Is Conservatism Running on Brand Fumes?

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A provocative article in the Guardian, ‘A zombie party’: the deepening crisis of conservatism, is a must read. I am going to focus on a few key observations rather than attempt to summarize it.

Among other things, it also gives some perspective on Brexit, about which I ought to be Saying Something. But we are now in a phase where Game of Thrones level jockeying in the UK appears to have great significance for what happens next. Making sense of that requires more understanding of the fine points of politicking than I have or am likely to acquire.

However, my instinct (and I need to do some pondering to make sure this isn’t being wedded to my priors) is virtually all of that is noise relative to how Brexit will progress (or more likely not). The EU again said it won’t renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. Boris Johnson, other PM aspirants, and Nigel Farage are nurturing their unicorns of being able to do precisely that.

The Tories don’t have good incentives for being the turkeys that voted for Thanksgiving, um, a General Election, except that enough Conservative MPs loathe Boris so intensely that they’d be willing to send the party into the wilderness rather than have him as PM. However, there is the contrary school of thought that Boris is liked enough in some circles that a snap election would enable the Tories to gain ground. This strikes me as big a potential miscalculation as May’s snap election.

But all of the focus on UK political machinations misses that the UK hasn’t had a crashout due to the forbearance of the EU, and the UK political classes act as if the EU will continue to be oh so accommodating. Even now, way too few pols and pundits in the UK appear willing to say the only way to take a no deal Brexit off the table is to rescind Article 50. House Speaker has declared that of course Parliament will have a say on a no deal, when a solid analysis by the Institute of Government says the reverse.

The EU has better things to do that deal with new UK front men trying to relitigate closed topics. Although Macron’s credibility is weakened by his allies’ poor showing in the EU Parliament elections, France still has a veto, and the prospect of neverending UK Brexit antics might focus a few minds. I still believe that what led the EU to give the UK an extension when France reportedly had two allies in a veto push wasn’t Merkel or EU kick the can reflexes (although they likely contributed) but Ireland. It was very clear Ireland was not remotely prepared for a no-deal. The EU at the 11th hour was looking into transition arrangements, as in fudges, but nothing was even close to being settled. On top of that, as PlutoniumKun pointed out, the early April decision came shortly after St. Patricks Day, when Irish embassies all over the world hold big parties, and use them to sell their agenda, and this year, Brexit would have been top of the list.

So while the UK machinations require some study, my instinct is, as before that a relatively small number of boundary conditions will continue to drive Brexit. In other words, UK politics have gone chaotic, yet it isn’t clear how much impact on outcomes that will actually have.

Now to the Guardian story on conservatism. Its one big shortcoming in my eye is that it focuses on politics and ideology and not very much on economic outcomes, like stagnant worker wages and rising inequality. Another way to think about it is that the Reagan/Thatcher neoliberal wave ushered in a tooth and claw version of conservatism. It sold the false promise that “getting government out of the way” would unleash abundant opportunities for everyone, lifting all boats. We know how that movie ended.

Many of the trappings of traditional forms of conservatism that made its fundamental injustice of preserving the privileges of the ruling classes acceptable were stripped away. No more noblesse oblige. No more caring about the health and welfare of your local community. No more recognizing that the lower orders needed a reasonable degree of stability in order for them to be willing to stay put (in economic terms). And no more defense of families. Laborers sold their services into markets, and that meant they had to be mobile, including uprooting children and moving away from relatives who often provided child care or at least emergency backup, sometimes having partly absentee fathers due to travel, and vastly more women with real careers as a challenge to traditional roles.

The stresses above have only been made worse by the rise of global billionaire class and wannabes that are too obvious about not giving a damn about everyone else.

Parts of the article that caught my eye. This section is a much tamer rendering of the line of thought above:

[Corey] Robin, who is on the left, argues that behind the facade of pragmatism there has remained an unchanging conservative objective: “the maintenance of private regimes of power” – usually social and economic hierarchies – against threats from more egalitarian forces. Once democracy arrived, conservatives were faced with a harder task, he argues. They needed “to make privilege popular” – or at least popular enough for them to hold office.

Under Reagan and Thatcher, conservatism’s solution to this conundrum was to promote a Darwinian but supposedly inclusive capitalism that was meant to keep the economy evolving while also preserving the social structures that conservatives favour, such as the traditional family. Yet since the 80s the economic benefits of this model have steadily become thinner and more narrowly distributed; meanwhile, its social costs have increasingly been felt by conservative-inclined interest groups, such as shopkeepers and people living in small towns.

While true, the deadly Thatcher tenet was, “There is no such thing as society.” In fact, families have a much harder time doing well when they are in fragile communities or hostile settings (like the failed states the US creates with abandon. The neoliberal weakening of communities (adults volunteering at or sitting on the boards of local institutions or playing baseball or volleyball regularly, or going to town meetings) and the greater transience of residents has also hurt families by subtly or overtly reducing a sense (however illusory) of security and stability.

