Saturday, December 14, 2019

Four More Years?

Does the recent election in the UK foreshadow the 2020 Election in America?

The results are in, and Boris Johnson's Conservative party not only won, but apparently by a landslide.   Sadly, the parallels between Johnson and Trump are too many to count - and they go beyond badly dyed blond hair in ridiculous comb-over haircuts.

What was interesting to me, was this commentary from an MSN news site:
The danger for Labour is that if the party is boiled down to a socialist nub, it will stay under the control of its core hard-left membership - the very people who are least able to persuade moderate voters to go along with them. Those members are oddly comfortable protesting, marching, and complaining, as long as their socialism remains pure. Making the compromises necessary to persuade others - and enter government - is outside their comfort zone.
This sounds frighteningly like an analysis of the Democratic Party today, with its legions of election sore-losers and chanting protests (replete with costumes).   It seems that the Left in the United States, is utterly unwilling to compromise even with its fellow leftists.   The "Gang of Four" recently made headlines not by offering new solutions to our nation's problems, but by voting against things like endorsement of a two-state solution, or a drug-pricing bill - things the Left otherwise would support, because they didn't go far enough to the left.

The protest strategy might garner a few headlines, and it may "raise awareness" of issues (whatever that means) but it has no real lasting effect - to an administration that does whatever it wants to, and ignores protests.   Having power is what matters, not "raising awareness".    The 16-year-old protester Greta Thunburg has catamaraned back to Europe after a world tour (who orchestrated that?   She is not operating alone, but appears to have quite an organization behind her -  just saying).   Did her "raising awareness" of climate change really change anything, particularly in America?

Of course, the First Bully - the worlds biggest cyber-bully - mocks her on Twitter, while his wife exhorts children to "Be Best" (whatever that means, sounds like broken English) in an attempt to stop cyber-bullying.  The irony is lost on the President, of course.   But anti-bullying campaigns are not what he hired her for.

But I digress, but not too far.  These protest movements are fine and all, but winning elections is what will actually change policy.  Unless you can get enough people to protest to the point of overthrowing the government, not much will change (and if you could get that many people to protest, then you surely could get elected to office with a lot less hassle!).   The protests in the United States are not large enough or speak to a large enough audience to be influential.   Protesting simply isn't effective.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have taken a more strategic approach.  First, they decided that winning elections was essential, and managed to do so, often with the cooperation of the Left.  By staking out such radical leftist positions, the GOP has used the "gang of four" as a bogeyman representing the socialist nightmare that would surely be enacted, unless you vote Republican!  Sadly, the "gang of four" seems more than willing to be complicit in this GOP scheme - making one radical proposal or statement after another, and scaring ordinary citizens to move rightward.

The GOP has also been very successful in using incremental changes to get things done.   I am sure there were legislators who voted against restrictions on abortion rights, on the grounds "they don't go far enough!"    But what they came to realize is that a small change here, a little change there, and incrementally, you can effectively outlaw abortion in many States - or at least restrict it considerably - which to them is better than doing nothing at all.

"Perfection is the enemy of the adequate" a quotation attributed to Voltaire, as well as others.   In seeking perfection, you often fail miserably, and end up not even with adequate.

"Politics is the art of the possible" a quote attributed to Otto von Bismark (unfortunately).  But it illustrates a fundamental principle - that you can't get very far with "my way or the highway" - eventually you have to compromise with others, in order to get things done.

Of course, a Parliamentary Democracy isn't the same as our Republic.   The vote in the UK wasn't for President, but for the House of Commons, who in turns nominates a Prime Minister.   What is interesting about the UK election is that a lot of moderate conservatives were elected, and Johnson, who has moderate tendencies (supposedly) might not need to cater to the far-right wing of his own party.   What is also interesting is that the Brexit party didn't receive a single seat.   That one-issue party is essentially dead.   It also looks like Scottish independence will once again be on the menu going forward.

So the parallels with the US election don't necessarily align.   Of course, what could happen in 2020 is that the Democrats keep control of the House (and maybe gain a few seats) while denying the Republicans a super-majority in the Senate.  While this may seem like a less-than-ideal outcome for the GOP, when they controlled both houses of Congress, they managed not to get much done on their agenda.  With a Democratically controlled House, the GOP has a whipping-boy to blame for whatever goes wrong in the Trump administration.  If anything goes right, of course, they will deny any credit to the Democrats.

A lot of commentators have decried the religious right for endorsing Trump - a man whose religious convictions don't seem very deep, and whose moral compass is non-existent. But I think, pragmatically, what the religious right realizes is that despite the odiousness of Trump, his appointment of Supreme Court justices and Federal Court judges is something that will have lasting effects for decades to come.  They are willing to swallow their bile and vote for Trump, not because of his tweets and twitters, but because of real policies being enacted.

And a lot of other conservatives are seeing the same light - they are willing to endure Trump's excesses, because they are getting something out of the deal, often quite literally.