Nov 16, 2016 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 158

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Topics: An interview with Virginia/Scotland socialist organizer Emily Robinson (@see_em_play). Produced: Nov 13th, 2016.

Episode 158 (49 min):
AFD 158

Discussion Points:

– Dissecting the disaster of the 2016 election and what to do next.
– What was the campaign like in Virginia this year?
– Should you join Democratic Socialists of America?
– What is Scottish Labour Young Socialists working on?

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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership race easily

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

Jeremy-Corbyn

BBC News – Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest

The victory message:

We don’t have to be unequal. It does not have to be unfair, poverty isn’t inevitable. Things can, and they will change”
[…]
He said the leadership campaign “showed our party and our movement, passionate, democratic, diverse, united and absolutely determined in our quest for a decent and better society that is possible for all”.

“They are fed up with the inequality, the injustice, the unnecessary poverty. All those issues have brought people in, in a spirit of hope and optimism.”

He said his campaign had given the lie to claims that young Britons were apathetic about politics, showing instead that they were “a very political generation that were turned off by the way in which politics was being conducted – we have to, and must, change that”.

 
The breakdown:

The veteran left-winger got almost 60% of more than 400,000 votes cast, trouncing his rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.
[…]
The Islington North MP won on the first round of voting in the leadership contest, taking 251,417 of the 422,664 votes cast – against 19% for Mr Burnham, 17% for Ms Cooper and 4.5% for Ms Kendall.
[…]
An overwhelming 85% of people who signed up as affiliated supporters for £3 voted for Mr Corbyn – but he also topped the ballot among party members and trade unionists.

 

Sept 9, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 142

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Are Blairites and Clintonites right about the center-left? What lessons can be learned from the 1820s and 1830s in US politics? Understanding the Trump bankruptcies better. People: Bill, Nate. Produced: September 6th, 2015.

Episode 142 (51 min):
AFD 142

Discussion Points:

– Corbyn and Sanders: Are centrist Blairites and Clintonites right about the left?
– US history: What lessons can be learned from the 1820s and 1830s in US politics?
– Trump bankruptcies: Not as negative as widely suggested? We compare and contrast.

Related Links

AFD: “The Only Way is Blair”
AFD: “When The Party’s Over: The 1820s in US Politics”
AFD: “Op-Ed | Trump’s Bankruptcies in Perspective”

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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video game blog of our announcer, Justin.

The Only Way is Blair?

Questioning a fundamental tenet of the Tony Blair mythos (and the Bill Clinton mythos).

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One of the major talking points put forward by Tony Blair allies (and the former Prime Minister himself) in the aftermath of the 2015 election fiasco and again now during the leadership contest with the rise of leftist Jeremy Corbyn has been that Blair’s strain of Labour Party ideology (“New Labour”) was superior to all others because he “won three elections in a row” with it and brought Labour out of its nearly two decades in the opposition wilderness. Blair’s own snide phrasing, which he even dared to utter long before the election loss, was “a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result” implying that a traditional left-wing party can’t win elections (not that Labour ran a particularly or consistently left-wing campaign this year).

Similarly, we sometimes hear roughly the sentiment echoed in the United States with regard to Bill Clinton’s centrist/triangulating Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and the “New Democrats.” Blair explicitly modeled his 1997 election campaign on Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns (and Clinton’s wider political philosophies), so there are always comparisons between the two. At minimum, they both ran on highly personality-oriented campaigns that claimed to be bringing a new direction to politics on the whole, not just to their own parties. Something transcending those “tradition” right and left alignments, supposedly.

Let’s examine these dual contentions, though. Did the Democrats re-take the White House in 1992 because of Clinton’s Democratic Party centrism? Did Labour re-take parliament in 1997 because of Blair’s New Labour approach?

Blairites and Clintonites alike fervently believe that centrism is what won them power. I would contend instead that inevitability did. Eventually, the opposing major party returns to power.

Blair going centrist didn’t “save” Labour from itself. Conservatives held power for 18 years. Prime Minister John Major’s net approval rating across the early 1990s was in -60 to -20 range. The Labour leadership had higher net approval before Blair took over as opposition leader in 1994, and Major’s net approval really fell off a cliff even before Blair’s ascent. I would conclude from that that any reasonably competent politician (left or center) could have led Labour back to power in 1997 after a whopping eighteen (bleak) years of Conservative rule. (True, leadership ratings are not wholly predictive at the ballot box, but they’re indicative of strengths or weaknesses in broad terms.)