Another snippet:

A few days after Thatcher’s death in 2013, I interviewed her former employment secretary Norman Tebbit. A social conservative, like Thatcher herself, he told me he now worried her government had loosened the country morally, not just economically. “I sometimes wonder,” he said, “whether our economic reforms led to an individualism in other values, in ways we didn’t anticipate.”

You mean the looting of government that resulted from the privatization of public services? Or the virtual collapse of the UK civil service as bright young men (and later women) went to the City instead? Or do you just mean high divorce rates among ordinary people?

And this part:

With some justification, conservatives had long prided themselves on their attention to facts, to how people actually lived, or wanted to live – rather than trying to build utopias, as they accused the left of doing. Even the most dogmatic Thatcherites had been keenly aware of social trends such as the rise of individualism, and how they might be politically exploited. But, starting in the 90s, on both sides of the Atlantic, much of the movement “ceased to be empirical”, Gray says. And without an interest in facts, it is hard to govern well for long.

As the Trump era in the US has made all too visible, both sides of the political divide don’t care about reality but about the narratives they can make stick. But not governing well is of little concern since pretty much everyone is out for number one. For instance, if the Democrats cared about governing, they’d be fixated on finding a way to retake the Senate so they could regain control of judicial appointments and be able to nix Presidential nominees to Cabinet posts and the Federal Reserve board. But instead, some viable contenders for Senate seats are instead wasting their time on certain to fail Presidential bids, no doubt with encouragement from somewhere in the party (because Sanders).

Finally, I need to quibble with this part:

With that core vote mobilised, with its electoral impact maximised thanks to a US voting system that disproportionately represents small towns and the countryside, with the Democratic vote minimised thanks to gerrymandering and voter suppression, and with the conservative media grinding away, the American right will continue to eke out election wins.

Spare me the tears for Team Dem. First, the Democrats are at least partly responsible for gerrymandering. Groups like La Raza were working fist in glove with Republican because La Raza wanted to create minority-majoiry districts. But the creation of particularly Republican congressional districts played a big role in the polarization of American politics, since in some of them, being more extreme was the ticket to getting elected.

Second, as Lambert points out, if the Democrats were serious about getting people to vote, they’d make voter registration a permanent priority. They don’t. That is consistent with their true aim of representing the top 10%. They really don’t want those people…..people who rent, who change jobs a lot out of necessity…to be well represented.

Again, I hope you find the time to digest this meaty piece.

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100 comments

  1. Sound of the Suburbs

    The Conservatives still think free trade and free markets are the route to prosperity after ten years of austerity.

    The electorate are just not that stupid.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      Free trade and free markets ain’t the problem. There being completely unregulated and uncontrollable and used to undermine the nation-state, pillaging them and laying the entire country to waste is. Moderate and controlled free trade and free markets are almost essential to a modern country’s prosperity.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith Post author

        *Sigh*

        Please wash your mouth out. “Free trade” and “free markets” are incoherent and internally contradictory ideas. Among other things, they depend on states as enforcers (courts, rules about products living up to their descriptions, etc). We have a longer discussion in ECONNED.

        Reply
        1. JBird4049

          Alright then. Free trade and free markets are probably essential to a modern country’s economic prosperity; I am thinking of the economic system set up by the Bretton Woods Agreements and not the current neoliberal economic system; whatever else, I am not thinking of the system envisioned by Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys.

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        2. Tony of CA

          I agree. Markets are complete social constructs held together by strong state powers. I can’t understand why people aren’t able to see this. It’s blatantly obvious!!

          Reply
  2. Edward

    “But not governing well is of little concern ”

    Another good example of this is the Dodd-Franck legislation following the 2008 crash. Congress didn’t even have enough shame about what happened in 2008 to make a better effort. We still don’t have Glass-Steigall back. They are certainly willing to test public opinion.

    We almost need a revolution in Britain and the United States. The deep state in both countries needs to be marginalized.

    John Dean has also tried to analyze conservative politics.

    If I were British I might be more concerned about Scottish separatists then the Brexit.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, Edward.

      With regard to the deep state etc., the Trump Derangement Syndrome exposed how invested British neo liberals and neo cons in the MSM, City and securocracy were invested in a Hillary victory. One former head of MI6 turned Cambridge college head has been gunning for Trump and Corbyn. David Habbakuk on Sic Semper Tyrannis has some of the most insightful write-ups about that.

      The British establishment fears Scottish separatism if led by an Alex Salmond. They have the measure of the current SNP leadership and a placeman on its front bench, a former City banker. One analogy with the need to retain Scotland in the union is how the Pakistani military needs Afghanistan, a sort of critical mass.

      Reply
      1. Clive

        Yes, never has a placeman been such an effective placeman as that particular placeman who has, as you say, been placed on the [SNP’s] front bench. He is especially convincing, which is what makes him such a snake in the grass for the nationalists. You’d have thought his resume would have set alarm bells ringing, as would his spat with Salmond. But there seems little the party establishment can do to nullify his presence and influence.

