June 17th, 2017

170616 jeremy corbyn bernie sanders

Given the young woman wearing a New York Yankee cap on the left and the size of the crowd, you might be forgiven for mistaking the event for a Bernie Sanders’s rally from last summer. The people gathered in the crowd are, in fact, there to hear Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Great Britain’s Labor party.

Gary Younge, writing in A shock to the system: how Corbyn changed the rules for The Guardian, explains why we should pay close attention.

When the clock struck 10 last Thursday night, there was a moment of collective disorientation. With each tolling of the bell, the solid political ground we had been standing on was shaken by tectonic shifts below. On television, the anchors sounded unconvinced by the news they were announcing: according to the exit poll, the Tories had lost their majority and Labour had gained seats. “Boy, oh boy, oh boy,” David Dimbleby said on the BBC, “are we going to be hung, drawn and quartered if this is all wrong!”


Then came those bells, and the unravelling of all our assumptions in real time. There is a distinction between witnessing something one is told is unlikely to happen and something one is told cannot happen. The former is a surprise, a challenge to our understanding of how things work. But the latter is a shock, and it forces us to reckon with the question of whether things are working at all. As the results came in overnight, with huge swings to Labour in seats that the Conservatives had targeted, and gains in places where Labour was not supposed to be competitive, each new upset seemed to rewrite the rules by which we understood electoral politics operated. By dawn, the whole rulebook had been shredded. Throughout the night, panels of pundits who had told us with great confidence that this could never happen were telling us with equal certainty what would happen next.

Electorally, the night was confusing. As the votes were being counted, nobody had a clue how the night was going to pan out. Fifty-two seats were returned with majorities below 1,000 votes, including eleven with majorities of less than 100. On those narrow threads hung our future. And now the counting is done, we’re still not sure.

Politically, the result was much clearer. The party that came second had emerged resurgent, while the party that came first was humiliated. Theresa May’s days as party leader are numbered, while Jeremy Corbyn’s position has been unexpectedly secured.

That could have been us last November and, I think, presents a gleefully terrifying image for Republicans in November 2018. What happened in England and how do repeat the experience here? Consider what Younge witnessed in one race.

When I arrived at Harrow Leisure Centre at 2.30am on election night, local Labour activists were cheering at the television. What they thought would be a wake had ended up a shindig. It was clear by that stage that Thomas had netted a healthy victory. Almost an hour later, at 3.20am, he was declared the winner, with a 13,314 majority—doubling his previous highest margin of victory.

It was beyond unexpected: it was unfathomable. The local Labour party had done its sums and tallied its returns. It had canvassed, pursued and chased up all its known voters. It did not see these new voters coming. They were not on its radar. They had noticed some surprisingly long queues of young people at the polling station by Rayners Lane, but that didn’t explain it all. The party won Tory wards, and assumed that it picked up some Green switchers. Everyone was immensely grateful for them. But they had no idea who they were.

This was the story of the election, and it is the story of this political moment. When Big Ben called time on Thursday night, we saw clear evidence of a political realignment that the media and the political establishment had dismissed with hostility, and now regarded with confusion. We saw a polity that has lost touch with its people; a political culture unmoored from the electorate, and a mainstream media that drifted along with it. The election did not create that dislocation; it was merely the clearest and least deniable manifestation of it so far.

Stop, take a breath. Those same mystery voters are here in the United States.

We already know that President Donald John Trump’s disapproval rating is in historic territory for a president in office only 147 days.

Consider: in November 2016 231,556,622 Americans were eligible to vote. Of those, only 138,884,643 did so. A staggering 92,671,979 sat out the election. That means that the 62,979,636 people who voted for Donald Trump represented only a little more than 27 percent of the voter pool. In no one’s book is that a majority.

I have no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn has shown American Progressives the way and if the Democratic National Committee doesn’t pay heed, fuck them.

Younge offers a glimpse of how Trump voters might be expected to react if the Republicans actually offer Trumpcare II.

A fortnight before the election, I met Mohammed Ameripour, who lives with a severe cerebellar disorder that affects his speech and vision, at the law centre. He was declared fit for work, even though he has a full-time carer, and ruled to have no problem with mobility, even though he has to use a wheelchair. The benefits he was reliant on for 19 years were cut. “All the doors were shut to me,” he said. “Every door. I couldn’t get them to help me.” Thanks to the law centre, he won his case on appeal. “Some people are claiming benefits when they are healthy, and that’s not right,” he said.

“I think Jeremy Corbyn is weak. I prefer Theresa May. I think she is a leader. But I don’t like what she has done to benefits. I don’t like what she has done to me.” [Emphasis mine, JH] He was carrying his postal vote for Corbyn with him the day we spoke.

I expect that we’re going to here Ameripour’s last sentence as a refrain in the coming year

This parallel between Corbyn and Sanders is particularly on target.

For Corbyn, the accidental candidate, the leadership contest was a blur. “Everything sort of took off,” he recalled when I interviewed him a year later. “We didn’t have a campaign. We didn’t have an organisation. We didn’t have any money. All we had was my credit card. That lasted about a week. Then we started raising money … Time for reflection was very limited, because from the moment I was nominated I was on a train.”

But Corbyn began to pull in crowds, and his polling numbers started to rise. Lots of new people joined the party to support him. His campaign posed a direct challenge to the orthodoxy of the previous three decades, under which the Labour party was an electoral machine run from the top down, with the insistence that it could only win elections with ruthless discipline and tabloid-friendly appeals to the centre ground.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

About that strategy.

After Labour’s defeat in the 2015 election, under the leadership of Ed Miliband, the Fabian Society published a document titled The Mountain to Climb, which argued that four out of every five voters Labour would need to win over in order to return to power would be former Tory supporters. When the website LabourList asked Corbyn how he would respond to this challenge, he proposed a very different strategy. “I think their approach to the research is from the wrong end of the telescope,” he said.

“[There are] young people who didn’t register, who didn’t vote,” he continued. “Those that did vote were overwhelmingly Labour, so I think there’s a whole area there, and this [leadership] campaign is demonstrating that. Secondly, [there were] reliable Labour voters who disappeared into the arms of Ukip, or not voting, because they didn’t feel the Labour party represented anything they wanted to hear. I think we can grow our support that way. Do we have to win back people who voted for other parties? Yeah, but we have to say to people, in a very clear way, what we’re offering.”

That was the proposition: to expand the electorate, broaden Labour’s coalition, and reach out to disaffected voters with a new and more radical offer. Many people thought this would not work, but a surprisingly large number insisted it wasn’t even possible.

Bernie’s take on Hillary Rodham Clintons deplorables assertion was spot on and in line with Corbyn’s views.

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