As a natural optimist, I sometimes wonder if it is wiser to be more pessimistic. Especially when it comes to politics.
Though, I am still not sure whether that means expecting that anything bad could happen or that few good things can.
One lesson I have learned well is not to put too much faith in the promises of politicians. Anyone who does will be disappointed, as they are bound to break them.
Most politicians learn this too and have to get the knack of managing the dashed expectations of disillusioned supporters. Which is never easy. The Lib Dems learned this bitter lesson in the 2015 UK general election when voters abandoned them after they broke a major campaign pledge not to raise University tuition fees.
In 2017, Theresa May and Donald Trump are treading this treacherous route too. Both have broken with steadfast promises and are now gambling with the support of their base.
2016 was a year of fiery political optimism.
May has called a snap general election despite insisting numerous times she would not. We cannot know for sure if it’s for the reason she publicly states: getting a clear mandate for Brexit in parliament, or for other reasons. May strikes me as a risk averse politician. Which is why she tepidly backed Remain in the referendum, but went all in for Brexit when she saw that it won and could potentially supply a clear political constituency to the Tories. She is obviously gambling that this single issue will deliver the Conservative party a sizeable majority on June 8 and hopefully convert a lot of Labour supporters to Conservative.
Trump, who did just that by turning deep-blue states red last November, has been risking the ire of these newfound voters with his overnight transformation into a foreign policy hawk. Suddenly he is firing missiles into Syrian air bases and threatening North Korea, despite strongly opposing such all throughout and long before his campaign.
Trump’s swift volte face has disorientated his antiwar, “America First” base. Precisely, how much damage has been done to his support won’t be clear until the next round of elections. And there might be much that he could fail to deliver on until then.
2016 was a year of fiery political optimism (or foolishness, depending on who you speak to). The electorates in the US and the UK took a big risk and backed the promise of Brexit and Trump. Now in the cool air of 2017, we will see if this resolve has any staying power.