By comparison, Democrats panicked after losing the White House only 3 times in a row in merely 12 years (1980, 1984, 1988). In all likelihood, rota fortunae (the ever-rotating wheel of fortune), not DLCism, won the White House back for Democrats in 1992. The relatively centrist Democratic Congressional caucus also kept shrinking before and after Clinton’s ascent to power, eventually leading to the loss of its House majority in 1994 for the first time since the 1950s. It’s a little hard to square that fact with the Clinton hype.

Much like Prime Minister Major, of course, President George H.W. Bush was struggling with rather low popularity by 1992. Where the year before his high ratings had deterred every single top-tier Democrat from challenging him (leaving Clinton to emerge startlingly from the third tier), by July 1992 George H.W. Bush had the approval of less than 30% of Americans. Not a ringing endorsement for him, and also not really a function of anything Clinton was doing. I believe a reasonably competent progressive Democrat — anyone who could connect with voters on their top concerns and tap into their frustrations — could have won the White House in 1992.

“Inevitability” is, of course, a loaded word in politics. But I’m speaking in broad, big-picture terms based on historical and structural realities. The odds were very low that, in both the U.S. and the U.K., during the 1990s, the major left-leaning parties (Democrats and Labour respectively) would completely wither away and die out as a major party. Thus, regardless of ideology, they would have remained the only serious voting options for people who had lost patience with the incumbent governments. Eventually, in democratic systems, people always get tired of single party rule and change horses.

That’s why three terms in a row for one party to rule is already relatively unusual, 4 terms is rarer, and 5 almost never happens. At a certain point, how far left/center/right your party runs in a breaking-point election becomes pretty irrelevant in a system dominated by two parties. People get frustrated enough to vote for the opposition party automatically. It doesn’t even take that long, considering just 12 years seems to be a pretty common point for voters to jump ship.

Republicans have learned that fact very well and used it to their advantage to continue winning elections with ever-more conservative platforms. Rather than giving up and moderating, they just wait it out and organize for the next moment of frustration in which to bring extreme candidates into office to enact steadfastly conservative agendas.
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May 13, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 127

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Marco Rubio’s close ties to billionaire Norman Braman; UK election results discussion. People: Bill, Nate. Produced: May 11th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Has presidential candidate and US Senator Marco Rubio crossed an ethics line with his billionaire patron, Norman Braman?
– What if anything does the 2015 UK election outcome mean for Labour’s future? Should US Democrats take any lessons one way or the other?

Episode 127 (49 min):
AFD 127

Related Links

Guardian: “2015 UK general election results in full”
AFD: “Marco Rubio’s Miami Vice”
NYT: “Billionaire Lifts Marco Rubio, Politically and Personally”

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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Exit polls paint bleak picture in UK for anti-Conservative bloc

According to current exit polling from the UK, the Conservatives surged way ahead of pre-election polling and will finish just 10 seats short of a majority. With Lib Dems, far-right UKIP, and conservative unionist Northern Irish parties supporting, they would be able to form a government. The Lib Dems got crushed but still are kingmakers — which is toxic for them since so many LD voters bailed because of their role in the coalition government last time, which would be even less powerful this time around. In fact, the Conservatives seem well positioned to just form a minority government, though I don’t know how long it could last even under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.

Labour got all but swept in Scotland by the SNP (i.e. maybe one seat remains) and lost in England to add insult to desperation. They ended up finishing worse than in 2010, contrary to all pre-election polling.

Bottom line from the current exit polling: Conservatives outperformed expectations by quite a lot and will probably lead the next government. Labour screwed up badly on top of their Scotland problems.

The ironclad unkeepable promises of the UK elections

UK party leaders making firm promises about coalition arrangements (or rejected arrangements) that they mathematically can’t possibly keep are one way voters lose all trust in their public officials. I get that they’re trying to discourage splinter/protest voting by taking a hard line without wiggle room before the election, but the math just isn’t there to be saying stuff like this, and at a certain point it’s just pure misrepresentation of reality.

Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders in the past couple weeks have been painting themselves into a corner on coalition promises, wherein they’ll either force a 2nd election or have to dynamite the corner to escape the foolish pre-election promises.

If the Labour Party will not make any kind of deal with the SNP (which is their latest position) and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats won’t either, how exactly is anyone supposed to form a government? Excluding the fairly astronomically unlikely possibility of a Conservative-Labour grand coalition, no two parties (or even three!) will have enough seats for a majority without involving the SNP. Everyone will be 20-50 seats short.

Projected number of seats to each party and combinations of various parties via The Guardian.

Projected number of seats to each party and combinations of various parties via The Guardian. Click to enlarge.

Are you going to throw this over to Northern Ireland to pick the PM? (Is that really better than letting Scotland do it?) Are you going to force new elections? What’s the realistic game-plan here?