was fake. Outrage came as a viral video of a policeman kneeling on Floyd’s neck while he was asphyxiated flew around social media.

Although all four police officers involved in the murder were immediately fired, only one of them was arrested for murder a few days after the incident. Frustration with the situation only grew as a coroner’s report tried to place blame for Floyd’s death on underlying health conditions. This did not mollify community members who noted that Floyd was pleading for his life, telling the officer that he could not breathe and calling out for his mother.

The ensuing riots came in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many cities having been under shelter in place orders since mid-March. Given that African Americans were getting sick and dying at disproportionate rates, many in the community were frustrated with the lack of access to health care and the fact that many of those who were considered “essential” workers came from minority communities. That frustration played into the protests, and in some instances, violence that played out from London to Los Angeles.

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