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        1. larry

          Surely not the overweight man in the blue suit with the mellow Scottish accent sitting in the front to the right of Corbyn.

          Reply
          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, Gentlemen.

            Er, yes, Larry.

            The placeman used to work here and is friends with one of my managers.

            Reply
      2. Edward

        My impression is that Cameron did a good job wooing Scottish voters, but in the long run it is going to take more then hot air to placate the Scottish.

        I think it is a testament to the power of the U.S. media propaganda system that Biden is the Democratic frontrunner. This miserable politician is as responsible as anyone for the policy disasters of the United States and yet here he is leading the polls– to the extent they are accurate. At least with Obama he didn’t start with this terrible track record; in fact his selection of Biden as VP was when he chose neoliberal politics over left politics, IMHO. Anyway, I think we all vaguely understand that media propaganda is influential, but the reality is worse then generally appreciated. As a rule, I believe that when something is partially or fully hidden from view, so that it lacks checks, it will develop bad behavior. But the default assumption the general public makes about institutions is that all is okay.

        Reply
        1. lordkoos

          Biden is not the frontrunner, it is propaganda. That CNN poll that found Biden to be in the lead? Turns out that they didn’t poll people under the age of 49. Jimmy Dore talks about this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d36QXSnSRgM

          Sanders is the actual frontrunner and they are desperate to keep that fact out of the public consciousness. Dailykos did a straw poll yesterday and Bernie was way out in front: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/5/30/1861443/-Bernie-Sanders-wins-latest-Daily-Kos-Straw-Poll-in-what-has-become-a-five-candidate-race?utm_campaign=trending

          Reply
          1. Edward

            This is what I suspect. Even so, for Biden to be anywhere near frontrunner status is a dismaying display of propaganda power, I think. It will be interesting to see what happens to these polls when there are actual election results or debates. Obama’s first presidential campaign won an advertising award. Will Biden’s campaign set new advertising records?

            Reply
        2. Procopius

          I think it is a testament to the power of the U.S. media propaganda system that Biden is the Democratic frontrunner.

          With notably rare exceptions, American voters have the attention span of a fruit fly. 522 days is a long time in politics. I believe that by Labor Day (first Monday in September) Biden will have been forgotten. This time he just put his hands on a ten-year-old girl’s shoulders. Next time he’s going to sniff her hair and then he’s toast. I wish he’d be discarded for his awful policies, but treating him like Judge Roy Moore will do.

          Reply
    2. rd

      My view of current American politics is that Americans generally don’t believe that government (especially Federal and state) can work well and are determined to prove that. So many of the people elected are not actually conservatives, but more like anarchists in suits.

      The countries that are hanging in there generally have a social contract between the government and the population where there are expectations for what you will get for your taxes. The US and Britain need to figure out how to reconstruct that.

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      1. Anarcissie

        The anarchism of anarchists in suits evaporates pretty quickly when they want their property protected.

        The old-time bourgeoisie knew they had to keep the social order together if they wanted to enjoy their stuff, their privileges and power. However, they’re also capitalists, and capitalism militates constantly against conservatism, against things-as-they-have-been; see the Communist Manifesto (‘All that is solid melts into air….’). The old conservatives are flushed, and only the thieves and bully-boys remain. For awhile.

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        1. Ford Prefect

          The current disaster scenarios in the midwest and south are interesting. These areas have elected many of the Tea Party people who rail against government spending and the welfare state. So I would have assumed they are fine with not getting government handouts due to bad weather, but that does not appear to be the case. It seems like they just want the money to be taken from other groups instead.

          I am fine with disaster relief for farmers, etc. I would just prefer then if they don’t vote for Sam Brownback and Steve King and then ask for government relief. That is just insulting our intelligence.

          Reply
      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Milton Friedman’s son called him a libertarian anarchist. I see what you described as significantly due to his and the Chicago School’s success as ideologues.

        Reply
      3. Edward

        The U.S. government resembles what you find in a colonized country; empires place kleptocrats in power, often from minority groups, who manage the plundering of their country in return for a share of the loot. In our case, various interest groups have installed the crooks.

        Reply
  3. Ignacio

    As the Trump era in the US has made all too visible, both sides of the political divide don’t care about reality but about the narratives they can make stick.

    Yes, and not only the Democrats & Republicans but also the invisible alternatives and the left. And here lies the “secret” of Trump’s success. This week I learned that regarding social innovation –GND for instance– it is quite difficult to implement when there is high inequality. This is because much of the society feels abandoned and will be very difficult yo engage them in social changes. Trying to lecture the “deplorables”, as Clinton did, is counterproductive and typically leads to skepticism. Apparently, this result has been repeatedly seen by sociologists. The best way to engage people is to use a narrative of examples with which people can feel empathy and understand better. This is IMO the biggest failure of the progressives. For instance, no matter how much one tries to educate on MMT with good arguments, what is needed is exemplary tools to make people engage. Small MMT-like experiments would do a better job. Trump on his side directed his campaign to blue and white collar guys and gals that could easily understand that job positions move to countries that “don’t play fair”. Although somehow misguided or deceitful this kind of exemplary narrative on manufacturing jobs works very well as well as the deceitful narrative that draws immigrants as job stealers.

