After Hillary Clinton’s Defeat, The Battle For The Democratic Party’s Soul Begins

george-soros

Wealthy Liberal donors to the Democratic Party are debating whether to double down on their identity politics and victimhood culture-based strategy or to attempt meaningful outreach to the white working classes whom they so conspicuously cut adrift in 2016

And so the post-election autopsy begins, as analysts slice open the carcass of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign and methodically pick through the vital organs to determine what possible failure allowed a well-funded presidential campaign that has effectively been running for over a decade to go down in flaming defeat at the hands of Donald Trump.

Politico reports that the hilariously named Democracy Alliance (a group of mega-rich Democratic Party donors using their wealth to tilt the scales of genuine democracy every bit as much as the “evil” Koch brothers) is holding an emergency meeting at the Washington DC Mandarin Oriental hotel to thrash out the issues:

George Soros and other rich liberals who spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect Hillary Clinton are gathering in Washington for a three-day, closed door meeting to retool the big-money left to fight back against Donald Trump.

The conference, which kicked off Sunday night at Washington’s pricey Mandarin Oriental hotel, is sponsored by the influential Democracy Alliance donor club, and will include appearances by leaders of most leading unions and liberal groups, as well as darlings of the left such as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Keith Ellison, according to an agenda and other documents obtained by POLITICO.

The meeting is the first major gathering of the institutional left since Trump’s shocking victory over Hillary Clinton in last week’s presidential election, and, if the agenda is any indication, liberals plan full-on trench warfare against Trump from Day One. Some sessions deal with gearing up for 2017 and 2018 elections, while others focus on thwarting President-elect Trump’s 100-day plan, which the agenda calls “a terrifying assault on President Obama’s achievements — and our progressive vision for an equitable and just nation.”

However, there are now murmurings of discontent among some of the Democrats present, who claim that persisting with the same tired, clapped out old ideas and electoral strategies will not reverse their sliding fortunes:

Yet the meeting also comes as many liberals are reassessing their approach to politics — and the role of the Democracy Alliance, or DA, as the club is known in Democratic finance circles. The DA, its donors and beneficiary groups over the last decade have had a major hand in shaping the institutions of the left, including by orienting some of its key organizations around Clinton, and by basing their strategy around the idea that minorities and women constituted a so-called “rising American electorate” that could tip elections to Democrats.

That didn’t happen in the presidential election, where Trump won largely on the strength of his support from working-class whites. Additionally, exit polls suggested that issues like fighting climate change and the role of money in politics — which the DA’s beneficiary groups have used to try to turn out voters — didn’t resonate as much with the voters who carried Trump to victory.

“The DA itself should be called into question,” said one Democratic strategist who has been active in the group and is attending the meeting. “You can make a very good case it’s nothing more than a social club for a handful wealthy white donors and labor union officials to drink wine and read memos, as the Democratic Party burns down around them.”

This blog (and many others) have already written extensively that the cynical decision by the Democrats and the American Left in general to wage a relentless identity politics war against the Right is not only misguided, but actively polarising the country, as continued efforts to label working class white people as privileged “oppressors” will only further encourage them to form into a cohesive identity group of their own – the very one which elected Donald Trump as the next president.

Obsessing endlessly about the politics of race, gender and sexuality at a time when many Americans are either suffering economically or teetering on the brink of real economic insecurity is a privilege only available to the type of people who meet at the Mandarin Oriental to naively ask one another how anybody could possibly not have wanted Hillary Clinton to be the next president. To anybody else, the narrow interests and shrill, hectoring tone of the Democratic Party are an irrelevance at best and a source of supreme annoyance and alienation at worst.

People living in towns decimated by the loss of skilled manufacturing don’t want to be told that it is actually a good thing that their air pollution-causing factory closed down and took their job with it, or that they are borderline racists and bigots for not immediately adopting the latest social justice buzzwords spewing out of the university system. Yet the Democrats had little of value to say to the white working classes, the candidate herself clearly much more at home among the Wall Street and progressive celebrity class, spending the night before the election partying with the likes of Beyoncé rather than showing any empathy for struggling voters in the so-called rust belt.

