Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Labour Party of Britain and the Democrats of the US

Entirely speculative.

As I think about it, there seem to be interesting parallels between the British Labour Party and the American Democratic Party. There are certainly parallels in trajectory but I think the closer parallels are in terms of electoral strategy.

Post-Thatcher, the British Labour Party focused on Blue Collar workers (their historical core), but also on multiculturalism and emigrants, on minorities and on Scotland and Wales. This coalition of constituents propelled the Labour Party to victory from the late 1990s through the 2010 election, first under Tony Blair and then under Gordon Brown (both of Scottish heritage). Labor dominated local and national elections in Wales and Scotland through this period, almost to the exclusion of the Conservative Party. Neither region is particularly large (three million and five million respectively in a national population of 65 million.) Their value to the Labor party was not so much in the size of the electorate but in terms of its reliability. Labour did not have to spend much in terms of campaigning money or time in these ares, redeploying such scarce resources to more contested regions.

Blue Collar workers were, for decades, almost tautologically Labour Party. Virtually all laborers were members of a union and virtually all unions were part of the Labour Party.

I suspect that it was around the 1980s when the rot set in for Labour. Certainly, Thatcher did not help. Her focus on individuals and responsibility and opportunity was effective and numerous national policies (such as selling off public housing to occupants) helped peel off some Labour supporters from the Labour Party and over to the Tories.

I think the bigger change, though, was an emerging dominance of university educated London dwellers in setting Labour Party policy. Red extremism was always part of Labour's genetic heritage so that wasn't new per se. What was new were three faddish obsessions of the metropolitan ideologues - Multiculturalism, Critical Race Theory/Post-Colonial Theory, and Postmodernism (particularly as manifested by an obsession with white collar issues over blue collar issues.)

The tenets of multiculturalism helped direct support for regionalism, primarily in terms of Wales and Scotland but Northern Ireland as well. Labour support for Gaelic, Welsh and other regional programs as well as the push for the devolution of power to regional parliaments fueled local nationalism. The irony is that this aspect of multiculturalism enabled local nationalist parties to supplant the Labour Party.

But London's intellectual left trend-setters, especially under Blair and then Gordon, were much more enamored with the racial aspects of multiculturalism, ironically in an environment where racial minorities are much smaller percentages of the electorate than in the US. By focusing so much intellectual capacity on the issues affecting colonial migrant groups from the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia to Britain, Labour seemed, and effectively was, discounting the issues of traditional white labor in a rapidly de-industrializing Britain.

The leftist obsessions with Multiculturalism, Critical Race Theory/Post-Colonial Theory, and Postmodernism lost Wales and Scotland as strongholds and disaffected many traditional manufacturing labor supporters.

Labour used to be unassailable in Scotland, in Wales, among Blue Collar workers, and among minorities. They have lost Scotland. They are substantially weakened in Wales. Unions have shrunk by more than half since the 1960s and of the remaining union members, larger and larger percentages of the memberships are voting for other than Labour Party candidates. All they have left are minorities and emigrants, some 12% of the population but with great diversity of regional origin and great diversity of political interests.

I think a strong argument could be made that Labour had a broad (regionally and class) appeal at their height in the 1960s and 1970s but that because of an emerging intellectual ideology of multiculturalism, critical race theory, and postmodernism, in combination with their tradition of hard left, almost marxist political ideology, Labour has divorced themselves accidentally and deliberately from large swathes of their former natural supporters. It is this toxic mix of viewing the world primarily through the lenses of multiculturalism, critical race theory, and postmodernism which has caused their near collapse.

In looking at the early local elections results coming in from the UK in advance of the British general election in five weeks, it is striking to me the parallels with the Democratic Party in the US.

While the White House traded back and forth between the Democrat and Republican parties in the post war period, the Legislative branch for most that period, with occasional intermissions, was solidly Democrat. Democrats were the party of the laboring man and therefore of the industrial Midwest. They were the party of the South. They were the party of African-Americans. They had a solid and dense ground-game across all the nation, controlling most governorships and state chambers.

But from the 1970s into the 2000s, just as with the Labour Party in Britain, the thought leadership of the Democratic Party became more and more hostage to the fancies of intellectuals in universities and decision-making become more concentrated in Washington, D.C. The fancies were slightly different and slightly differently ordered, but ideological fancies they were. In Britain it was Multiculturalism, Critical Race Theory/Post-Colonial Theory, and Postmodernism. In the US it was probably more ordered like Postmodernism, Critical Race Theory, and Multiculturalism. Regardless of the order, the predicates and assumptions behind these pernicious coercive theories were as untenable with the population at large as in Britain.

And just as the Labour Party in Britain has lost their reliable constituencies of Scotland and Wales and the laboring class, so the Democratic Party in the US has lost the South, looks like they are about to decisively lose the Midwest and seem to have lost the working class. Democrats, just as with Labour in Britain, seem shorn of all their seats except those in the cities. Cities where there are a preponderance of minorities and emigrants.

Just as with Britain's Labour Party, Democrats, for now, seem to have retained the loyalty of African-Americans (in Britain, minority emigrants). But for how long I wonder? African-Americans are, on average, far more socially conservative, church-going, and interested in law-and-order issues than the intelligentsia of the Democratic National Committee.

Politics are always about ebbs and flows. There is nothing predetermined. Republicans will misstep, Democrats will eventually get their act together and decide they like power more than they like ideological purity of abstract theories.

But it is interesting to see such similarities between Labour in Britain and Democrats in the US. The comparison can be stretched too far of course. But I have seen no commentary at all, so far, on these parallels, which seems odd.

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