Political parties can die.
Every mainstream political party needs a mass power base of supporters. It’s a simple numbers game. If they don’t have it, they’ll always be minor players. If they had one but lose it, they drop back to being minor players or go extinct. Their support base will migrate to another party, which will then start to become a major player.
For instance, the original Liberal Party in Britain became a minor player and the Whig Party disappeared completely, both to the benefit of an emergent Conservative Party. In America, the Whig Party destroyed itself over the slavery question and its support base went on to create the Republican Party. One of the founders of the party, a certain Abraham Lincoln, was an abolitionist. Contrary to some popular delusions, he was an old style Republican, because amongst a number of reasons that was the party which might end slavery.
What destroys parties is they lose touch completely with their natural power base, resulting in a schism producing a new party which is more closely attuned to the current aspirations of what was historically their supporters. Around the civilised world, that drift of mainstream politics away from support bases is all too apparent. It’s mainly happening to nominally left-wing parties, but the right-wing ones are also suffering from exactly that same malaise, but have some mitigating factors.
However, you might just see a Republican schism in Cleveland this coming July at the party convention, even though it’d almost certainly hand Clinton the presidency by splitting the vote. That one will be decided in the coming months by the GOP establishment and Trump playing chicken for the Republican ticket, and he’s the one with nothing to lose if they decide to play that game, because he might just run as an independent. They managed the Trump phenomenon spectacularly stupidly, and now it’s far too late to stop it without big political damage. They may have to live with the results either way.
An interesting scenario of him being able to win in that independent situation is how well he could damage his main contender Clinton, who despite all the Marxist delusions of Hollywood political innocents like Susan Sarandon, looks almost certain to be the Democrat ticket. There’s a school of opinion that thinks the Clintons are the most corrupt and scandal-prone politicians in the last century of US politics. Certainly, his presidency was plagued with sexual and financial scandals, but he always managed to wiggle out of them relatively intact, but by some accounts she’s not exactly lily-white herself.
Trump has an estimated ten billion dollars of personal wealth, and that buys a lot of investigative legwork as well as paying people handsomely to dish the dirt on the Clintons. Sure, the dirt might fly in either direction, but my feeling is it’d stick to the Clintons a lot more. He’s a bad boy already and wouldn’t have any problem using ammo like that, even if it resulted in the dirtiest presidential campaign ever.
Before you dismiss that scenario out of hand, consider he was written off ten months ago and has since successively out-politicked all of his professional nomination contenders. The mistake the GOP and media made time after time was underestimating him. Don’t do the same. Despite the simplistic catch phrases, the demagogue speeches and the awful comb over, he actually read the mood of the party and more importantly the mood of the country much better than all of them put together.
A colder appreciation of his campaign is that running as an independent was always the end run strategy, because he knew he’d always be outside the GOP establishment but the party cachet would provide the initial slingshot at the presidency, which indeed it has.
On the left hand side of the debate, the same alienation from the support base has occurred, but I think with much more severe consequences. Historically, the leftward parties had the support of the workers or blue-collar lumpenproletariat of the early twentieth century. In the aftermath of the twin whammy of the fall of the Soviet Union and the death of the liberal dream in the eighties, crushed by people like Reagan and Thatcher who’d emerged to popular relief out of the previous decade of political chaos, the left tried to reposition its appeal.
Essentially, no longer having many downtrodden workers to appeal to, they redirected their appeal to vanishing small and seriously disadvantaged demographics within society, in the sure and certain hope that all the previously downtrodden serfs, who’d by now become lower middle class house-owning serfs would rally around the old flag.
To some extent that worked for a while, but what they failed to recognise was it was a transitory phase in the graduation of their power base to a first generation property-owning demographic who saw their upwardly mobile ambitions for their children being threatened by left-wing parties who had embraced the minorities to the exclusion of their own power base.
The perception became, and that’s all that matters in politics, was that they cared more about various tiny minorities than their own bedrock supporters, and that’s why the left did so badly in the wake of the eighties. The first politician to see the left had to be restructured and pointed at a changed power base was Tony Blair of the Labour Party in Britain. He won three back to back elections and is nearly universally reviled by left-wingers despite being their most electorally successful leader ever. As PJ O’Rourke remarked, if Stalin couldn’t please the left, what chance did somebody like Tony Blair have?
He handed the leadership over to a more hard left bozo called Gordon Brown who immediately ran the party into the ground by shifting it to the left and lost the next election. What he and the party had failed to realise was that the workers, having for the first time ever got their foot on the prosperity ladder, were in no mood to put all that in danger’s way by trusting some metropolitan elite professional politicians who thought they knew what was best for them. Their instincts in that respect were quite correct.
In what can only be seen as a completely irrational response to that defeat, the party fielded an even more left-wing leader called Ed Milliband for the next election, and he duly delivered the worst general election result in the entire history of the Labour Party.
In what can only be seen as an even more terminally insane response to that crushing defeat, the party doubled up and even went one further, electing yet another leader called Jeremy Corbyn who is more to the left than Joseph Stalin and stands just about as much chance of being elected.
Running a local protest group would be right on the extreme edge of his performance envelope with anything more challenging leaving him drowning in the shallow end of the pool.
He’s stacked his shadow cabinet with the only people who’re politically stupid enough to accept the poison chalice invitation of serving in it and as one would expect, they’re a curious selection of the hitherto untouchable lepers on the outer fringes of the party.