Unfortunately, other delegates seem so wedded to the present profile of the Democratic Party that they believe that change is neither necessary nor desirable.

The Politico report continues:

“We should not learn the wrong lesson from this election,” said the operative, pointing out that Clinton is on track to win the popular vote and that Trump got fewer votes than the last GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. “We need our people to vote in greater numbers. For that to happen, we need candidates who inspire them to go to the polls on Election Day.”

In other words – keep pursuing the SJW vote, even though many of these people have proven that the limit of their political activism is sharing a smug little meme on social media rather than taking the trouble to actually walk to their local polling place and participate in democracy.

This is abysmal advice, not only because it places the future hopes of the Democrats on the shoulders of people who have never once come through for the party, while many of those young people who were politically engaged are probably still smarting from the party’s frantic efforts to thwart Bernie Sanders and allow the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the eventual presidential candidate. That’s one very valid reason, but the other reason is that no party should actively seek to write off the votes of such a large constituency as the white working class. Even if the Democrats could win without the core of America, what does it say about the party that they don’t even bother with meaningful outreach?

Of course, one could level exactly the same criticism at the Republican Party, who for too long have been more than happy to cede the black and growing Hispanic vote largely to the Democrats rather than highlighting the many ways that conservative policy actually often meshes far more closely with some of their concerns (e.g. the Hispanic focus on the family). Indeed, the 2012 Growth & Opportunity Project report outlined a path toward better engagement with these communities and might have started to pay dividends in 2016 had the party not decided to tear it up and focus on complete obstructionism toward Barack Obama instead.

But while it is undeniable that the Republican Party has serious issues of its own – not only relating to minority outreach, but also a more fundamental question of how much to accommodate or push back against president-elect Trump’s authoritarian, big government instincts – it is the Democrats who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and who twice in two decades managed to lose a presidential election despite winning the national popular vote. The onus is on the Democrats first and foremost to work out what they stand for in 2016.

More encouraging than the billionaire talking shop underway at the Mandarin Oriental – a sign of just how disconnected the modern Democratic Party has become from its former roots – is defeated primary candidate Bernie Sanders’ efforts to wrest control of the party away from the dull, visionless centrists who have nothing to offer once you strip away the thin veneer of jealous identity politics.

In another Politico piece entitled “Bernie’s Empire Strikes Back“, we learn:

Supporters of Bernie Sanders’ failed presidential bid are seizing on Democratic disarray at the national level to launch a wave of challenges to Democratic Party leaders in the states.

The goal is to replace party officials in states where Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton during the acrimonious Democratic primary with more progressive leadership. But the challenges also represent a reckoning for state party leaders who, in many cases, tacitly supported Clinton’s bid.

“I think the Bernie people feel very strongly that they were abused, somehow neglected during the primary process and the conventions,” said Severin Beliveau, a former Maine Democratic Party chairman who supported Sanders in the primary. “In Maine, for instance, where Bernie got 70 percent of the caucus vote, they are emboldened and in effect want to try to replace [Maine Democratic Party chairman] Phil Bartlett, who supported Clinton.”

[..] The movement outside Washington to install new leadership — especially new leaders whose progressive credentials include support for Sanders’ presidential bid — mirrors the battle in the nation’s capital for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship in the wake of the devastating Clinton defeat and congressional elections where Democrats failed to win back either the House or the Senate. Sanders has endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison, leading House progressive and a prominent backer of his presidential campaign, to be the next permanent DNC chairman.

While this blog disagrees with Bernie Sanders on nearly everything, Hillary Clinton’s defeated primary opponent does at least correctly identify many of modern America’s ailments and propose more authentically (if flawed) left-wing solutions to them. And one can plausibly argue that Sanders has a greater ability to reach out to unionised or working class America than Clinton displayed (though one can only wistfully imagine how much better Joe Biden would have been in this role).

Better still, Bernie Sanders seemed to have comparatively little time for peddling in divisive identity politics. Rather than seeking to fracture America into a thousand competing victimhood groups, each one jealously guarding its own unique set of grievances against the common oppressor, Sanders has consistently more interested in the wealth divisions in society. And while playing rich and poor off against one another in quite such an overt way as the openly socialist Sanders comes with its own set of problems, on balance it is probably much less harmful to the fabric of America than seeking to divide and stoke up fear based on race, gender or sexuality.