    In any case inequality has to be the centerpiece of the narrative for social change. That is what I very much like the “guillotine watch” section on links.

    Reply
  4. disillusionized

    As a conservative, I vehemently reject the categorization of Thatcher as a conservative, she was a liberal.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      There are many who hold that view in the UK. As Churchill, the genius who ratted and reratted, said, “We’re not Tories. We just use the Tory Party.” The same thing could be said about Tony Blair. Chuka Umunna does not seem to have paid attention.

      Reply
      1. larry

        Chuka Umunna: you can say that again, Col. A problem with ‘using’ is the possibility of a certain degree of cognitive capture, a kind of Stockholm syndrome. I think that may have happened with Blair in part.

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    2. Carolinian

      One could point out that this site regularly links to The American Conservative which bills itself as “paleoconservative”–the pre Reagan/Thatcher right. TAC is also one of the few places that regularly criticizes our post 9/11 forever war. (Old time conservatives used to jibe–not inaccurately–that our 20th century wars were all started by Democrats. Reagan and his Repub successors sought to join the party.)

      Of course TAC people like Pat Buchanan are usually religious, often Catholic, and opposed to abortion and gay marriage which puts them beyond the pale given more widespread social trends. And as as Yves says above it’s all shaped by the rise of mass media as society becomes, to the rich, a PR problem. Narrative is all. Reality takes a back seat.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        The American Conservative might be described as what mainstream American conservatism was and what many still want. As with the Democratic Party and many leftists and liberals, TAC’s staff is full of people whom the Republican Party left. Not the other way. Just as Jacobin was probably started partly as a response to Neoliberalism’s takeover of the Democratic Party, so was TAC for the Republicans.

        It has been interesting to see how both parties stripped of their leftist, even small scale socialist, people and forming an alliance with the social and religious extremists of their respective parties. Even much of the various strains of economic thought of both parties have been purged. The Republican Party started as pro-economic development and business generally, and anti slavery as well. Abraham Lincoln worked as a railroad lawyer and was a noted opponent of slavery. The Democratic Party was mainly pro (small) agriculture, pro South, pro racism, and generally pro little guy. But both parties had elements of everything .

        They are not even really political parties anymore especially the Democratic Party. Governance and ideology is merely cover for the stealing and distribution of the loot. That is a huge reason for the general, slow moving collapse of our country, nation, and society. There is nobody running the place.

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      1. Monty

        The “Classical liberal” label that smug right wingers wear on t-shirts springs to mind.

        Liberal as in: Liberate money from rules, to do as it will.

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    3. PlutoniumKun

      Thatcher was a proud and radical Hayakian and a class warrior – except her class was the lower middle classes. She loathed toffs and the working classes with equal venom.

      Reply
  5. Foppe

    I dunno if they’re running on brand fumes exactly; I think it’s more that they’ve already won so much that they have little to do, while they can’t really become more reactionary than they already are because they aren’t comfortable with the level of violence that further escalation would require (at home). And that’s sort of a good thing, I guess, though it looks like a younger generation is working on overcoming that discomfort, which is less good.

    I’ve slowly been writing about this topic from a different perspective (more in line with Corey’s argument from TRM, though taking it in a direction he doesn’t seem comfortable going, by combining it with Tom Frank’s observations, plus Chomsky’s, Graeber’s, Harvey’s and Hudson’s).

    It’s still very much a work in progress (and I’m not the most benighted writer), though it should be sufficiently coherent by now for it to be okay to invite people to read it.

    Reply
    1. junez

      Agree. The Dem. adoption of so many conservative positions since Carter through Clinton and Obama–on crime, welfare “reform”, health insurance, the need to cut Social Security, trade agreements, financial and other deregulation–has left conservatives with only the wilder parts of their program. Perhaps this is a reason for their drive against abortion rights–product differentiation.

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      1. Barry

        This is due to the demographics of triangulation and centrism. The Dems seek to woo the more reasonable Republicans over to their party. Most of the people who switch don’t go from being rightists to being leftists; they’ve switched parties because the Dems have moved right to attract them.

        The Democratic Party adopts more right-wing policies to win over Republicans. The interests of the Republicans who join the DP are thus disproportionately represented in the party establishment.

        What’s left in the Republican party is the rightest of the right wing. The Democratic Party leaders think this is great, because they can point to them and say, “See how horrible they are? You have to vote for us”.

        Lather, rinse, repeat.

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      2. rd

        I think the Republican Party has simply chosen to get a significant voting base by focusing on anti-abortion and elimination of gun restriction etc. on the assumption that those same people won’t object to much lower income tax rates for the wealthy and corporate deregulation. So they effectively give away nothing but get a huge financial payback for their donors. Trump has been able to follow that playbook very effectively.

