June 12th, 2017

I think Great Britain just gave us a preview—if we last that long—of our own mid-term elections. If you voted for President Donald John Trump, how do you trexit?

The biggest winner in the ill-conceived snap election was hope for a better world. Mehdi Hasan, writing in Jeremy Corbyn Is Leading the Left Out of the Wilderness and Toward Power for The Intercept, writes:

It is no exaggeration to say that the British Labour Party leader has changed progressive politics in the UK, and perhaps the wider West too, for a generation. The bearded, 68-year-old, self-declared socialist has proved that an unashamedly, unabashedly, unapologetically left-wing offer is not the politics of the impossible but, rather, a politics of the very much possible. Last Thursday’s election result in the UK is a ringing confirmation that stirring idealism need not be sacrificed at the altar of political pragmatism.

In these dark, depressing times of Trump and Brexit, of the fallout from the Great Recession and the rise of the far right, Corbyn has reminded us that a politics of hope can go toe to toe with a politics of fear. Millions of people will turn out to vote for a leader who preaches optimism over pessimism, who offers inspiration instead of enervation.

The key to understanding the politics of hope is to remember the energy of our own 2016 primary battle between Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hilary Clinton. Young voters turned out for Bernie but stayed home when told by the Democratic National Committee to take their Clinton and like it. Hasan continues:

Corbyn has proved that the much-maligned young can be a force for change. Younger voters are not lazy, indifferent or apathetic, as the conventional wisdom goes, but will in fact come out in their droves for a leader who motivates and excites them; who gives them not just something to vote for — be it a scrapping of tuition fees or a higher minimum wage or a new house-building program — but something to believe in. A common struggle, a better future, a more equal society. Because something always beats nothing.

Corbyn has showed how it is possible for progressives to build a coalition between the young, people of color and cosmopolitan liberals on the one hand and, yes, those dreaded white working class communities on the other. It is a fiction to claim that leaders on the left must choose between them, or play one marginalized group off against another. White ex-UKIP voters in the north of the country returned to Labour last week in their hundreds of thousands. [Emphasis mine, JH]

This comes our own possibility if we drop the name calling and embrace all of the 99 percent.

The much-mocked Corbyn had a very clear plan from the very beginning. “The politics of hope are not an inevitable reaction when politics fails,” he declared in a speech at the London School of Economics in May 2016. “The politics of hope have to be rebuilt.” Rebuilding, the Labour leader explained, required three things. First, “a vision to inspire people that politics has the power to make a positive difference to their lives.” Second, “trust – that people believe both that we can and that we will change things for the better.” Third, “the involvement and engagement of people to make the first two possible.”

Corbyn, like Bernie Sanders before him, succeeded on all three fronts. He mobilized huge numbers of people to get organized, attend rallies, knock on doors. He upended the old political and economic orthodoxies, refusing to embrace austerity, or demonize immigrants, or push for foreign wars. And guess what? It turns out that you don’t have to triangulate to win 40% of the vote. Nor do you have to kowtow to the reactionary and illiberal agendas of the Mail or the Murdoch-owned press to win marginal seats in Middle England.

Neither Corbyn nor Sanders won their elections. But they came so close. Give them a bit more time. “One more heave” is no longer a political pejorative.

One more heave indeed.

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