Indeed, the fact that Bernie Sanders frequently found himself on the wrong side of Black Lives Matter and the gun control lobby only proves his resonance with the great core of working class America rather than the ultra-progressives. If only Sanders didn’t hug the S-word (socialism) quite so tightly in a country where people are (rightly, in this blog’s view) raised to be automatically suspicious of it, he might have prevailed over Clinton in the primary and taken the fight to Donald Trump on a number of very different fronts.

In short, as during the primary season, none of the options facing the Democratic Party are greatly appealing. Having taken conspicuously little interest in white working class concerns throughout the 2016 presidential election cycle, any efforts to restart outreach will be met with scepticism at first, and take time to pay dividends.

But for their own sake, the Democrats must persist. The alternative – doubling down on their toxic identity politics strategy and continuing to carve America up into competing victim groups and seeking to make them all fear the Evil Republicans – will only inspire an equal and opposite reaction among America’s largest minority group, the white working class.

In 2016, this strategy brought us president-elect Donald Trump. Do the Democrats really want to roll the dice and bet that the same inputs will deliver a better outcome in 2020?

 

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Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton: A Nauseating Choice But An Easy Decision

Faced with a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, nobody will come away from this American presidential election looking very good. But there is still a right choice, and a wrong one

Faced with the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I’m with her.

I do so with zero enthusiasm – certainly far less than Andrew Sullivan, once the most vocal of Clinton’s enemies, now seems to be displaying:

Some readers think I’ve been too negative, even cynical, tonight. Believe me, I am utterly uncynical about this election. I’m worried sick. We need to put behind us any lingering beefs, any grudges, any memories from the past – and you know how I feel about the Clintons’ past – in order to save liberal democracy. The only thing between him and us is her. So – against all my previous emphatic denials – I’m with her now. As passionately as I ever was with Obama. For his legacy is at stake as well.

I support Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump not in the expectation that a second Clinton family presidency will do anything to make America significantly better – she is nothing if not a continuity candidate, the living embodiment of a third (and quite possibly fourth) Obama term. I find myself supporting Clinton because the anti-establishment wave which helped deliver Brexit and the hope of return to self-government for Britain promises no equally great benefits for America so long as it is led by a charlatan like Trump.

However tawdry and oversimplified the mainstream Brexit campaign may have been, the dream of freeing Britain from a suffocating, steadily tightening political union with Europe was and remains a noble and vital goal. Trump’s goal for his own country consists of Making America Great Again (MAGA), which he plans to accomplish by building a massive wall and sending the bill to a country who will refuse to pay it, and by defeating the Islamic State and ending the scourge of Islamist terror attacks “very quickly” with a few harsh words from the Oval Office and no American boots on the ground.

Of course the United States has constitutional firewalls and checks & balances to prevent excessive overreach by the executive branch, but the man is just appalling – a shallow, vindictive egotist with almost zero attention span (as proved by his reputed offer to give John Kasich complete control of foreign and domestic policy, and nearly every speech he has ever given).

Many of Trump’s apologists in the Republican Party have been reduced to saying “oh, it’s just a persona” as if that somehow makes it better. Either he means what he says when he promises authoritarian, big government solutions or his populism is just a lie and he is going to massively let down his voters in office, creating an even more wild backlash which nobody will be able to control. Neither option bodes well for sensible conservative government.

And so while a Hillary Clinton presidency will be technocratic, soul-sappingly un-ideological, politically calculating and almost certainly stymied by furious GOP obstructionism, at least it buys time for the Republicans to wake up and try to engage with the public anger against the political elites in a more constructive way.

The Republicans have tried riding the Tea Party tiger, and were consumed by it. Now they have hitched their fortunes to Donald Trump, who will (barring further Islamist attacks or police shootings) lead them to defeat with dishonour. It is difficult to imagine a rock bottom lower than being led to defeat against Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump. Hopefully this is that rock bottom, and the party of Abraham Lincoln will rise from the ashes of defeat in 2016 chastened and renewed.