        Reply
  6. cocomaan

    I think that this article doesn’t pay enough attention to the upcoming generation, which by my estimation (and some others) is going to be far more conservative than millenials.

    Case in point: https://abcnews.go.com/Business/millenials-love-reagan-bush-swag/story?id=59623079

    But why is Reagan-Bush swag such a status item? The trend is particularly associated with fraternities, especially in the South. Bush-Reagan t-shirts are a constant bestseller on the popular Greek site Rowdy Gentleman.

    Reply
    1. pretzelattack

      well, frats are composed of the kids of people who are well off, and largely conservative, as a generalization. i think that is like a political poll conducted on landlines.

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      1. Polar Donkey

        I’ve seen these shirts on young guys eating at the restaurant I work at here in the South. I didn’t get it at first. But I guess these guys are looking fondly back at sexually assaulting drunk girls, cocaine being cool, and their place at high paying jobs with a nice house in the suburbs reserved for them. Things aren’t quite so sure anymore. The local, expensive liberal arts college full of guys like these had a scandal this year. 2 frat boys sexually assaulted a drunk girl in front of witnesses. It was bad enough the police department was called. When cops searched frat house, found a bunch of cocaine. It took a few months, but school finally kicked the frat off campus and expelled the 2 guys the last week of semester. The school population is now 65% female, but even though fewer guys than 20 years ago, the quality of those male students has declined. School made a choice to go after jocks and rich kids that aren’t great academically but can pay. So sexual assaults have gone way up over the years and school’s reputation way down. A lot of women that graduate from there regret it.
        There’s your Reagan/Bush ’84 for ya.

        Reply
    2. jrs

      maybe, but a recession would cure them (the generation after millennials). You would think ecological collapse would make those ideals look obviously failed, but they are oblivious I guess. Hard to be oblivious to a recession though.

      Ha since they are still very young, it’s possible time in the workplace might cure them!

      Reply
      1. False Solace

        > maybe, but a recession would cure them

        How did that work out for Weimar Germany.

        Sometimes desperate times just make for desperate people.

        I believe this accounts for what we see with Gen Z. A lot of extreme alt-right — the more deranged of whom commit various gun atrocities in public — but also a significant stripe of extreme leftists, what are sometimes labeled “tankies”, but unlike the alt-right these currently do not pursue violence with guns.

        Reply
  7. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    The concern expressed by Tebbit was expressed in the 1980s by the Tory “Wets”, often with regard to deregulation, and in the 1990s by John Major. Readers may recall “back to basics”, which, due to a spin doctor being off message, ended up in a way not intended by Major. One measure that formed part of this idea was the reversal of a Nigel Lawson reform to unleash a credit binge called “property owning democracy”.

    Until the 1980s, it was difficult to obtain mortgages. One way of allowing council houses to be sold and to build a hopefully permanent Tory majority was to allow unmarried couples to borrow together and at higher limits and looser underwriting standards. The restrictions on borrowing by unmarried couples were reversed in the early 1990s.

    I read that article when it was first published online and thought that it should have addressed the crisis of neoliberalism, which transcends parties in the UK and elsewhere. The Tories may be running on fumes, but there’s a long, long way to go for the opposition, especially with potential “clean skins” like Rory Stewart, Matt Hancock and Penny Mordaunt running for Tory leader and perhaps able to emulate John Major in 1992. In addition, Labour’s neo-liberals and neo-cons, aided and abetted by the Likudniks at the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, are destabilising the Labour Party, knowing they can’t dislodge Corbyn, aided and abetted by party members who are unable / don’t want to understand what is going on, voted for Tom Watson as deputy leader and refuse to vote for mandatory reselection, and hacks like Owen Jones who don’t what they are talking about, but get lots of airtime to pontificate.

    One wonders what Corbyn makes of it all, if at all as he often seems like a rabbit caught in the headlights, especially Margaret Hodge’s role. In the 1990s, Corbyn helped her become an MP. He also defended her against victims of the Islington paedophilia and housing scandals. With regard to the latter scandal, the British National Party supported Hodge and sent her a bouquet.

    Reply
    1. John A

      It was difficult to obtain mortgages because the main mortgage providers were building societies that were both prudent and whose actual lending was based on savers’ deposits. A 25-year mortgage based on 2 or 2.5 X your annual income plus a reasonable deposit would secure you a decent apartment in London or a house in the rest of England up until the time, the building societies turned themselves into banks. These new banks were swiftly swallowed by the big banks and suddenly much bigger multiples of income plus 100% mortgages were on offer, totally divorced from bank deposits. Bingo, rapid property inflation.
      I bought my first apartment in Islington, London in the mid 80s, on a 2.5x salary plus 5% deposit (saved over 2 years) on a not-quite-starter salary. My daughters, now at the age I was then, have zero chance of getting on the proverbial property ladder as they would need around 10X the equivalent of my 80s salary whereas their actual salary is perhaps 2-3 times more than I earned then.
      Property prices are clearly related to how much banks will lend, not on any kind of prudence.

