My eldest granddaughter about a year ago went through that stage where she was always asking why. Now her favourite question is ‘what’s happening’. I thought of this when listening to this talk by Paul Krugman, titled ‘public discourse in a time of crazy’. Paul asks how should people who deal with facts and rational argument cope with a post-Trump world where those running the show appear to attach no positive value to either. 
While he says himself he is still adjusting to this new world, Paul suggests in this lecture that there are three paths which should be avoided. He calls them appeasement, emulation and quietism. The last is actually a real word, I discovered, and it means a “calm acceptance of things as they are without attempts to resist or change them”, a kind of retreat. I suspect it is the only one of the three that could tempt Paul himself.
It seems to me that appeasement is a good way to describe what has been happening to the UK’s parliamentary Labour party for perhaps a decade. First we had austerity, which began to be appeased in an apparently mild way while Darling was Chancellor, became stronger with ‘too much, too fast’, and ended up with some arguing after 2015 that austerity was the way forward. We are now seeing the same with immigration. What starts as the innocent ‘recognising people’s anxieties’ has now become ‘well at least Brexit allows us to control immigration’.
Appeasement is wrong for many reasons, not least because it is a terrible political strategy. If you no longer appear to champion anyone’s cause, but instead just become the ‘lite’ party (Brexit-lite, immigration-lite), you stop getting votes. Partly because people can vote for the 'real thing' (non-lite), and partly because you are not credible. This has got nothing to do with moving too far to the left or right, or Corbyn’s original  election: just look at Andy Burnham.
Emulation is to attempt to outdo Trump or Brexit in their own world of meaningless phrases and downright lies. But that is not a world that Paul Krugman (or myself) could live in. The scientific method is too deep in our bones to make this possible. We are not about the write posts which have the subtitle “a response to justified criticism’.
How does any of this relate to my granddaughter? The reason is that I think the premise for Paul’s talk is not real. There is no puzzle about what people like him should do now. We do what we have always done: ask what is happening and why. We put forward plans for what should happen once these dark times are over, plans that come from good explanations of the what and the why. When Paul talks about Appeasement and Emulation, he is really talking about what opposition politicians and their advisers should not do.
What people who analyse the evidence and ideas lose when Trump becomes President is any sense that we are participating in a conversation, a public discourse, that includes people who have power. Even those politicians who are in opposition cannot really listen because they will have their hands full limiting damage. Or in the UK case, they are too busy fighting each other.
2016 has not seen a sudden transition to this world, but more the blocking out of the remaining lights that pierced this post-truth darkness. We have effectively had a Republican Congress at constant war with a Democrat White House since 2011, and that Republican Congress increasingly under the control of the Tea Party and Fox News. The UK and Eurozone have been dominated by completely unnecessary austerity since 2010. As I used to say about austerity around 2012 or 2013, we had won the intellectual debate but the world went on as if we had lost.
I was thinking along these lines after talking to the Treasury Select Committee on Tuesday. I wrote a post just before I went, on why the OBR was perhaps being too optimistic about Brexit. Yet when I offered to explain the reasons for this to the Committee, no one seemed to want to hear. Politicians want to make the most of Brexit, when in reality all they can do is limit the damage. Politicians want to recognise people’s anxieties about immigration, when really they have to tell people that they are wrong: not about their grievances, but their belief that this has much to do with immigration.
We can, and should, continue to rage against the dying of the light. What is difficult, in this time of crazy, is being able to put that rage aside, and engage in a form of quietism, a retreat from the here and now of political discourse. Not a retreat into any kind of acceptance of where we now are, but instead into asking what and why, and from the answers to those questions to planning for the time when facts get back into fashion. But more than that. Using the answers to the what and why to prevent us lapsing back into our current post-truth world.
 Of course politics has always been driven by ideology as well as evidence, but there is a critical difference between wanting to find evidence to back your ideology, and not caring about evidence at all. We seem to have moved from the former to the latter in recent years. This is related to Frankfurt’s concept of political bullshit.
 I say ‘original’ here deliberately of course. Whatever his motives, Owen Smith did see why it was important to champion the anti-Brexit cause.