Has business lost its hold on politics?
The political events of the last two years can be easily likened to an unending earthquake; the tremors may peak and dip in severity, but they’re always there, slowly shifting the social structures beneath us. Regardless of whether the aftermath leaves us off better or worse, the loss of security and stability is certain; the times are changing, and fast.
Business has always had an assumed role within politics. Since the rise of corporate America, numerous movements have decried and rallied against ‘the man’: the phantom usurper of power dressed in the trappings of the business elite. The man is conniving, ubiquitous and all-consuming. The unease and angst toward big business is, for the most part, well deserved. From franchised steak horses to coffee shops and McDonald’s, America’s indistinctiveness from itself has led to a sense of ideological abandonment. Identities, whether of towns, people or states, have been subsumed within the conglomerate of corporate America.
Groups have attempted to reverse the curb, but have only produced a generation of resigned socialists, their vigour for change disembowelled by the futility of their endeavour, and the impossible size of their opponent. Apathy bled into a relatively prosperous 90s, wherein the surrender of identity could be seen as a fair exchange for economic comfort.
But the centre couldn’t hold; the 2008 financial crisis unearthed the rot beneath the glamour. Like two cliff sides torn asunder, what had once seemed a possible leap between the poor and rich became an unfathomable distance. A reawakening commenced amongst those left behind by globalisation, who watched aghast as the separation between their realities and their aspirations became all too real.
The events of the Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump can be traced back to this – a moment that rekindled the people’s voice, propelled by social media as a vehicle for rocket-fuelled mobility. The financial crisis saw businesses, banks and general money-holders all branded with the same brush. The devilish horns of big companies became far more distinct, vulgar even, and their association rapidly became more bane than boon for those in power. If you’ve ever seen House of Cards, you’ll know the sort of corruptive power plays perceived to linger at the heart of governments, in which the powerful make idle play friends with the superrich. It would be naïve to assume that there’s no element of truth to this; in fact, the American Republican party has long been branded by its association with lobbying corporations, not least of which the tobacco industry. Likewise, the Clintons (aided by a world of sensationalising conspiracy theorists) are assumed to hold influence far beyond their remit (even for an ex-President), extending into the country’s national agencies.
In our turbulent, unstable, querulously rebellious society, it’s no longer cool to be seen shaking hands with big business. By channelling the voice of business interests, Cameron did himself few favours – even if his words and warnings were on the mark. The irony that eludes many spectators is within what Trump currently represents versus his personal history. Whilst being an infamous businessman himself, the blusterous equivalent of our Alan Sugar, his movement symbolises a distinct detachment from a world controlled by the business elite. He has become a parody of his past, embodying the amorality and sociopathic behaviours that trail avarice, and exposing them with comedic effect.
Trump is a loose cannon, whose would-be puppet masters have since been suspended in a fight or flight reaction. He has rallied those whose support cannot be bartered for, who are pursuing something more ideological than actual – a reclaim for an America lost, a glorious return to a pale, pastoral land. At least for now, before the discontent rife across the Western world can be quelled, the business world must only watch as the riotous stampede rolls on by.