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      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, John.

        That is true about the building societies.

        At that time, my future boss, Dick Saunders, then a Treasury official, was busy plotting their demise.

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    2. larry

      Col, Corbyn has an albatross in the form of the Stalinists that advise him. One of them from the upper class is especially odious. He needs to replace them but he won’t. Another of these guys has been described as being ‘left of Stalin’, whatever that might mean, though I take it to mean ‘worse’.

      Reply
      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you.

        The one you are thinking of is not the only upper class courtier. Unite official Andrew (Drummond-)Murray and his daughter Laura are there, too. Corbyn has soft and weak spots for toffs pretending to be lefties.

        One can understand why Seumas Milne became like that. He was affected by his father being hounded out of the BBC and public life. Who was chairman of the BBC at the time? William Rees-Mogg, father of Jacob and Annunziata.

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  8. John A

    I read the Guardian piece as far as to:
    ” the Russian assistance that helped Trump narrowly outflank Hillary Clinton’s lumbering campaign in 2016″

    They just won’t let go of that mouldy old bone that never had any meat on it in the first place.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      I sometimes think Guardian writers are only allowed contribute once they fulfil a certain quota of stock phrases – ‘feminist’, ‘patriarchy’ ‘metoo’ and ‘Russian Interference’ are among the key ones. You even get them in the sports section. And they’ve made the cultural reviews almost unreadable because of their obsessive shoehorning.

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        1. larry

          Yes, aren’t they. The Beeb especially. I find it almost painful to watch BBC news. I prefer Tom Bradby on Itv News at 10 some weekdays. He isn’t always on, though. And he is quirky. Last night, he had a piece on the gallery owner who paid a six figure sum to the garage owner with the Banksy on the corner of the garage. He ended by saying that the garage owner was probably laughing all the way to the banksy. It was cheesy, but after the breakaway showing how the relevant part of the garage was moved to the gallery, he concluded by saying that ‘you knew it was coming, didn’t you’ with a chuckle in his voice. Well, I didn’t, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

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      1. Michael Fiorillo

        Well, it’s very useful to have people, especially young people, engaged in “politics” that are censorious, simultaneously individualistic and leashed to groupthink, and always on the hunt for those who might think of trying to raise themselves and others out of the ideological ditch they’re in.

        I can’t speak for England, but that’s my recent experience with so-called Left politics in the US, and in a trade union, no less.

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    2. shinola

      @John A 8:39 am

      I almost quit the Gaurdian article on reading that sentence (TDS has become so tiresome) but decided to read on. It was worth it. Hope you can bring yourself to read it in full.

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    3. Kurt Sperry

      I almost bailed at that exact same line, figuring anyone egregiously misinformed enough to get that so obviously wrong was probably not the brightest knife in the deck.

      Reply
  9. PlutoniumKun

    A key issue I’d have with the article is the assumption that the alternative to Conservativism is the left, when in reality all major movements on the left/right axis are struggling and changing. Even within the left, there are quite reactionary movements (I’d agree Social Justice Warriors to give one example are an inherently reactionary force).
    I’m currently re-reading Patrick Leigh Fermors’ wonderful memoir of walking across Europe in 1933 as an 18 years old (A Time of Gifts) – he describes his shock at the love given to the Nazi’s in small towns and rural areas (women talking about ‘his lovely eyes’) – these are people who moved from traditional conservatives to that other, even nastier variety. There is plenty of evidence worldwide that people who have been undermined by neoliberalism are not embracing progressivism, but much darker forces. Its not just in Europe and America – in the Philippines, Duterte, who has frequently flirted with left wing policies, has gone full far right. So the danger of the destruction of communities by neoliberals is that they become more reactionary, not less so. Progressives would be very unwise to somehow assume that the failure of conservatives will somehow lead to the left strolling to power.

    Reply
    1. larry

      PK, your last sentence is spot on. But this seems to be what they are doing. The line of least resistance?

