Friday, April 23, 2010

UK 2010: Echoes of the US in 2008

I've been following the British election story, and I have to admit that the surge in support for the Liberal Democrats hasn't come as a total surprise to me. In fact, it sort of makes sense. For a voting public that mostly remembers the Tories from the incompetent and nasty John Major era and that remembers Labour from Iraq, the desire for a third option makes sense.

Indeed, that Andrew Sullivan compares Nick Clegg to Barack Obama strikes me as a bit obvious but nevertheless a decent analogy in many respects. Unlike Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, Obama opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. This, along with his unusual profile that contrasted directly with the then-current White House occupant, spoke volumes more of change than a hundred Hillary speeches possibly could have, and provided a real prospect of turning the page. Clegg and the Lib Dems--unlike the two major parties--opposed Iraq from the start, and prospered from it. That fact alone counts for a lot. There is a counterargument--that one has learned from their mistakes--that could hold water, but David Cameron doesn't want to make it and Gordon Brown can't. This is almost exactly how Obama found himself positioned in the Democratic primary, with Brown in the Clinton role and Cameron roughly playing Edwards, and as it turned out, primary voters chose to reward foresight instead of contrition or arrogance. I find it easy to believe that British voters might do the same, even if their system doesn't allow the Lib Dems to win a lot of seats.

What interests me is where things go next. Labour might well have ruined its future for generations with Iraq. In first-past-the-post systems, the equilibrium is one of two major parties. Obviously, the Liberals never quite died out after they lost power for the last time in the 1920s, but they hardly figured into the power structure at all. I'm wondering if the Lib Dems might not become the de jure party of the British center-left going forward as Labour fades away into a marginal third party, retaining only its left-wing elements. Which doesn't really affect me too much, but it would certainly change how history judges Tony Blair now, wouldn't it?

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.