Mr Crosby specialises in what his simpering victims call the “politics of fear”. This seems to be code for identifying what voters care about — sometimes crime, sometimes immigration, almost always the economy — and pitching your candidate as the safe bet on those subjects.
He cannot make people fear anything they do not already fear, but merely for taking their existing fears seriously instead of plying them with “positive ideas” and “optimistic visions”, political romantics reserve for Mr Crosby their bitterest distaste.
Playing on people’s fears is not just effective, it is also right. Fear is a respectable emotion that is hard-wired into us as a design feature, not a glitch. We are meant to feel it.
We fear heights and enclosed spaces because they really have the potential to harm us. Out of the same sense of prudence, we feel nervous when politicians talk up a new egalitarian economy or the break-up of the UK or a freer life outside the EU.
That some of our fears are misplaced does not make the emotion unsound, or electoral appeals to it somehow sordid. Our distaste should be saved for the opposing kind of politician — those who propose drastic change while shirking the burden of showing that it is safe: Labour’s previous leader, Ed Miliband, who longed to replace Anglo-Protestant capitalism with, well, something nicer; the Scottish Nationalist Alex Salmond with his haziness on little matters such as the currency; the eurosceptics who ask us to take their word that Britain could negotiate a better deal outside the EU than Switzerland or Norway. These people are more contemptuous of the average voter than Mr Crosby on his worst day.
The politics of hope has a spurious respectability but reeks of snake oil. It elides good intentions with good outcomes and treats the status quo as a baseline that can only be improved on. For normal people in the actual world, the status quo is superior to many plausible alternatives. Things can be made worse not just better by well-meaning politicians.
Those who disdain the element of fear (Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is a topical example) tend to do so from a great height, as if there is something below-stairs about worrying for one’s safety or job when there are so many big ideas to be moved by and noble crusades to join.
They also conflate fearful politics with extremism. It is truer to say that fear (of social change, wage competition, outsiders) is what propels fringe parties; fear (of incompetent government) is what ultimately stops them being trusted with power.
déformation professionelle, the tendency of those immersed in one line of work to see everything through that lens.
Mr Crosby knows we are passionate about securing what we have worked for. We respond to cold, instrumental politics because it takes us seriously. The typical Briton is precarious: an interest rate rise at the wrong moment or the deterioration of their local state school can wound them irrecoverably. You do not need to have a lot to fear losing it.
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