But even if none of this comes to pass, even if the GOP learns absolutely nothing and goes on to nominate Herman Cain or Sarah Palin in 2020, at least we have bought four more years of relative stability. If you take Donald Trump at his word, he is a dangerous demagogue. If you belong to the school of thought which says that it is all an act, then he is perpetrating a fraud on those millions of his supporters who take his public utterances seriously. Neither option is good. This is not somebody fit for the presidency.

Many of the scandals hanging over Hillary Clinton have substance, and she undoubtedly has been dishonest in her handling of the email scandal – she was wrong to conduct sensitive government business over a bootleg server installed in her home, and she was most definitely wrong to be so evasive and even downright false in her subsequent explanations of her behaviour. In any other circumstance – and I mean any other circumstance – this alone would disqualify Clinton from the presidency.

But these are extenuating circumstances. I’m sorry Trump supporters, but I have searched and searched and I cannot see in Donald Trump the principled, fearless happy warrior fighting the elite on behalf of ordinary Americans which you see. I see a shrewd, calculating and undeniably effective demagogue, one who understands better than any other recent insurgent politician how to command public attention, and who was aided in this tawdry work by a debased American media class whose great crime in giving undeserved oxygen to the Trump campaign in the hunt for ratings surpasses even their craven and servile attitude toward the Bush administration in the years after 9/11.

And in these exceptional times, the only responsible thing to do is to pick the lesser of two evils. Hillary Clinton continues the dubious tradition of American presidential dynasties. She has a perpetual cloud of scandal hanging over her head which cannot all be dismissed as the fact-free imaginings of Newt Gingrich. And she is a political weathervane with seemingly no fixed political convictions or guiding ideology. But even for all of these flaws, at least she is not Donald J Trump.

However, this blog is concerned that the current Hollywood celebrity love-fest taking place at the DNC convention in Philadelphia, while buoying the spirits of Hillary fans (and disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters) is actually feeding the Trump campaign’s effective – and partially true – message that the American cultural elite is bullying ordinary people into feeling ashamed of their often perfectly legitimate political concerns.

And never more so than on the topic of immigration, where whatever racism and xenophobia exists at the fringe of the Republican Party is more than cancelled out by the gleeful subversion of law and language encouraged by many mainstream Democrats, with their embrace of the exculpatory term “undocumented immigrants” and repeated, tawdry attempts to ennoble the idea of living in America illegally.

As Jeremy Carl fumes in the National Review:

Witness what we have just seen: One candidate for president has been the first-ever candidate for president endorsed by the union of Border Patrol agents. The other candidate proudly features, on the first night of her convention, illegal aliens up on the main stage, while Democrats nationwide cheer.

If you wanted to understand the hold that Donald Trump has on a large swathe of conservatives and even fed-up Democrats and independents, the Democratic convention is pretty much a living explanation.

At this point, we’ve become so accustomed to the Democrats’ immigration lawlessness that too many of us accept it. We think there is simply nothing strange about one of our two political parties happily parading lawbreakers in a forum where they are celebrated for their law-breaking.

As a future American citizen (proudly married to a Texan, with the ultimate intention of living back in the United States) who will one day gratefully join the back of the line and emigrate the lawful way, nothing enrages me more than this holding-hands-underneath-a-rainbow celebration of people who either snuck into America illegally or otherwise outstayed their visas. But the Clinton campaign’s emotion-based, identity politics-ridden position on “undocumenteds” (whoops, where did their documents go? Never mind, no point being a stickler for the rules) should not just be offensive to current and future legal immigrants who played by the rules. It should be offensive to every single person who places value in the rule of law.

And still Clinton is better than Trump. Some of Trump’s ideas on immigration – such as defunding “sanctuary cities” which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration rules and officials, and ending the anachronism of birthright citizenship – are entirely sensible. But the sanctions with which Trump intends to threaten Mexico in order to coerce payment for building his wall would greatly hamper cross border trade and actually put people out of work, as would many of his other protectionist policies.