      Reply
    2. Amfortas the hippie

      in this far place, i witnessed the same phenomenon after 9-11…good people turning crazy and xenophobic and swallowing the GWOT Koolaide.
      now, of course, the Koolaide is bipartisan.
      this frightening turn was helped by the arrival of 2 groups of xtian zealots from outside—cowboy church and what i call the teepee people(they initially stayed in teepees by the river(!)). “steeplejacking” it’s called…a variation on Church Planting.
      they inserted themselves into all the local churches(the catholics to a lesser extent, likely due to the many brown people), and set about sowing dissent and racial animus and a whole lot of puritan acrimony.
      from 15 or so churches(already a lot, given our pop. of between 4 and 6 thousand souls) we went to 23 churches, due to the splits.
      after watching all this, and at the same time undertaking my giant virtual field study of the american right, it occurred to me that the cognitive dissonance that is so weirdly accepted by the lumpenright is made possible by the training they’ve gotten from the more frothing parts of american protestantism.
      this broad phenomena of full throated pseudofascism and eliminationist purity reached it’s peak in and around obama’s last 2 years….exhaustion, and the intrusion of reality into their mythical worlds served to undermine their faith and their forbearance of the gop/tea’s rhetoric and agenda.
      distrust seeped in…not only of the dems…read: Team Blue…but of their own party and even capitalism as defined.
      it is now as if a fever has broken, and the only true believers in local gopland are the old men and especially old women who are relatively secure.(this is mirrored in the true believers in local demland). just about everyone else that i encounter, talk to or eavesdrop upon have had it with the duopoly, and are adrift as far as ideology and worldview goes.
      the former teabilly frothers are generally embarrassed by trump…on a continuum depending on their inherent moral sense….but they aren’t pining for reagan…nor are they embracing the “other side”…hillary is still the devil, after all.
      let another 9-11 level disaster occur, and i foresee a rush to the right…even unto fascism.
      and without a sanders/new new deal, they will have nowhere else to go, if they feel the need to become politicised again.
      the greatest disservice the clintonites have done to us is removing an actual alternative to “free market”/forever war.
      since my neighbors think that, obviously, clinton/obama represent “socialism”, a whole language is denied to folks like me.
      nevertheless, out here, at least, the majority are ripe for new deal evangelism…the shiftlessness and the results of the trumpian apokalypse(gr:”rending the veil”) have them half-heartedly casting about for something to believe in. either “we” provide a narrative framework(meaning “our revolution”/Sandersism) or the forces of darkness will.(lately, the Church of Christ preacher has started yelling about the other churches…something i will keep an eye on)
      i communicate this need for an evangelical effort to the sanders people when they text me every couple of months(idk how they got my name and number,lol)…because i cannot do it alone, even in this tiny, isolated place.
      all is in flux, and words like “conservatism” no longer resonate.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        Sometimes when you write about your neighbours, I am reminded of an old Robert Heinlein novella called “If This Goes On—” and how it could actually come about. In this book, Heinlein wrote of an America ruled by a military-priesthood under the rule of a series of fundamentalist Christian “Prophets”. The First Prophet was Nehemiah Scudder, a backwoods preacher turned President (elected in 2012), then dictator (no elections were held in 2016 or later). He postulated a future of what might happen to Christianity in the United States given mass communications, applied psychology, and a hysterical populace and was quite detailed in showing how this worked in everyday life. Let us say that the conditions were ripe for this to happen.

        Reply
        1. Amfortas the hippie

          yeah. it was scary for a few years, there…especially for an outspoken weirdo like me. I had been busy introducing cosmopolitan cookery with accompanying music that was more than the Two Kinds(country AND western) as well as the wholistic ideal of Real Food(local, organic, sustainable, etc) and a redneck hippie political bent.
          but the afternoon of 9-11, i sat at my cafe and watched the gas station across the street being mobbed…filling up every container that would carry gas, beer, water, junk food, ammo…everyone heading for the family ranch to wait for the ravening muslim hordes.
          this was before internet had come out here…and “social media”…
          it doesn’t matter the actual reality of that day…mihop, lihop, whatever. what matters is how it was used: as a psychological weapon, causing a break in everyone’s reality tunnel, that could be caulked with the New Normal of hypersurveillance and watch what you say and with us or agin us.
          whomever had the foresight to run out and stock up on flags the next day made bank…because they sprung up like stickerburrs.
          another such psychological shock is all the Machine needs to undo all the sanders/aoc momentum…although, as i’ve said, the cynicism that i was born with is now widespread—even among the lumpenbillies.
          I know of no one who wants a war with iran or venezuela, for instance.
          and i don’t think the free market nonsense…or even the hate on the poor cruelty…is gonna have the same traction that it once did.
          too many have fallen from the middle class, and too many white folks from good, old families are strung out on meth and pills.
          the suicides around here are by the scions of old, anglo settler families.
          so…again…there’s a window of opportunity here to talk about a new new deal, even in a formerly deep red place like this…an actually conservative polity(small “c:)

          Reply
    3. vlade

      IMO, it’s not about left-right. It’s about few things I believe
      – keep the message simple
      – unleash the hope. Either the hope of the better future, or of revenge. Best of all, both.

