20 December 2019

The British election -- lessons for Americans?

Does the British election result on December 12 constitute a warning to the US Democratic party that it should avoid moving to the left?  I don't believe so.  Almost every factor in that election was so different from the issues and conditions in our own election next year that almost no relevant comparisons are possible.

First, the overwhelmingly dominant issue in the British election was Brexit -- the restoration of national independence and full democracy.  There's no equivalent issue in the US.  The US is not subject to the rule of a corrupt, un-democratic, multi-national quasi-state with the ability to interfere constantly in our internal affairs and to override our own laws and policies.  If we were, obviously breaking free from it would be the dominant issue in US politics, but we aren't.

Second, the British election didn't involve any equivalent of the main issue in next year's US election -- the need to remove a grossly-unqualified and dangerously-unstable president who promotes bigotry and division, actively sabotages our relations with other democracies, and appears to be in thrall to a foreign dictator.  Claims of similarities between Trump and Boris Johnson (beyond a trivial physical resemblance) are flat-out absurd.  Johnson is an experienced politician whose record as mayor of London shows him to be a fairly typical moderate conservative, if more charismatic than most.  If anything, he's more comparable to Reagan than Trump, if you have to reach for a US analogy at all.  A better British parallel to Trump would be Nigel Farage who, while he deserves great credit for his long leadership in the fight for Brexit, holds crank views on a number of issues and has little sense of political realism.  But Farage has never come anywhere near being a serious candidate for prime minister.

Britain's main parties also bear little resemblance to their supposed US counterparts.  The British Conservative party recognizes anthropogenic global warming and the need to combat it, accepts the existing system of universal government health coverage, and supports abortion rights.  It was a Conservative government that legalized gay marriage in Britain.  Britain's Conservatives are not dominated by religious extremists as the US Republicans are; Britain has far too few hard-line religionists to form the base of a major party (and those it does have are mostly Muslim).  There are now 24 openly gay or bi Conservative members of Parliament -- can you imagine 24 openly gay Republicans in the House?  There's no equivalent of the fever-swamp reality-denial and ideological extremism that fester in the Republican base here.  Overall, the British Conservatives are probably a little to the left of moderate Democrats like Biden and Obama.  Johnson has actually moved the party toward the center on issues like public spending and the minimum wage.  NRO is decidedly unimpressed.
As for the Labour party, the main controversy surrounding it is the repulsive anti-Semitism pervading its ranks -- and no, both-siderists notwithstanding, the other major British parties do not have the same problem.  Those parties do have occasional individual bigots (as the US Democrats do), while in Labour it's a pervasive and systemic problem (like racism in the US Republican party).  Again, there just isn't a good parallel here between Labour and the US Democrats.

There is one major issue I would say does hold a warning -- mass immigration and the tendency of political elites (of all major parties, not just the left) to react to voters' concerns about it with scolding and name-calling rather than listening to them.  Such condescension inevitably drives voters toward fringe radicals who do listen to them.  This issue is growing in importance all over the developed world, not just the UK and US -- though it carries more weight in Europe, with its much higher population density and long history of relatively homogenous societies.

Britain is a different country with a different culture, different politics, and different dominating issues.  It's always tempting to interpret any major story from a foreign country in terms of your own concerns.  This US militant Catholic site took the British result as a rebuke to abortion, even though that topic hardly came up during the campaigning, and all British parties basically accept abortion rights.  It would be difficult to think of an issue less relevant to the outcome.

There are various arguments that can be made for and against a strong shift to the left by US Democrats, but the British election doesn't have any light to shed on that question.


Blogger WILLIE...! =(^..^)= said...

You are spot on in this Post..
Think the expression is..Hitting the nail on the head..!
Absolutely right in ALL quarters..
I don't vote Tory..(Conservative)..or Labour for that
matter..Always voted Liberal..waste of a vote..Maybe..?
But then, l've always like Boris, a character, a bit
eccentric..tells it like it is..mmmmmM! Bit like me really! :).
HeHe! And Farage..Yes! I like him to..but he has already stood
for parliament on seven separate occasions..and lost..! :(.
I see to~day..Boris has gone through parliament..although not
100% we can say goodbye to Europe..I voted against joining 40+
years ago..Boris will do the job that the British people want!
And..As a Sicilian..l wish him well..Good luck to the man!
🎅 🎄 🎅 🎄 🎅 🎄 🎅 🎄 🎅 🎄 🎅 🎅 🎄 🎅 🎄 🎅 🎄 🎅 🎄

20 December, 2019 06:39  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

The overriding feature of the British election was that the working class turned its collective back on Labour and voted for Boris Johnson. That already happened in the US election that brought Trump to office. The Dem's "blue wall" in the industrial northeast collapsed. It remains to be seen if the working class can figure out where its true interests lie in the next election.

