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From Corbynmania to Trumpism

By Hugh Westbrook of Wordability. A Website for WordsGuestsm

There are currently election campaigns taking place on either side of the Atlantic, both of which have conspired to be a great deal more interesting that we might have expected. In the UK, the election of a new leader for the opposition Labour party would normally be something of no more than passing interest to most, until the result is announced. And yet, the story has maintained its place in the headlines as the result looms on Saturday.

Meanwhile in the States, the early skirmishes in the battle to become the Republican nomination for president in a year’s time might not normally be front page news as bloated field battles to be winnowed down to a more manageable number.

So what has elevated these two stories to heights which might not have been expected? I think the answer is the presence of a maverick candidate in each one, somebody who has emerged wholly unexpectedly from the pack to lead the polling and thereby create a wave of momentum which opponents currently seem powerless to stop. In the UK, it is veteran left-winger Jeremy Corbyn. In the US, it is business legend Donald Trump.

My interest comes off the back of that. For each of the leading men, a word has been coined to become the key term for their campaign, and they are now bandied about as

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Jeremy Corbyn MP

the standard ways to refer to what is going on. In the UK, we have Corbynmania. In the US, it’s Trumpism.

Of the two, I think Corbynmania is easier to explain and understand. The word refers to the groundswell of support for the 66-year-old and the general sense that he has created a new excitement and engagement in politics, there is currently a hysteria around him which appears to be carrying him to victory. The word describes the mood.

The question is what will happen once the election is over. Clearly if Corbyn loses, then Corbynmania as a movement is over, in much the same way that Cleggmania is a historical reminder of 2010. If he wins, then it certainly continues, at least for the short term, but could then easily go the same way as the erstwhile Lib Dem leader if his tenure in the hot seat turns out to be less than stellar. Either way, I expect Corbynmania to be remembered as a key word of this year, even if it doesn’t have longevity.

donald-trump-make-america-greatDonald Trump’s campaign website Trumpism is an altogether different case. Rather than a description of support, Trumpism is an ethos and an ideology of itself, and is used in commentary as a way of distancing the Republican front-runner from the rest of the field. You either believe in Trumpism or you don’t, and increasingly, it seems that vast numbers of Americans do.

The problem for me, looking out from the other side of the ocean, is trying to get a true handle on what Trumpism actually means. Even the different definitions of it online seem to be struggling slightly. Is it an ’empty kind of mean-spiritness’, a form of fascism or ‘the whining of the privileged‘. I must admit I don’t entirely get it.

Maybe it’s one of those things you simply understand if you are in the States. If you live and work there, Donald Trump represents something appreciably different from what has gone before and taps into values which it is entirely possible we outsiders fail to grasp and which resonates with enough Americans to make it significant. That could explain why Trumpism may be here to stay for some time.

Well-chosen words have always had the power to influence political debate and campaigning. As these two election battles have shown, winning the lexical war can often be the path to winning the ballot as well.

Hugh Westbrook writes at Wordability


8 Comments on "From Corbynmania to Trumpism"

  1. In my opinion, another thing these two campaigns have in common is that they are both being driven by the mass media.
    Perhaps the TV news organisations are feeling embarrassed by their utter failure to predict the results of recent elections: in the UK we were being told by Sky News and their like how close the election would be and then the morning after the election, horror of horrors, a Tory whitewash. Here in Israel, as the polls were closing, all the media were telling us a draw was in the works and then, oops, Bibi pulled the proverbial rabbit out of his hat and thrashed Herzog.
    Perhaps the TV news stations will are trying to get it right this time by really getting behind certain candidates.

    • The TV and other UK media were mostly reporting what the opinion poll companies were saying were their results.It is the pollsters who are more embarrassed and wondering how they failed more than the media.

      • Tim,
        I meant what I wrote. The pollsters indeed got it wrong but the blame lies withe the media who made the (wrong) results their headline stories (maybe because they were in line with the various editors’ political POV) and who are the ones who failed miserably. As I wrote, it seems they are trying really hard this time – whether by backing Corbyn to the hilt or by making Trump an object of ridicule.
        Maybe in this case, we will have to agree to disagree.

        • But they all got it wrong, so they can’t all have been buying into a world view as different media outlets have different views? As for backing Corbyn to the hilt – the Corbynistas are 100% rock solid certain that everyone is against them, conspiracy, blah.

  2. mahatmacoatmabag | 10th September 2015 at 5:15 pm | Reply

    Hugh Westbrook you wrote regarding Corbynmania ” the groundswell of support for the 66-year-old and the general sense that he has created a new excitement and engagement in politics” Yes Hugh among the anarchist Left, the TUC & the chattering classes of the UK media but not among the general public who see the Marxist dinosaur Corbyn for what he is clear & present danger to the future of the UK & the Terminator of the Labour party who if elected party leader will lead it to a stunning electoral defeat at the next general election in 2020.

    • I get the sense from watching and reading coverage that the groundswell has also reached the general public, and in particular a large number of young people. I have been struck by reports I have watched showing young people actively engaged in Corbyn campaigning, and that was one of the things that I wanted to reflect in the piece.

      • mahatmacoatmabag | 11th September 2015 at 3:23 pm | Reply

        “young people actively engaged in Corbyn campaigning”
        The young are foolish, inexperienced, blindly unaware of the history & danger of repeating Marxist Socialisms failed policies and are possibly being paid by Corbyns paymasters. Sorry Hugh but Corbyn will probably win the Labour leadership because his union & anarchist backers have picked him as their stooge, not because a few youngsters are drooling over him.

  3. I too am confused by the popularity of Donald Trump. It’s balanced by the surging popularity of Bernie Sanders, a sort of US-Corbyn. America is one of those strange places where a large group of the population have become convinced that corporatism is the best

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