Donald Trump has the greatest potential to harm America in the sphere of foreign policy. When it comes to domestic matters, the ability of the executive branch to take drastic or radical action is fairly well constraint by the checks and balances built into the American system of government. But in managing America’s relationship with other countries, President Donald Trump would have wide-ranging abilities to antagonise or alienate other countries in a way which the Constitution is not designed to constrain. Now, some of those countries may well deserve a tongue-lashing from Donald Trump – that is a large part of his appeal, the ability to come out strongly against the indefensible. But if Donald Trump has a coherent foreign policy, it is a closely guarded secret. There is certainly no mention on his campaign website. Therefore, there is no guarantee that Trump will antagonise only those countries which America can afford to alienate.

One may disagree with many of Hillary Clinton’s decisions while serving as Secretary of State, but at least she knows her way around foreign policy and will not need to keep Wikipedia to hand as she takes congratulatory calls from world leaders if she wins the election. That matters. Leadership matters, even if the direction of that leadership is sometimes less than optimal. While the American presidency always involves on-the-job training with incredibly high stakes, to bestow that office on somebody with no record of or interest in public service prior to this point would be reckless in the extreme.

Yet Hillary Clinton can easily lose this election. More to the point, her supporters can lose this election for her with their sanctimonious moral grandstanding, finger-wagging lectures to Middle America and constant diminution of the issues and concerns which motivate Trump supporters. In Britain we have already seen how endless celebrity interventions accusing Brexit supporters of racism and evil intent quite rightly provoked a backlash against the bien-pensant clerisy who haughtily preached that Britain is no good and that we could not survive without the EU’s antidemocratic supranational government. Piling up the celebrity endorsements could end up harming Hillary Clinton more than helping her.

And so the need now comes hardest upon the Clinton campaign manager, Robby Mook, to be a skilled and fearless strategist. Trump will not be beaten easily. The gaffes and missteps which harm normal political candidates only further cement his popularity among his most ardent supporters. And Hillary Clinton is a famously weak political candidate, less effective on the campaign trail than she is when in office.

This blog takes absolutely no delight in making its choice for the 2016 presidential race. I would have leapt at the chance to support a smart, sane conservative alternative to Democratic Party occupancy of the White House. But eight years of hysterical, hyperbolic opposition to Barack Obama effectively put rocket boosters on the GOP’s crazy wing, and now there is no smart, sane conservative left to support. In fact, there is no small-c conservative running in this presidential race at all.

That failure is not the fault of Barack Obama. He did not spike the juice of every Republican politician with crazy powder over the past seven years. This is an entirely self-inflicted wound struck by obstructionist conservative politicians who chose to make American politics this angry and volatile, aided by the conservative-industrial complex of media and punditry who cynically portrayed what has been a frustratingly uneven economic recovery and an overly timid and contradictory foreign policy as an unprecedented American decline brought about by Kenyan socialism.

In short, it is the fault of the political-media class, and the opportunistic Republican Party in particular, that Donald Trump was able to take over the GOP so easily. It is their fault that the only semi-responsible choice on the ballot paper will be for Hillary Clinton’s predictable, uninspiring centre-leftism.

And it is their fault that this blog is left with no choice but to follow my conscience and support Hillary Rodham Clinton for president – very much the lesser of two evils.

 

Hillary Clinton - Tim Kaine

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Bernie Sanders Is Right To Seek To Ban Private Prisons

Bernie Sanders - Abolish Private Prisons

Free market and small government arguments are immaterial: privately run jails and prisons are morally repugnant and should be banned

As yet more evidence that the world is rapidly going insane, I find myself in agreement with Bernie Sanders on a matter of domestic policy.

The Washington Post reports:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will unveil a plan Thursday to ban privately run jails and prisons, which he says have a “perverse incentive” to increase the number of incarcerated people in the country.

Under the proposal by the Democratic presidential hopeful, the federal government would have three years to end its practice of using private companies to keep people behind bars. The ban would also apply to state and local governments, which have increasingly turned to private contractors in a bid to save money.

“It runs counter to the best interests of our country,” Sanders said in an interview Wednesday. “You should not be making a profit off of putting people in prison.”

Sanders’s “Justice Is Not For Sale Act,” which he plans to introduce as legislation in Congress, also includes several provisions intended to dramatically reduce the number of immigrants who are held in detention facilities while awaiting court hearings on their legal status.

