A Harbinger? What Labour can tell the Democrats
Labour did not win the House of Commons in the U.K. last night. So why are they and the international Left celebrating?
Theresa May of the Conservative Party was predicted to win a landslide victory, according to all the polls and all the media insiders when she called for Snap Election three months ago. But it all hinged on her and her Brexit promises. Her party, the Tories, poured their entire political capital into one woman, hoping that she would do wonders to hide the increased austerity measures they were bound to enact with a stronger lock on parliament.
Voters didn’t buy in. Alongside the terrible campaign the Tories ran, Jeremy Corbyn, the embattled leader of the Labour Party defied all the odds stacked against him and won seats across the country, increasing Labour’s share of the overall vote to its highest since the 90’s. This is thanks in no small amount to the youth vote, those under 35 voted in larger margins than the overall turnout for the entire country — a dramatic increase over previous elections. All this occurred to the chagrin of the media which had vilified Corbyn relentlessly as an impractical, dangerous and radical socialist dreamer. The scorn heaped on him was not limited to the media. Within his own party, “Third-Way”, neoliberal, or Tony Blaire-esque centrists were convinced Corbyn’s Leftist populist message and policy manifesto was impossible and potentially disastrous for the party. They attempted to undermine their own leader at every turn.
Well now Corbyn firmly has the Labour party in his hands, and these nay-says might need to start listening to him and the millions of voters who have turned to the Labour party for hope and a new direction for the U.K. Conservatives must now cobble together a Coalition Government, as opposed to lead with the massive majorities they were predicted to win. This is thanks partly to their own hubris, and means that the opposition party will be much stronger, and that Corbyn is now a much more believable and formidable foe to May’s agenda, going into the next election.
All of this does impart lessons to be learned for Democrats on this side of the Atlantic. The era of Tony Blaire and the Clintons is over. The writing is on the wall. Both countries are indeed conservative countries, but they are also very liberal/socialist ones; the center is at least temporarily gone, and if we want it back, we have to form a Left again, because young voters don’t see one anymore. The nay-sayers that constantly informed me that a socialist like Bernie could never win, that Clinton was the safe choice need to start listening to these young people again. We don’t win when we merely must vote against a threat. You must put something on the ballot worth voting for as well. Clinton inspired me, but she did not inspire enough of the electorate. Sanders was an insurgent, with stratospheric approval ratings in most of the States we needed to win, where Clinton had the ratings only in States we were bound to win anyways.
This, of course, doesn’t mean we ought to oust all our current neoliberal dems, but we face an historic mountain to climb to achieve representation for Democrats across the country at each level of Government, this will require a mix-mash of candidates with varying degrees of progressiveness. I don’t expect, for example, a Progressive to win in the Georgia 6th election which is imminent. It’s a wealthy suburb in red Georgia, where Jon Ossoff is running competitively to win an historically Republican seat, but he’s not neglecting progressive politics either. Within a boldly progressive platform are line items each and every Democrat can run on proudly and loudly. Additionally, alongside that basic platform, we also need leaders of the party that are unabashedly populist, pointing fingers where they rightfully belong and where we all know the problems lie: in a financial system that does not have the interests of the majority at heart, which both sides have historically promulgated, in varying degrees, and which we must now universally oppose or demand reforms to. Leaders who believe that while there is room for a big tent party, there’s no room for politicians who do not keep the interests of their own constituents close to their hearts, and who don’t aggressively fight the draconian agenda of the Republicans.
Put hope back on the ballot. Hope is why young people vote. Obama was a president with a virtual mandate both times because he understood this. But a president alone can’t enact hopefully policies, you also need a powerful message and a bold agenda to win when a hopeful President is not on the top of the ballot.