Can’t any English-speaking country have a normal election?

I watched this man-on-the-street video, which offered no rational explanation...

I watched this man-on-the-street video, which offered no rational explanation…

You know, it would have been nice to have been reassured that things were stable and sane over in the world’s second-greatest liberal democracy, since they’re so messed up here. It would have given me a little hope for the West.

But no-o-o-o, the Brits had to go all wobbly on us. They like to do absurd things, from dumping Winston Churchill at the very end of the war to Brexit.

I hope Theresa May learned a lesson, one akin to “Never get off the boat!” in “Apocalypse Now:” Never call a snap election, thinking it will make you stronger.

Now, basically, nobody’s in charge over there. And astoundingly, that total flake Jeremy Corbyn is stronger than ever. He’s strutting around the ring like a professional wrestler who has just clocked his adversary with a metal folding chair — which isn’t a becoming spectacle in the best of circumstances.

I remember when Labour was reasonably respectable, under my main man Tony Blair. Now, it’s not quite the thing. You can’t take it anywhere without being embarrassed.

Yeah, I know the PM was no great campaigner, but she seems relatively normal and sane, and that counts for a lot these days. Besides, I remember when the alternatives were trotted before us just last year, after Cameron quit over Brexit, and I don’t remember any of those Tories being particularly appetizing.

Anyway, very disappointing. I’d just like to see things settle down for a bit so the world can take a moment to catch its breath. Is that too much to ask?

It’s just a mess. I watched a man-on-the-street video over on The Guardian‘s site, and people who voted Labour gave lame excuses about how things needed to “change.” Well, nothing’s changed — power has not changed hands — except that the party that’s still in charge is now crippled.

I don’t see how that benefits anybody, especially with Brexit negotiations coming up

By THOR - Summer Sky in Southsea England, CC BY 2.0,

By THOR – Summer Sky in Southsea England, CC BY 2.0,

38 thoughts on “Can’t any English-speaking country have a normal election?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Word is that young voters went big for Labour, rather as young Democrats went for Bernie Sanders last year.

    Here’s an idea, boys and girls — instead of going with some old wreck whose view of the world has been out of date for 40 years, why not come up with an exciting, dynamic young candidate? Canada did. France just elected somebody younger than at least one of his wife’s kids.

    Where are the bright young “progressive hopes for the future” — people who could spout all that stuff without sounding so silly? Sensible people make allowances for the young, but guys older than I am are supposed to be old enough to know better than to cling to that 50-year-old “New Left” stuff.

    Where are the JFKs? Bad example. Kennedy was young and inexperienced, but he ran as a mature, mainstream candidate…

    1. Richard

      So… we’re waiting for this list of young Democrats voters should be voting for. Since Canada went with the offspring of a prior leader… Chelsea Clinton?

  2. David Carlton

    Brad, I’ve been in Facebook conversation with an expat friend over there, and he’s downright giddy. I share your nervousness over Corbin–he’s a left-wing Trump, and also a euroskeptic of the “it’s a neoliberal plot to oppress the people” sort. But my friend was horrified by the Brexit vote, just as I was, and was disgusted both by May’s “hard” approach to negotiations (She thinks she has a good hand with the EU, but they hold all the cards) and her hyper-austerian domestic policy–not to mention her attempt to appeal to the worst elements of the UKIP right. Note that it wasn’t just the young who went Labour–the party did astoundingly well among affluent southeasterners and Londoners (Labour won bloody *Kensington*!!!!). Yes, it’s a mess for now–but good center-right types like David Frum actually interpret the vote as a move to the center. I have my doubts as to how well it’ll work–but my friend thinks it ends a way through what had been an impasse.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, let’s hope for the best. I’ll have to go read what Frum said.

      As for this: “She thinks she has a good hand with the EU, but they hold all the cards.”

      They certainly do, and it seems to me — as the NYT said — that this makes Britain’s position in negotiations even MORE difficult. I mean, wasn’t that why she called the election — to try to strengthen her hand with Europe? Big mistake…

      1. Mark Stewart

        That’s exactly what this turned out to be – a re-referendum on BREXIT. Seems like it wasn’t a pro-Labour vote as much as it was a consolidation around the out of power party to voice the growing understanding of the national self-inflicted disaster the U.K. faces. And also, the obtuseness of May’s idea that the U.K. holds any cards in a departure from the EU. The reality is they are about to be tossed out on their ear.