Hasbeens, neverwozzers, anti-Semites, ex-girlfriends, economic illiterates and the just plain dumb, stupid and incompetent. You name it, they’re in it. After losing the next two general elections, the party will schism or a Blair-like figure will emerge to put Humpty Dumpty together again. Either way, the Party is already in the intensive care unit and UKIP is steadily hoovering up its appalled voter base.
With militant fanatics now in nominal control of what used to be a mainstream serious party and determined to run Stalinist purges of the moderate elements, my money’s on a Labour Party schism but we’ll see.
The recent history of the left in America is slightly different. The similarities to some extent are quite striking, but so are the differences. In Britain, you’re looking at a north south divide in terms of prosperity, with the former being the rusted manufacturing base of the country and the latter the sunrise intangible businesses. In America, it’s what’s between the prosperous coasts that’s died the slow death; once massive manufacturing powerhouses like Detroit have shrunk to ten percent of their population sizes within a decade.
One of the similarities would be working people finally getting to own their homes but that turned out to be illusory, because the way it was done turned out to be devastating in the downturn of the economic cycle.
In Britain, tenants of what was local government housing were offered the opportunity to buy their home at a fraction of its market worth and they piled in big time. The discount was so deep, it didn’t take much effort to service your mortgage even in the economic down cycles.
In America, Bill Clinton relaxed all the bank loaning laws that had been put into place after the bankruptcies of the great depression, in return for the lending institutions handing out mortgages like candy but for fully priced properties to blue-collar workers who ordinarily wouldn’t have passed the credit check.
Once the economy nose dived, the mortgages, artfully wrapped into opaque financial instruments like collateralised debt obligations, couldn’t be serviced by unemployed workers, and that was what was actually behind the stock market crash of 2008. A slowing economy, the resultant unemployment, house repossessions, a deregulated and over-leveraged financial services industry holding suddenly toxic loans nobody could price and behind it all a president who was just engaged in the old pork barrel politics of buying votes.
The same minorities card has been successfully played by the Democrats for the last two elections. On the style front, that would be the LGBT community but the voting power of that demographic doesn’t add up to a hill of beans. What’s really important is playing the race card, which means garnering the votes of the black and Hispanic communities, because they add up to about twenty percent of the population. If you’ve ever wondered why Obama is somehow the most racially divisive president in US history, it’s because with every over-hyped victimhood soundbite, he’s cementing that particular demographic to the Democrat Party.
Having a black man as president has reinforced that cynical and exploitive appeal but I believe the penny has started to drop with those voting demographics. Despite two Obama administrations, the net worth of the American middle class has continued to go backwards, so you can guess how well those whites, blacks and Hispanics lower down the economic pecking order have fared. The Democrats insist on casting them in some beleaguered persecuted minority role when all they want are jobs and a future for their families. It’s the economy, stupid, not some deliberately exacerbated and internecine race war.
If you really want to see a graphic example of the patrician attitude of the political elite to black people, listen to a Chicago born Hilary Clinton doing her best attempt at a southern negro impression to rapturous applause in Selma, Alabama from the party faithful. I’m sure it’s seen as très amusant around the private dining tables of Washington DC, but if you don’t have a strong stomach, best not to click it, and if you’re black, you’ll probably have to restrain yourself from smashing the screen.
The process of traditional supporters of a party disconnecting from it is more advanced in Europe, and I see the same thing happening in America, but there is one vital difference. In laissez-faire Europe it’s harder for extreme parties to grow but that’s happening to some extent with significant advances in national elections over migrant issues. In the main what’s actually occurring is the more dotty the left becomes, people are by default having to vote for right-wing parties which they don’t hold in any particular high regard, but it’s the only rational choice left in town. It’s either go full on neo-Nazi or resign yourself to voting for the moderate right.
In America, after eight years of a basically stagnant economy, a disastrous foreign policy that’s reduced the USA to a laughing stock around the world and no sign of improvement in sight, it’d be time to let the Republicans in again, even though they’re indistinguishable from the Democrats – they’re all perceived as Washington beltway high-end glitterati trash anyway.
However, the difference is there is a third choice on offer; the dreaded Trump. He’s nominally running as a Republican, and the party grandees of course hate him, but he’s attracting that disaffected power base from both sides of the political spectrum, though nobody wants to admit that fact.
What’s interesting is there was nearly an equivalent to trump in the Democratic primaries – Bernie Sanders – and for the same reasons outlined above. In years gone by, any candidate announcing themselves to be a socialist in the primaries would have been the kiss of death. In conservative America, it would have been equivalent to admitting you’re a Communist.
He took an unexpectedly big bite out of the party’s anointed presidential runner Clinton, but his misjudgment was he was afraid to be as outspoken as Trump. He could have backed the Democratic party into exactly the same dilemma Trump has done with the Republican one, but I don’t think he ever saw that. You can be virtuous or you can be politically astute and Trump, unlike Sanders, knows that.
Sanders had a deeper problem though. Yes, he was a protest by the party faithful, but they knew all of his policies revolved around raising taxes which they knew meant they’d be taking home less in their pay packet. The chic left love him because they can afford him and his policies but the working schmucks can’t.
Trump on the other hand is saying America was always essentially a business, and lately we’ve had nothing but smug and greedy idiots in the board room running it for their own benefit. I’m a successful businessman, vote for me, put me in charge and by God I’ll get us back to what we’ve always done well – building prosperity and making lots of money.
No ifs, no buts, no conditions, no caveats, no equivocation – and that’s his appeal.
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