Good. This blog is all for privatisation of state-owned industries and competitive free markets, but there is a limit to how far small government absolutism should go.

The most sacred and fundamental powers of any democratic government are the power to wage war and the power to imprison (or in America’s case, even execute) a citizen found guilty of committing a crime. Both matters are far too serious to be left to the private sector, especially for so tawdry a reason as cost reduction.

Just as Western democracies now rely on volunteer armies for defence and (generally – again, with some regrettable exceptions) eschew using paid mercenaries to do their dirty work, so the state, at whatever level of government is best applicable, should be directly responsible for the welfare and rehabilitation of offenders. Contracting the job out to private firms, ostensibly in order to save taxpayer money, is wrong and often counterproductive, producing the kind of perverse incentives correctly identified by Bernie Sanders. Besides which, the idea of private companies incarcerating citizens under government contract is morally repugnant, whether it is done in Britain, America or elsewhere.

There are plenty of things ripe for privatisation in America, including Amtrak (a giant taxpayer subsidy for wealthy elites living in the Acela corridor) and the United States Postal Service. In this day and age, there is less and less argument for the government having an active hand in transporting people, goods or items of correspondence. So by all means, let’s privatise what government has no business doing in the first place.

But when it comes to the most essential functions of government, some things ought never to have been handed over to the private sector in the first place. And the awesome power and responsibility which comes with incarcerating one’s fellow citizens is a case in point.

 

Corrections Corporation of America

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Federalism Is Not A Dirty Word Simply Because It Is Associated With The EU

Towards a Federal Europe

If political and social cohesion is fraying even in the United States, where citizens share a strong common American bond, what chance is there for successful European government?

In her latest Telegraph column, Janet Daley makes an interesting comparison between the prospects of European federal union and those of the United States (currently experiencing its own political turmoil with Donald Trump’s successful insurgency on the Right and a nearly-successful  insurgency on the Left in the form of Bernie Sanders).

Daley writes:

That ideal of the European continent as a unified entity, presenting an alternative presence in the world to the overweening superpower across the Atlantic was once the whole point – wasn’t it?

[..] But, as I say, nobody who favours remaining in the EU is talking up that idea these days. In fact, it’s the other guys – the ones who want to leave – who are most inclined to remind us of it, to the clear embarrassment of the Remainers. Could this be because the political model itself – the American success story of a federation of states joined together under a central government – seems to be going badly wrong? The nation that appeared to have found the ultimate solution to conjoining separate states, each with its own semi-autonomous authority, under one set of national governing institutions is now apparently facing an electoral choice between the demagogic and the disreputable.

I get what Daley is trying to do here, but she makes a leap too far in suggesting that the nature of federal government itself is responsible for American political woes. The federal model has served the United States well for nearly 250 years; today’s problems are indeed mirrored in Europe and America, but they are not the result of federalism, tempting as it might be to discredit federalism in order to prevent its unwelcome imposition on the countries of Europe.

On the contrary, the current political disillusionment and the rise of the insurgent outsider candidates is largely the inevitable consequence of corporatism, an unhealthy perversion of capitalism in which unaccountable and undistinguishable elites from all major parties leech off the state to unfairly consolidate their hold on power, which is common among many Western governments. And tellingly, Daley provides no evidence to back up her assertion that federalism is to blame for this.

Daley then goes on to discredit her argument further with this highly inaccurate portrayal of conservatism in America:

Most disturbingly, the US seems to be prey to the same excesses which are so worrying n the European scene. American federal elections both at the presidential and the congressional level, used to be predictably, boringly moderate. For generations, both the major parties (and there were no others worth considering) could have fit within what was, in European terms, a narrow spectrum of political possibility: roughly the middle ground of the British Conservative party. Capitalism under reasonable controls and a strong defence of individual liberty were the basic tenets of a consensus which underpinned every plausible candidacy, allowing only for differences of emphasis and intonation.

