…nobody’s listening to us. Nobody’s paying attention, nobody’s coming out here and asking us what we think. (WaPo)
With more or less the whole world in a state of complete shock and disbelief at the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, why was I not surprised as well? Why also wasn’t I surprised at Britain voting for Brexit back in June? What can I see that so many other politicians and political pundits can’t see?
The answer might be that I look at the world through the eyes of a smoker.
We smokers are completely and utterly ignored by all the politicians and the pundits, all the great and the good. They’ll pay attention to women, and blacks, and Jews, and lesbians and gays, and all sorts of other minorities. But they pay zero attention to smokers. So the politicians and pundits have no knowledge or understanding of the grievances of smokers.
And yet for the past decade or more smokers all over the world have been subjected to a quite astonishing and mounting level of state-sponsored persecution. Twenty or so years ago they were fully integrated members of society: now they’ve become pariahs.
And smokers make up some 20% of the population of the anglosphere, and 30-40% of the population of eastern Europe and Russia and the Middle East. These are very large percentages, and it follows that the persecution of such large minorities is likely to have large effects socially, economically, and politically.
The persecution of smokers includes their public vilification, “exile to the outdoors”, punitive taxation of tobacco, and quite often loss of employment, refusal of medical treatment, and even eviction from their homes.
And what is the response of smokers? Well, they have lost faith in the political classes everywhere in the world that have so thoroughly betrayed them. And they have lost faith in the bona fides of the medical profession that has demonised them. And they have lost faith in the science that abets the medical profession.
Add to this that the disenchantment of smokers is always deepening. The insults and slights to which they are subjected all slowly add up: they are not forgotten. And because smokers are deeply disenchanted and angry, they are strongly motivated to respond. e.g. by voting.
Wherever large minorities are persecuted, there are bound to be considerable political, economic, and social consequences, as the persecuted minorities respond in various ways to their circumstances. And since smokers now comprise a large persecuted minority in almost every country in the world, the persecution of smokers is certain to have global political, economic, and social consequences. And since smokers are a very large ignored minority, it follows that the response of smokers to their persecution will also be ignored. And the result will be that the political climate is likely to be misjudged. For example, opinion pollsters who include age, gender, education, and ethnic differences, but don’t include smokers in their population samples, will be unlikely to get accurate results.
And this may be why opinion pollsters in both the UK Brexit vote, and the more recent US Presidential election, failed to predict the outcome correctly. For they almost certainly failed to include the correct number of angry, persecuted smokers in their population samples.
In the case of Brexit, we may ask how smokers might have been expected to have voted. And since the EU parliament voted in 2009 for a European indoor smoking ban, and for show trials of prominent offenders, it may be expected that smokers would have a strongly negative view of the EU, and to have voted accordingly. This was certainly true in my own case, because after I learned of the EU parliamentary vote, I flipped from being pro-EU to anti-EU.
More generally in UK elections, smokers may be expected to vote either UKIP or Conservative, since these parties are least hostile to smokers, and to not vote for either Labour or Lib Dems, who are most hostile. No surprise then that there has been a Conservative government in Britain for the past 6 years.
Equally in the US presidential election last week, who would smokers have voted for? Certainly not Hillary Clinton, who is a well-known virulent antismoker. If they were going to place their trust in anyone, it would have been Donald Trump, even though he neither smokes nor drinks. For the playboy Trump used to run a smoke-filled casino, and he markets his own brand of wine. And more generally US smokers will probably be inclined to vote Republican than Democrat, for the same reasons as UK voters.
Again, if you want to ask what’s going to happen to the EU, you will note that the prevalence of smoking (and therefore of smokers) is higher in southern and eastern Europe than elsewhere. And after the EU parliament voted in 2009 for a European smoking ban, complete with show trials for prominent offenders, that will mean that smoker anger and resentment will be higher in eastern and southern Europe than elsewhere, and this is where revolt against the EU political class will be strongest, and where secession will most likely to begin. Bear in mind that there are some 150 million smokers among the 500 million citizens in the EU.
And when French smokers vote next spring for a new president, isn’t it likely that they’ll back smoking, anti-EU Marine Le Pen? After all she, like Nigel Farage, is one of them, and has shared their experience of sitting outside Paris brasseries being murdered by Islamic terrorists.
The opinions of men and women, young and old, blue collar and white collar, blacks, Christians, Muslims, gays and lesbians, and all sorts of other social groups are routinely included in polls. But the large minority of smokers everywhere who are not included now form an unknown bloc of swing voters, whose opinions are currently being discounted.
It’s not particularly surprising that smokers are not regarded as a separate social minority (like gays or Muslims), because historically they have never been one. As noted, until very recently they were fully-integrated members of society. It’s only in the past 10 to 20 years that they have become a newly-created, persecuted minority all over the world. Opinion pollsters are unsurprisingly still lagging behind the times. When they eventually catch up, their poll results will become accordingly more accurate (assuming that there aren’t any other large persecuted minorities out there).