August 18, 2015


The Strange Death of the Center-Left (Michael Barone, August 18, 2015, RCP)

A third explanation applies specifically to center-left parties, including Dangerfield's Liberals a century ago. They were bedeviled by demands from different constituencies -- Irish Catholics, feminist suffragettes, militant union leaders -- which their compromising tendencies could not assuage. Liberal Britain faced internal violence, Dangerfield argues persuasively, when it unexpectedly went to war in August 1914.

Parties that are uneasy coalitions of self-consciously divergent groups with varying agendas, groups that consider themselves out of line with (or oppressed by) the national majority, are prone to splinter. It's hard to keep everyone happy and onboard.

In May's election, the Labour Party lost Scottish seats to Scots Nationalists who won 56 of 59 seats; lost working-class votes to the anti-immigration UK Independence Party; and lost upwardly mobile Hindus and Sikhs to the lower-tax Conservatives.

Democrats face competing demands from teacher unions and poor parents; Black Lives Matter protesters and environmental cultists; and from skeptics about the Iran deal and pacifist-leaning doves.

What these constituencies have in common is an angry rejection of the center-left political formula that only recently produced impressive party victories. The first black president was able to corral 51 percent for re-election and retains enough loyalty to keep most Democrats from grumbling about his performance.

But the leftward lunge so visible at Sanders rallies and Corbyn hustings pushes their parties to extreme positions and splinters what were majority coalitions. The strange death of the center-left threatens to make Britain solidly Conservative again and consign the Democratic Party to unanticipated minority status. 

For ideologues of both parties, being the governing party in the modern Anglosphere is a lothsome experience.  It requires that you accept the Third Way and eschew ideology.  So, for progressives, 8 years of the clandestinely Republican president is more than they can stand, just as the Right was infuriated after 8 years of W.  

But Labour is already getting its collective butt whipped.  This is the point where major parties generally turn to a Third Way leader--Blair, Clinton, Harper, Howard, Key, W, Jeb--but they're going hard Left instead.  Democrats will presumably just draft someone to take on Hillary--Al Gore or whoever--and give themselves a choice of Third Wayers instead of Sanders.

The Labour experiment will be fascinating.

Posted by at August 18, 2015 5:54 PM

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