This is wrong on several counts. Firstly, it is a wholly wrong to suggest that the entire spectrum of American political thought would miraculously fit within the British Tory party. To make this claim is to overlook the numerous areas of social policy (gay rights, abortion and religion in public life are just the first which spring to mind) where the British Conservative Party has more or less completely moved on and abandoned its past conservative stances, while the Republican Party continues to exploit the culture wars as a vote-winning wedge issue.

It is also to overlook the fact that in terms of economic policy, the Tories are often comfortably to the left of even the US Democratic Party in terms of their tolerance for state involvement in political life, the scope and depth of the welfare state and – how can one forget – the British worship of nationalised healthcare. True, there are isolated Democrats who openly support a “public option”, but almost nobody in American political life thinks that the NHS is a great model to emulate, or would be caught dead suggesting its adoption by the United States.

In almost every way, the British political spectrum sits (at least) a few points to the left of America’s, with our dreary post-war collectivism standing in marked contrast to the individualism of the United States. To suggest that both Republicans and Democrats would find a comfortable home within the Conservative Party is simply false – even the most Thatcherite of Tory MPs would be laughed out of the GOP as a ludicrous socialist.

Secondly, while recoiling in horror from Trump (admittedly a demagogue) and Bernie Sanders (who this blog admires for bringing genuinely left wing conviction to the debate, if only so that it can be exposed as flawed) Daley seems almost approving when she writes of “predictably, boringly moderate” government which allowed only for slight “differences of emphasis and intonation”. But this is exactly the problem – it is when the major political parties begin to look and sound indistinguishable from one another that a void opens which is often filled by glib and unsavoury types like Trump. In many ways, Britain has been fortunate in this regard – going into the 2015 general election, Labour and the Conservatives could hardly have been more depressingly alike, and yet the worst we have to show for it is a diminished UKIP and Jeremy Corbyn.

Daley appears to be defending consensus politics and railing against demagoguery at the same time, while failing to understand that an excess of the former all but guarantees the latter. Her column also forms part of an unwelcome trend of unnecessarily problematising issues around the EU referendum. Both sides are guilty – mostly desperate Remainers, who in their desperation to win are prone to suggesting that the smallest of bureaucratic or diplomatic hurdles to Brexit is an immovable showstopper, but also many on the Leave side who are apt to grasp at any problem with the EU or any world event and seek to fashion it into a weapon to be fired at Brussels.

In this case, holding Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders up as evidence suggesting that the American federal model itself is broken may help to land a solitary punch on the European Union this once, because the EU’s inexorable direction of travel is toward federal union. But by slandering an entire mode of governance in this way, we limit ourselves when it comes time to think about how we may wish to be governed if and when we leave the European Union. Some – including this blog – actually believe that moving towards a federal United Kingdom following a constitutional convention to be held after Brexit would be a great outcome.

So a plea to everyone on both sides (but in reality, only to those on the Brexit side – for we know that the Remain camp will tell any lie and stoke any fear in their desperation to win): there are sufficient real problems with the European Union as it is now and is soon likely to become without attacking every single word or concept associated with Brussels. So let’s debate where we can win – not getting into a mud slinging contest with trumped up economic figures, and not disparaging every single thing associated with the European Union, but by focusing on democracy and sovereignty, and building a positive vision of how Brexit can be the first step in Britain’s re-emergence as a global player.

The Brexit side is already accused of being alarmist. Let’s not live up to the hype by slandering federalism – a mode of government which has worked exceedingly well for many countries, including the most powerful and prosperous on Earth – in our desperation to slander everything which is also connected with the European project.

 

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Republicans Are In No Position To Mock The Democratic Party Primary Debates

In his Morning Briefing email today, the National Review’s Jim Geraghty disparaged last night’s latest Democratic Party primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders with these words:

‘Yeah, There Was Another Democratic Debate.’ (Stifles Yawn)

Thursday night’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn basically amounted to Bernie Sanders’s repeating all of his familiar attacks against Hillary and her insisting they’re baseless; and her charging that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, at which point he would counter-charge, “THE GREED AND THE RECKLESSNESS AND ILLEGAL BEHAVIOR OF WALL STREET BROUGHT THIS COUNTRY INTO THE WORST ECONOMIC DOWNTURN” — sorry for the all caps, it’s the only way to accurately capture the volume of Sanders’ high dudgeon voice — “SINCE THE GREAT RECESSSION OF THE THIRTIES, WHEN MILLIONS OF PEOPLE LOST THEIR JOBS AND THEIR HOMES AND THEIR LIFE SAVINGS, YOU’VE GOT A BUNCH OF FRAUDULENT OPERATORS AND THEY’VE GOT TO BE BROKEN UP!”