        Also, I think the Northern Irelanders are positively giddy with the prospects of future cross-border smuggling… Reminds one of the past centuries… And that they now hold all the cards with the Conservatives; on a vote by vote basis. What a poker game!

        1. Richard

          Are Northern Islanders the Mexicans of the European continent?

          I don’t see this vote as affecting anything in my daily life… I’m not going to spend the weekend getting bent out of shape over it.

            1. Richard

              You stated: “Also, I think the Northern Irelanders are positively giddy with the prospects of future cross-border smuggling”.

              I responded: “Are Northern Islanders the Mexicans of the European continent?”

              Not that difficult to follow if you’ve been following the problems this country has been having for decades with it’s southern border.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                He said “Irelanders,” not “Islanders.”

                That said, I’m not sure I know what Mark meant. I assume he means with Ireland in the E.U. and Ulster not, they’ll be doing a lot of cross-border smuggling there on the Emerald Isle.

                Which really doesn’t have much in common with our border with Mexico.

                Still, I’m not sure what Mark meant with regard to the current situation. I mean, Ulster voted against Brexit, so I don’t see why they’d be giddy about it…

                1. Mark Stewart

                  That’s what’s interesting; the BREXIT P.M. Is dependent upon a political party that doesn’t much care for BREXIt for her majority “control.”

                  With the UK out of the EU, the hard way, the probability of high tariffs – in both directions – is very great. Therefore, as the only land connection between the EU and the U.K., the Northern Ireland border with become a black market bazaar. But, no, not like our Southern Border of Claus’ imagination

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Here’s the thing that confuses me… Why do British voters blame May and the Tories for Brexit? Yes, Cameron allowed the vote to happen, but then campaigned with all his might against it. May was the person stuck with trying to implement it. Why did her intention of trying to negotiate the best possible deal for Britain make her a “Brexit hard-liner?” What else would a rational person with her country’s best interests at heart do?

          I find it confusing…

          1. Rule Brexitania

            You seem not to understand the underlying difference between a “soft” and a “hard” Brexit. The Telegraph can help you out:


            May opposed Brexit prior to the referendum, but then ran on a “hard(line)” Brexit platform (essentially adopting UKIP positions) in the election, thinking she could sop up Brexit voters and win big. That was recognized for what it was – bald-faced opportunism aimed at winning an election, not promoting Britain’s fundamental interests – and it backfired.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              That’s very helpful, as is David Frum’s piece in The Atlantic.

              But what I still don’t understand, and may never understand, is how moderate voters could have considered even for a second voting for a Labour Party led by Corbyn. I never could, however mad I was at May…

              1. Mark Stewart

                You wouldn’t vote – in however it would register – to indicate that you wanted the madness that is BREXIT to end?

                It does appear that this U.K. nightmare has come about as a result of a populist rift. Now, it seems as though it is very likely that support for BREXIT is fading fast. How would one vote to register that, other than to vote for the party out of power?

                As seems to be typical when everything runs off the rails; all parties – and persons – are responsible here for what has happened. How does one go about rectifying this? And when the choice is Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn everyone in the U.K. is at a loss. Just like over here.

              2. Rule Brexitania

                Because Corbyn would plunge Britain into instability and crisis?? Sorry, but that shoe seems to fit the other foot better. As one commentator put it:

                “[May’s] party … has plunged its country into an existential crisis because it was too weak to stand up to a minority of nationalist zealots and tabloid press barons. It is as strong as a jellyfish and as stable as a flea.”

                Turning to Labour, he continues:

                “May’s appeal to ‘the people’ as a mystic entity came up against Corbyn’s appeal to real people in their daily lives, longing not for a date with national destiny but for a good school, a functioning National Health Service, and decent public transport. Phony populism came up against a more genuine brand of anti-establishment radicalism that convinced the young and the marginalized that they had something to come out and vote for.”


                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  And there’s the disadvantage I have in understanding populism — the whole trying to “appeal to real people in their daily lives. ” I know in the abstract that voters often relate to policy that way — in terms of, “How does it affect ME, personally?” — but I can’t get over the deep-seated prejudice I have, which is that appealing to people that way is pandering.

