Tory Triumph: A Warning To America’s Left?

UK PM Boris Johnson.

Yesterday, an historic election across the pond in the United Kingdom delivered Conservative bad-hair Prime Minister Boris Johnson a resounding victory over a wilted rose of a Labour Party, paving the way for Johnson to keep his promise to “get Brexit done” and maybe, or maybe not, having some portent in the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election. CNN’s Chris Cillizza opens the stateside speculation thusly:

Within 12 hours of the confirmation of the Conservative victory, the result was already being analyzed in the United States for signals of what it all might mean for the coming 2020 presidential election. President Donald Trump, in a press availability Friday afternoon, suggested Johnson’s victory over the liberal Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn was a telling signal of his own future political prospects…

The parallels between Cornyn’s proposed policy solutions and those offered by liberals like Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) — most notably in their firm backing of “Medicare for All” are clear. Which is a point that the more moderate –they would say “pragmatic” — candidates in the 2020 race sought to make in the way of the UK results.

At a fundraiser on Thursday night, former Vice President Joe Biden took note of Johnson’s victory and predicted headlines that said: “Look what happens when the Labour Party moves so, so far to the left. It comes up with ideas that are not able to be contained within a rational basis quickly.”

As a referendum on Brexit, the U.K.’s halting but still pending separation from the European Union driven by conservative worries about immigration and revenue liabilities to poorer countries, yesterday’s elections don’t have a clear axis of comparison to American politics, where the last election in 2018 dealt Republicans major defeats and the party is broadly perceived to be saddled with the baggage of an unpopular President.

Despite this, moderate Democrats will undoubtedly see in these results apprehension to an ambitious liberal agenda as championed by socialist Bernie Sanders and to a more measured extent by Elizabeth Warren. By all accounts the Labour Party ran on a public investment platform as much or more than providing an alternative to Brexit, and British voters either weren’t moved by that platform or too preoccupied with Brexit to care.

If the results of the U.K.’s election spook Democratic primary voters into moderating their selection, Joe Biden is the clear beneficiary. After three years of reactionary chaos under Donald Trump, under this line of thinking, what American voters want is stability more than countervailing leftward stridency.

You have the floor, readers. What lessons, if any, are to be learned from Boris Johnson’s big win?

20 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. 2Jung2Die says:

    One thought is "the map matters." UK Tories mopped up big in number of seats gained, but only 1.2% in total vote share (Labour lost about 7% vote share and a bunch of seats). In the U.S., thanks to our archaic system Ds will need good results out of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania for sure even if they dominate the national popular vote, and of course they can't neglect other battleground states. I'm not convinced Labour's loss precludes a Bernie or Warren win – different players, different stakes – though it makes for a convenient next-day narrative.

  2. Moderatus says:

    Is this an admission that Democrats have lurched too far left? Wow.

  3. RepealAndReplace says:

    There is a history of the US following the UK…..

    1979 – Thatcher was elected PM

    1980 – Reagan was elected president

    1983 – Michael Foote ran a Labour campaign on a platform characterized as “the longest suicide note in history"; Thatcher was re-elected in a landslide

    1984 – Walter Mondale ran a hard-left race and Reagan was re-elected in a landslide

    1987 – Neil Kinnock (of Biden plagiarism fame) tried to tame down the hard left and ran a campaign based on competency

    ; Kinnock lost

    1988 – Michael Dukakis ran a race based on competency, not ideology; ideology caught up with Dukakis (i.e., ACLU membership, Willie Horton, burning the flag)

    ; Dukakis lost

    Here is where things took a reversal between the US and UK….

    1992 – Bill Clinton detoxified the Democratic Party brand and got elected to two terms

    1997 – Tony Blair detoxified the Labour Party and went on to win 3 terms

    But circa 2010 things started diverging with David Cameron's election in 2010 and Obama's re-election in 2012. Cameron was center-right and Obama was center-left.

    The parallel there was that two moderate, internationalists got elected.

    Then in 2016, Brexit passed in the UK and the wheels came off the wagon in the US. 

  4. Diogenesdemar says:

    A warning to America’s left???

    Sure, if you mean don’t let Jeremy Corbyn lead your party . . .

    Or, maybe it’s that the Turd Sandwich almost always beats the Giant Douche??

    Or, maybe don’t have a queen?

    Or maybe, don’t be born in a country where you don’t see a dentist regularly?

  5. davebarnes says:

    Let's begin with: Jeremy Corbin is an anti-Semetic Commie.
    We have no candidates who are similar.

  6. ParkHill says:

    The lesson I see is the successful use of populist appeals by right-wing politicians:

    English nationalism and anti-immigrant feelings are strong in the non-Urban and Scottish parts of Britain, especially among older voters. White nationalism and anti-immigrant feelings are strong in Rural America and Fox News watchers, especially among older voters. 

    The Conservative leader, Boris Johnson, milked English nationalism and anti-immigrant feelings while campaigning on populist ideas such as supporting the socialist NHS.

    Trump campaigned in 2016 on anti-immigration and White nationalist sentiments. He also used populist appeals (restore heavy industry, coal and union jobs) which struck home because the Democratic Party has done nothing to counter the steady decline of living standards of the working and middle classes.

    If Trump was smart (I know, I know, but he IS marketing-smart), he would increase the volume of his populist arguments or even move to the left, for example by saying he is going to replace Obamacare with something better… oh wait, that is already the Republican position.

    I think the opening for the Democrats is strong advocacy for economic issues relevant to the economically suffering sectors, which now includes not just minorities and working people, but also farmers and workers in the mid-Western states that Trump won last time.

    Anti-trump wins among the Democratic base and the college educated, but economic issues win with everybody.

  7. Labour was wishy-washy on Brexit and tried to stay away from it. Ignoring the 800 ton gorilla in the room was not wise. Also, Corbyn ranks below Johnson in the popularity meter; he didn't even have great support within his own party.

    The lesson IMHO is not to be a dead skunk party.

    • RepealAndReplace says:

      Corbyn did straddle the fence on Brexit, something I initially found to be idiotic. But then I realized that the Labour Party itself was deeply divided on this issue and his position probably just reflected that ambivalence.

      Many in the blue-collar base of the Labour Party – England's version of our "deplorables" and "irredeemables" – are xenophobic and racist, and think that their wonderful jobs digging coal and other such healthy and fulfilling fields of employment are being stolen by immigrants. Hence the swing to Johnson who promised to do something about immigration. Sound familiar?

      The other part of Labour – the Blairites who work in white-collar professions in metro London – are internationalists and Remainers. On Brexit, Corbyn tried to chase two rabbits and caught neither.

      Add to that the anti-Semetism he condoned and his fringe left economic policies (he makes Bernie look like a moderate), and you had the perfect storm for Labour.

      • That pretty much sums it up, yeah. Labour was the dead skunk in the middle of the road, stinking to high heaven. What it means for the future of the UK and Britain I don't know. There's a non-zero possibility that Scotland votes for independence and that Ireland gets so screwed by Brexit that NI finally decides it's time to join the Republic rather than do Troubles II. That way the anti-EU factions can stew in their own little mini-UK and wonder just where the great empire went wrong.

    • kwtree says:

      Michael Moore, interviewed yesterday on Chris Hayes “All in” show, agrees with you, Phoenix. He said “Democrats need to lead, not follow.”


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