Below are a couple of highlights, to the extent there were any:

Clinton, last night, defending her judgment: “President Obama trusted my judgment enough to ask me to be secretary of State for the United States.”

Yeah, that line may work really well in a Democratic primary, but you can apply the same “hey, if Obama picked me, I must know what I’m doing” argument to former HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius, VA secretary Eric Shinseki, short-lived Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, all of those wealthy donor ambassadors who knew nothing about the countries where they would represent the U.S . . .

Hillary Clinton: “It may be inconvenient, but it’s always important to get the facts straight. I stood up against the behaviors of the banks when I was a senator.

I called them out on their mortgage behavior. I also was very willing to speak out against some of the special privileges they had under the tax code.”

Bernie Sanders: “Secretary Clinton called them out. Oh my goodness, they must have been really crushed by this. And was that before or after you received huge sums of money by giving speaking engagements? So they must have been very, very upset by what you did.”

I’m sorry, does a political debate no longer count as interesting or exciting unless a deranged mob of populist Republicans are flinging feces at each other or comparing the size of their junk?

Are Sanders and Clinton repeating themselves a lot? Yes – as someone who is deluged by campaign emails and briefings from both sides, that much cannot be denied. But at least the things that they are saying actually matter. They relate to foreign policy, trade policy, crime and punishment, campaign finance and the influence of Wall Street.

The argument in the GOP primary has devolved into little more than pledges to revoke ObamaCare faster than the other (“I’ll abolish ObamaCare by executive order at the beginning of my inaugural address!”) and competing visions for exactly how high the wall should be between the United States and Mexico.

Debates on both sides probably shed a lot more heat than light, but anyone who has watched a few of these things in the 2016 cycle would have to admit that more of substance has been learned on the Democratic side than the Republican side this time round – with the same going for 2012 too, when the Republicans treated us to Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain.

There is a group – and I can’t say how large it is, but I know it exists from my time living in America – of liberty-minded conservatives out there who are thoroughly disgusted with the Democrats’ record in office and the general direction of the country, but who will stay home or hold their nose and vote for Hillary Clinton before they see Donald Trump or even Ted Cruz in the White House.

(And to those Trump supporters who protest, I would simply say that fighting back at the establishment and sticking it to the man does not have to mean vocally supporting torture and eroding the constitution. In fact, as Britain’s Nigel Farage discovered, it is actually better when the establishment come at you equally hard for holding mostly reasonable position, as their desperation to kill the challenge to their power is then exposed for what it is).

Though I am not yet a US citizen, if I had voted in the 2008 election I would have voted without hesitation for Barack Obama over the John McCain / Sarah Palin freak show. Many others did the same. So forget trying to attract massive new demographic groups to the side of the Republican Party – maybe the GOP should focus more on simply not alienating those people who will reliably vote for any serious-minded conservative, but who are constantly chased away from the party by the carnival of idiots who keep making it to the primary debates.

You can sneer that it is cultural snobbishness at work (and a bit of it is – though not the majority), but it goes deeper than that. And the good news is that the Republican Party will soon have another chance to reinvent itself for a new era as they spend another presidential term in dreary opposition. Hopefully they will not repeat the mistake of 2008, and actually have serious discussion this time about who they want in the party and who they want out, and whether they want to appeal to the better angels or the darkest fears and prejudices of those who are invited to remain.

That process can begin soon. But in the meantime, let’s not get cocky about the Democratic Party primary process, which has seen left-wing politicians with substantially different worldviews tearing chunks out of each other on policy and substance – which is precisely what should happen.

That is the debate that the GOP should have been having this election cycle were they still a functioning party, and were they not now being forced to pay in a lump for every cynical act of alarmism, obstructionism and posturing they have taken since the inauguration of Barack Obama.

 

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