                  This is related to the elitism charge that bud keeps hurling my way…

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  That piece says, “But she saw that the path to power led toward the cliff edge…”

                  Which reminds me: My wife and I went to see “My Cousin Rachel” over the weekend. Any of y’all see it? What did you think?

                3. Rule Brexitania

                  Government, and therefore politics, is all about making a society work well and improving how people live, and a bigpart of that involves tackling real problems and meeting peoples’ needs. So it comes across as really, really strange when you say that politics shouldn’t be about “appealing to real people in their daily lives.” Very strange – at least for folks who care at all about government serving the public’s interests.

  3. JesseS

    You’ll find that answer just as soon as you find the answer to why so many people feel disaffected. My only conclusion is that we are living in a “lite” version of the 1930s right now. Too many people feel hopeless and/or powerless. Some authoritarian/autocratic breed, whether it be an idea of strong socialism or a PT Barnum “strong man” like Trump, feels like the cure when you aren’t sure of the disease. Hopefully it will all pass.

    As far as the Brits dumping Churchill, it was probably for the best in the long run. Winston wanted to save the British Empire and the empire was lost after the Tehran Conference (not to mention the Fall of Singapore). As Churchill put it, the Russian Bear and the American Elephant were leading the way, even if the poor British donkey was the only one who knew the way home. He had no more camps to escape from, trains to jump on to, or empires to save.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, he’d done his job. It just seems wrong to see him tossed on the ash-heap after all he’d done, and when the war (in the Pacific) wasn’t yet won. Of course, he’d already sorted Hitler out, and I guess Brits considered the job done…

  4. Dave

    Well, it’s not a country, but the next state over, Georgia, looks like it’s going to be having a normal election on the 20th, with Jon Ossoff pulling into a lead over Karen Handel in the most recent polls. Ossoff’s a sane, technocratic Democrat running against Karen Handel, a Republican who proudly says “I do not support a livable wage” and who can’t bring herself to disavow Donald Trump. And the Georgia 6th district is precisely the type of well-educated, forward-looking district that’s increasingly anathema to today’s Republican Party. So hope may prevail on the 20th.

    1. Richard

      The Democrats certainly have their voice on this blog. Democrat = Good, Republican = Brad. I guess the minority in this state have to have some sounding board to complain about how everyone else is wrong.

  5. Richard

    Republican = Bad…. that’s a huge mistake that could have likely gotten me permanently banned.

  6. Rule Brexitania

    Yes, you’re right, there’s no explaining how the Tories continue to hold onto power – while constantly losing. After all, which party was it that thought it could banish its own loony right wing to the political outback by calling for a referendum on leaving the EU – and then lost? The Tories. Which party chose as their leader a Brexit opponent who in the wake of the referendum suddenly became a Brexit hardliner? The Tories. And which party was it that decided it would be a grand idea to bolster itself for the upcoming Brexit talks by holding a snap election – and lost that too? Right again: the Tories. And yet, somehow, this same party continues to think they’re the ones to lead Britain forward. It’s absurd that this sort of reckless opportunism should be rewarded with control of government. Totally absurd.

  7. Bart

    Off topic for two things.
    1. Lindsey Graham had a great interview today on Face the Nation. He may not be a favorite of many on this blog but today he was dead on point and if anyone will listen with an open mind, they cannot disagree with what he had to say about Russia trying to interfere with our election; Trump not being involved; and in particular his comments about the so-called AHCA sponsored by the Republicans in the House. The freaking thing is dead in the water, less than 10% approval, and it is a lead balloon at best. Time to follow Graham’s advice.

    2. This will have some heads exploding. Trump is considering a plan presented for the border wall. The plan is to build it but use it as a solar panel and provide energy for both sides. You can check it out by typing in Border Solar Panel Wall. Several links to articles are available. The cost is estimated based on speculative multi-year forecasts and calculations to pay for itself in 20 years and does have some support. For all of the proposals so far, this one actually makes some sense. Whether it will get any traction is another matter.

  8. Karen Pearson

    I used to like Sen. Graham a lot. Lately he’s been all too slavishly following (and spouting) the party hype. These statements are his honesty coming through. My biggest problem is that, with so many legislators thinking that their only goal is to keep themselves in a job, and their party in control, anyone who remotely resembles a statesman is being squeezed out. He had already lost my vote because of his pandering; I hope he doesn’t lose everyone else’s by his honesty, although if he keeps it up he just might regain my vote.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “These statements are his honesty coming through.”

