“The future of the left is bright” and Ardern is the lighthouse

The world future for the left is bright, according to some hopefuls, and Jacinda Ardern is the Mother Theresa of progressive politics.

Ex-Labour general secretary Mike Smith has posted at The Standard – The future of the left

Australian Guardian columnist Van Badham writes “the future of the left is bright if it looks like Jacinda Ardern and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes.” She concludes “We can hope the influence of Jacinda Ardern and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes spread, or we can ensure that it does. The stakes for the marginalised remain life and death.” Very worth a read.

This optimism looks a tad premature.

The world influence of Ardern beyond a magazine celebrity level must be minimal at this stage, She has hardly had time to prove herself in New Zealand – and her Government has so far had very mixed short term results.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes hasn’t even been elected yet, she has only won a primary in a New York congressional district. Gizmodo: Democratic Candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Didn’t Even Have a Wikipedia Page on Monday:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old progressive activist, became the Democratic candidate for New York’s 14th congressional district after a primary election yesterday.

Ocasio-Cortez defeated 56-year-old Joseph Crowley, a man who served ten terms and was the chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

Why is Ocasio-Cortez’s victory a big deal for Democrats? She’s a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a former organizer for Bernie Sanders. Crowley, the man she defeated, was being groomed to be the next Speaker of the House.

Bernie Sanders was seen as a great left wing hope in 2016 but he couldn’t even beat Hillary Clinton as the Democrat candidacy for president, and Clinton couldn’t even beat Donald Trump.

So what else did Van Badham say in her Guardian article? It was headlined Jacinda Ardern is the very hero the global left needs right now

As social media birth announcements go, Jacinda Ardern’s handheld Facebook Live of herself and her newborn Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford is charming.

New Zealand’s prime minister introduces her new baby with radiant sincerity.

Giving birth was a big event for Ardern and Clark Gayford, and Neve, but it was normal, it is something that happens to everyone. It was hardly heroic.

But as a political communication, the video is matchless. In an epoch overcast by growing shadows of reenergised rightwing authoritarianism, Ardern’s public hospital nativity offers a luminous symbolic affirmation of her leadership not just of New Zealand, but of the western electoral left.

Good grief. She is currently on maternity leave so is not even acting Prime Minister at the moment, let alone saviour of the world.

It’s not that long ago that Justin Trudeau was the darling of the world left. And Bernie Sanders. Some in the UK even thought that Jeremy Corbyn was the beginning of a great swing left.

The leader of the first Labour government in New Zealand for a decade shares the explicit left agenda for investment in health, education, climate action, public housing and social justice. Ardern’s pledge to build “a kind and equitable nation where children thrive, and success is measured not only by the nation’s GDP but by better lives lived by its people” is the ancient standard of our side.

Ardern does have some worth ambitions, but she is a long way from proving herself and her Government.

To understand why is to look beyond policy and into her representation of it. What distinguishes Ardern is her active embrace of what Walter Benjamin referred to as “the time of the now” and the diverse and complex identities of a community that no longer sees itself as by, for and of propertied, straight white men. Doing so shatters a traditionalism that imprisons the left even as much as it inspires today’s right.

Another variation on popular demonising, this time of  “straight white men”. Juts imagine how Ardern would be revered if she was not white and not straight. She gets away with not epitomising diversity by having empathy foe non-whites and non-straights, something no man has every been able to achieve and never can – unless he’s a progressive left wing hope of course.

If today’s left is going to stand a chance against an ascendant, muscular right, my hope is that she and other avowed socialists emerging within her electoral generation eschew the stale temptations of left melancholy for energising examples of a visionary left that looks as different to its past as a pregnant woman in a feathered cloak does to a room of suited men.

“Strong men” of the right are now lining up governments from Italy to Turkey to the United States. The times of the now are ones in which we can construct majorities of a diversity they cannot – and do not wish to – represent. We can hope the influence of Jacinda Ardern and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes spread, or we can ensure that it does. The stakes for the marginalised remain life and death.

Ardern may yet go on to do great things for New Zealand, but she first needs to settle into motherhood hoping her Ministers miraculously acquire cohesion and competence in her absence (they didn’t do very well on that while she was Prime Minister).

Then she has to prove herself in a small country at the bottom edge of the world before she becomes the Queen of the World.

Being anointed as the Progressive miracle unfolding is as premature as awarding Donald Trump a Nobel peace prize before meeting Kim Yong Un – or as premature as awarding same prize to Barack Obama, who was probably seen as a great new hope for the left/progressives around the world, until he proved to be a mediocre president at best.

Van Badham seems to be a progressive opportunist.

In 2016: Time to hail Hillary Clinton – and face down the testosterone left

Supposedly progressive men denounce Clinton with foolish and vicious regularity. But a victory for her next week would really be worth celebrating.

People are surprised when I express support for Hillary Clinton. My economic politics are hard to the left and, unlike hers, explicitly socialist. But it’s entirely because my analysis of inequality is economic that I endorse Clinton – not as a least-worst option, not even due to the nature of her opponent, but on her own terms as a leader pledged to the material improvement of women’s economic and social reality.

That was someone misguided in several ways.

Van Badham on Julia Gillard ousted: Achievement does not equal respect if you’re a woman

Julia Gillard navigated through the financial crisis, presided over a 14 per cent growth in the economy and pushed through several impressive policy reforms. The problem for the Australian PM was not her performance. It was that, from to beginning to end, she remained female.

Based on this, if Ardern revolutionises New Zealand and leads the world into a wonderful progressive utopia it will be on her merits and her femininity.

And one could guess that if she fizzles or fails it will be the fault of men.