When in 2016 the United Kingdom voted in record numbers – 17.4 million people to be exact – to leave the European Union (EU) many head explosions on the left ensured. Everything from racism and the pejorative “little englander” to the level of education, or lack thereof, were cited subsequently as reasons why the British had chosen differently, if not unwisely.
Similar arguments arose in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s 2016 win and history-making 62.4 million votes that gave the new president 2600 US counties and 83-85% of the geographic nation, on the basis that he would drain the Washington DC swamp. That win made Trump not only the most popular Republican candidate in history but also made him up to that time the only candidate to have won more than twenty-five per cent of counties among the most popular candidates ever*. But again, as in Brexit, “red necks and gun-toting bigots” without education or finesse – aka ‘deplorables’- according to Hillary Clinton, were touted as the reasons why she and the Democrats lost the presidency.
In both cases the losing, insider class and their media aligned support base missed – or chose not to acknowledge – what was really happening on the ground. In tandem with claims of racism/bigotry, the political class accused voters of something that they themselves were guilty of: that of being inward-looking; except that in their case they were favouring the interests of a supranational entente of which only a few could claim membership and rewards. Something like, for example, having a Qantas Chairman’s Lounge membership, but on a much larger scale.
A month ago a young US singer-songwriter from Virginia, Oliver Anthony (real name Christopher Anthony Lunsford), hit the top of the sales and streaming charts with his song, Rich Men North of Richmond (see link below). Anthony is the first artist in history to have debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and do so without any previous chart history whatsoever. In a matter of days the song had risen into the millions of views on YouTube and has just kept going; four weeks later it has had 64 million views.
Recorded within a rural landscape and with no back-up singers and no backing music apart from Anthony’s own guitar playing, surprisingly or unsurprisingly, depending on your point of view, this simple and undiluted song resonated not only in the United States but all over the world. Multiple YouTube channel hosts launched reaction videos because the song was everywhere across their feeds and were blown away by it as was everyone else who have watched it on-line.
What emerges from these reviews is that first and foremost Oliver Anthony is authentic, has an amazing voice and is expressing not just his own worries and frustrations about living in this ‘new world with an old soul’, but those also of the many millions who feel just like him.
Specifically, the song comments on people who are struggling to make ends meet because of rising inflation, high taxes and weak wages growth, despite working many overtime hours; who use alcohol and/or drugs to deal with powerlessness at the same time as some recipients of welfare are misusing their taxpayer support; who have succumbed to taking their own lives, especially young males, because they see their country is alienating them.
The song also points to how politicians are more interested in their own self-interest, including of the nefarious kind – Anthony notably calls out politicians who look out ‘for minors on an [Epstein] island somewhere’ – rather than addressing the needs of working people – e.g. miners. Despite this, they remain determined to maintain ‘total control’ just as they ignore their actual parliamentary responsibilities of representing the interests of their constituents.
For the YouTubers, the relationship between those Rich Men North of Richmond and their need to totally control the people is one of the most examined lyrics – ‘…they want to know what you think; they want to know what you do; but they don’t think you know, but I know that you do‘.
One YouTuber noted that when politicians use very specific words such as “folks”; as in, “these folks aren’t stupid” or, “folks are smart”‘, electors see right through this type of stuff; to which I would add, as the people do when the political class start extolling their own virtuousness and moral superiority.
This idea that politicians and the political class think they can fool electors easily is not foreign to Australia, either. See for example Anthony Albanese’s ongoing but vacuous contention that the voice is simply a ‘modest change and a gracious request’ by Aboriginal Australia. Yet for such a “modest” change, opinion polls continue to show the Yes Case losing ground.
Quite simply – and it does not take much to work it out – what is being proposed does not answer the most basic question of why in a representative democracy with a voting system based on one elector one vote, can it be reasonable to propose that citizens will be treated differently in the Constitution because of their race. And to ask such questions – or not take up that one modest-change card of their three card gracious-request trick – does not make anyone racist, or stupid, as Marcia Langton asserted a couple of days ago in Bunbury.
Along with claims of racism Australians have been accused of risking harm to Aboriginal Australia, to our international reputation and of having an insular and petty vision of this country’s future, if they vote no. None of which is remotely creditable. But control of people is not something that leaders like to relinquish, as Anthony noted. Here, the nation have seen their political, business and cultural leaders ramming down their throats support for a Yes vote while showing little interest in the real issues facing this country and its people. From millions of shareholder dollars being given by Corporate Australia to the Yes camp, to the ubiquitous WtC/AoC performed on arrival by Qantas flight staff, or before the footy, all roads lead to a deliberate effort to bully the nation to vote yes.
The Rich Men North of Richmond – all of them – do “want total control”. But if the opinion polls are right, Australians may be about to vote in big numbers against this racist instrument to divide this nation, and despite the barrage of slander they are copping for exercising their right to their own vote; and just as their UK and US counterparts did in 2016.
*The others being Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama. Obama had only received 28% in 2008 and 22%, or 689, of more than 3000, counties in 2012.