      Karen, if that’s what you believe, why wouldn’t you continue to “like him a lot?”

      You say, “so many legislators thinking that their only goal is to keep themselves in a job.”

      Well, that’s one way to put it. Another is this: The FIRST (not “only) job of a statesman with something to contribute is to get in office and stay in office, as long as he can keep contributing.

      It’s not the ONLY job (although there are plenty to act like it, and as for the parties, that’s all they exist for), but a good lawmaker who can’t get elected and re-elected isn’t much good to anybody.

      That’s the reality of politics.

  9. Bart

    The reality of politics is about to come down on France in a way they probably never imagined. Macron will have an undefeatable majority in the newly elected government and he will be able to impose his agenda without opposition as long as everything goes well. But once something goes wrong and new laws and legislation hit the citizens of France where it may hurt, just like the citizens in any other country, they will turn against him. However, on his agenda of changes is to loosen the requirements for hiring and firing employees. Once enough employers take advantage of new rules that allow them to fire non-productive employees, you can bet the trade union representatives will put up a fight.

    This is from an article in The Economist explaining how the unions are so powerful yet represent only 8% of workers in France.

    “Under French law, elected union delegates represent all employees, union members or not, in firms with over 50 staff on both works councils and separate health-and-safety councils. These must be consulted regularly by bosses on a vast range of detailed managerial decisions. This gives trade unions a daily say in the running of companies across the private sector, which accounts for the real strength of their voice.”

    This also explains why so many French companies keep employment at 49 or under and hesitate to expand or grow. Sound familiar? ACA for example?

    Once Macron tries to get the laws changed that in effect will weaken the power of the trade unions, expect massive strikes and work stoppages across the country. Power gained and held for a long time is difficult to pry from the hands of the ones holding it. All we need to do is look inside the Beltway and some “old bones” who have been there far too long.

  10. Bart

    Interesting item on another news story. Schumer has invited Trump to testify based on Trump’s public comment that he would be willing to testify before the Senate. Graham thinks it wouldn’t be a good thing for Trump to do but Trump opened his mouth or Tweeted and Schumer took him up on his offer.

    Now Trump, either put up or shut up. You made the offer, it was accepted, now either keep your word or disappear into the night with your tail tucked between your legs. If you are too stupid to understand by now that anything and everything you say, do, or Tweet will be scrutinized, analyzed, dissected, and examined under a microscope, then you deserve every negative story or report about you. Even your supporters are growing weary of your dumb ass actions and comments. Shut up, close your Twitter account, take care of the business of this country or resign and let the adults take over.

    It will be interesting to watch Trump before a Senate committee. Like shooting fish in a barrel but Trump will be the only fish in it and there will more than enough senators taking direct aim with intent to land the big fish. And he won’t be able to resist adding fuel to the bonfire if he has the gonads to actually appear before a Senate committee.

  11. Brad Warthen Post author

    I enjoyed this take on the election in The New Yorker. An excerpt:

    …And there came from the same country a prophet, whose name was Jeremy. His beard was as the pelt of beasts, and his raiments were not of the finest. And he cried aloud in the wilderness and said, Behold, I bring you hope.

    And suddenly there was with him a host of young people. And he said unto them, Ye shall study and grow wise in all things, and I shall not ask ye for gold. And the sick shall be made well, and they also will heal freely. And he promised unto them all manner of goodly things.

    And the young people said unto him, How shall these things be rendered, seeing that thou hast no money in thy purse?

    And he spake unto them in a voice of sounding brass and said, Soak the rich. And again, Pull down the mighty from their seats.

    And the young people went absolutely nuts….

    Yes, they certainly did…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Gotta share this bit, too:

      And the elders rose up and said to the young people, If ye choose Jeremy, he will bring distress in your toils and wailing upon your streets. Do ye not remember the nineteen-seventies?

      And the young people said, The what?

      And the elders spake again, and said to the young people, Beware, for he gave succor in days of yore to the I.R.A.

      And the young people said, The what?

      And the young people said, Jeremy shall bring peace unto all nations, for he hateth the engines of war that take wing across the heavens. And he showeth respect for all peoples, even unto the transgender community.

      And the elders said, The what?…

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