20 December, 2019 07:13  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I have a few British friends on FB and they're been talking about it and are not happy at all.

20 December, 2019 09:51  
Blogger jsrtheta said...

There have been a number of articles of the "Brit Election Is A Shot Across The Bow Of U.S. Dems" variety, and it just doesn't work. It's a procrustean endeavor, especially since the electoral systems of the two countries are highly dissimilar.

This was an election about Brexit, not Boris, and a hugely unpopular Labour Party. We don't have a parliamentary system, and we have no serious analog to Jeremy Corbin.

20 December, 2019 09:58  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Thanx for your explanation here, on how you see the difference in left right over there, comparing it to here in the States. The reason why ... is because I am thoroughly confused as Hell, when I try to look at and understand what is left or right in places like UK, or even Germany and France. I guess because I'm just so American thinking, that I can't understand at first gance when reading what their parties propose or whatever. I mean, like, I hear the term "conservative party" for example ... but I guess I try to compare it with what I see in the American conservative party, if that makes any sense. As you may know, many years back I viewed myself as a conservative (and conservatives, when I was 18 yrs old, were different than what I see today at 63 years old) ... however, I had a very different view of what I feel conservatism should stand for. And even though I viewed myself as conservative at the time, I was alwayz open to LGBT rights, marriage, drug decriminalisation, and several other things that most Americans label as "liberal", and today ... they call it "EXTREME" (um, um, um ... imagine that ... by todayz standards, my grandma would be considered an extreme leftist). Most of the conservatives I've known though, were like several musicians I known that basically were libertarian, so that probably is considered as extreme right today?? ... I mean, they were also liberal on issues like me, but kind of anti- government. Interesting though.

20 December, 2019 10:26  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Over the last several years, I found it easier just to call myself an independent, because I don't know how to label myself when I meet people. I mean, I can't really say I follow a republican or democrat mainstream way of thinking. And if I tell someone I am democrat, based on my social views, they may assume that I just think total straight democrat and follow the party line to the letter. If I meet someone, and tell them I'm conservative, because of where I stand on fiscal responsibility, or maybe gun rights ... THEY may also assume that I believe that Jesus Christ is God, or that I beieve in God, am Christian or whatever ... if that makes sense. It is difficult to communicate when first meeting someone, and identifying with a popular label ... because then, they assume that you are all of that label, eh?

20 December, 2019 10:38  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Willie: Thanks! "Boris, a character, a bit eccentric..tells it like it is" -- sounds very British. I wish him well too.

Debra: The British working class tends toward patriotism -- if memory serves, they largely voted in the referendum three years ago to get out of this German-dominated pan-European authoritarian pseudo-state (the very thing their grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought two world wars to prevent). I doubt most of them have much time for anti-Semitism either. If Labour wants to get their votes back, it'll need to listen to them rather than lecture them. Getting rid of Corbyn would be a start.

Mary: Well, stuff happens, as they say. After our election next November, the Trumpanzees over here aren't going to be happy either.

Jsrtheta: "Procrustean" is exactly the right term for it. And true, we don't have a real analog to Corbyn -- though I'd argue he's somewhat comparable to Trump in certain (not all) ways.

Ranch: It can be hard to figure out because, really, the US is the odd one out in terms of its political spectrum. Imagine if the moderate (Obama, Biden, Clinton) and progressive (Sanders, Warren) factions of the Democrats were two separate parties -- that's the "right" and "left" parties in most other Western democracies. Our Republican party really doesn't have any equivalent in those countries -- it's a far-right religion-dominated party, and in Britain, Germany, France, etc., there's just no constituency for a party like that.

20 December, 2019 17:07  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Makes sense to me ... I myself, almost view those democrats the same way. In other words, we don't even really need the current Republican Party, as is, because the Democratic Party is more balanced and diverse, even though I realize that all Republicans are not just based on religion, but it has been really leaning heavy more and more by the year ... Jezuz F'n Christ ... It's like a shitload of political religious cults growing today ... thought we left that shit years ago ... guess not.

21 December, 2019 06:12  

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