      Reply
  10. David

    I thought the article had some interesting nuggets, but got itself confused by trying to deal with three (perhaps four) things at once, as though they were the same. One subject is the history and electoral fortunes of the (British) Conservative party, and its ideology inasmuch as it had one. Another is the very different ideology of the post-Thatcher party, which was anything but conservative (in France they would have been called the Conservative Radicals no doubt). Another is the wave of neoliberal ideology adopted by parties of the alleged Right since the 1980s, but also more recently by the alleged Left as well. And another, perhaps, is the influence of various neoliberal think tanks and media outlets. To put it mildly, these things are not the same. The essential point, not addressed in the article, is that it’s the neoliberal ideology that has run out of steam, and to the extent that it was adopted by most mainstream political parties, it’s taking them down with it. Resistance to this ideology has little to do with generation change, immigration, wokeness or any other of the Guardian’s pet ideas. It has to do with the total and complete failure of the ideology, and its disastrous effects on society.
    This ideology was not “conservative” in any useful historical sense of the word. Rather, it was Liberalism red in tooth and claw, unrestrained by the civilising influence of Nonconformist Christianity in the 19th century, or the fear of Communism in the 20th. In Britain, it represented a sea-change from traditional, sleepy un-ideological Toryism, with its emphasis on preserving the social and economic models of the past as far as possible, whilst making measured concessions on subjects such as the Welfare State and nationalisation when these seemed inevitable. This wasn’t really replaced by a coherent ideology, but by a series of frantic improvisations in the face of economic failure, and attempts (such as the sale of council houses) to raise cash and grow new voters. Theory came a long way after practice, which is why the whole neoliberal “project” has been so incoherent.
    So what we have is sets of traditional “Right” and “Left” parties which swallowed the neoliberal poison and are choking on it. The future, in the UK at least, belongs to the Left if they can seize the opportunity, simply because the collectivist and redistributive ethic, abandoned in the 1980s, is still theoretically available for use, and indeed appears to be popular with the electorate. The Tories, by contrast, having abandoned actually conservative values, would find it impossibly hard to recover them.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, David. I am glad that you have chimed in.

      Have you any thoughts from across la Manche on the Tory leadership contest, especially the candidacy of Rory Stewart, MI6’s crown prince and perhaps a throw back to the Tory Wets? If truly a Tory Wet, one could live with that.

      On another note, it was nice at Deauville and Honfleur last week-end. No racing at Deauville until July, unfortunately.

      Reply
      1. David

        As you might expect, the French are watching the Tory leadership contest with the kind of horrified fascination you might bring to a very large and complex road traffic accident. So far as I can tell, the main assumption seems to be that Johnson will win, and that, even if he doesn’t, the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit has gone up with the resignation of May. I don’t think anyone has any confidence in any of the main contenders to do anything sensible, and the French, like the rest of us, are a bit lost in the never-ending succession of non-entities competing to be the idiot who has to learn to play four-dimensional chess later this year. There’s also a tendency here to underestimate the sheer mendacity and opportunism of what a lot of the candidates say.
        The French have been obsessed, understandably, with last Sunday’s election results (I had been wondering if I should write something about those). The point here is that very much the same process is underway in France as is described in the article. In the elections, the two great parties of the Fifth Republic barely managed (wait for it) fifteen per cent of the vote between them. The Socialists, who dominated French politics only a couple of years ago, barely crawled over the 5% hurdle to gain any seats at all, and may actually be terminally wounded. The Republicans (ex UMP, ex RPR etc. etc.) were on 8.5%, which for the natural party of government since 1958 is an unbelievable catastrophe. Both had massively embraced the neoliberal agenda since the 1990s, in imitation of the UK and US models, and both look as if they are going to die from it. Lumping together all the parties who accept the neoliberal paradigm, you’d be lucky to get much more than one third of the electorate, and most of that is Macron’s mob, which is a very unstable coalition. The Ecologists, who did much better than they or anyone else expected, were the classic “none of the above.” In other words, the problems are systemic through the western world, and not confined to the UK and the US.
        Stewart does actually seem to be an old-style Tory. Anyone who can walk across Afghanistan and govern a province in Iraq and write good and sceptical books about each has to have something going for him. The question is whether he’d actually have much of a party to lead, or many people to follow him, if he did happen to become leader – which I must say would be a nice surprise.

        Reply
        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, David.

          I am glad that you have written about the elections. It would be great if other members of the NC community chipped in from their locations about the spate of recent polls, including Thuto in RSA.

          I flicked from BBC World to French channels on Sunday and Monday evenings. The one thing that struck me, apart from the ritual and worsening gnashing and wailing by neo liberal MSM hacks and 10% enablers, was that no one asked why voters are deserting centrist parties and what makes centrism so good (for us lesser mortals).

          Perhaps, Yves, J-LS and Lambert could lift David’s comment into a separate piece about the recent elections.

          Many thanks, again, for taking the time, David.

          Reply
          1. Thuto

            Thank you Colonel Smithers.

            Long day only now getting a chance to chime in. Down here in sunny SA the equity and currency markets were brimming with delight when the ANC won with a former unionist turned neoliberal highpriest, Cyril Ramaphosa, as its presidential candidate. All the talk about investors being happy with the election results and how a new dawn is upon us nearly, but not quite, drowned out the stark reality that support for the ANC at the polls was down nearly 5% in comparison to 2014. This ties in neatly with your point about centrist parties (and the ANC styles itself as a left of centre party) delivering less than stellar elections performances across the world. With neoliberalism now firmly entrenched as its ideological lynchpin, those whom the ANC has alienated with its staunch pro-markets stance have tired of waiting for a better tomorrow and embraced the far left (radical) Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by the young firebrand Julius Malema, which boosted its support by nearly 50% at the polls.

            While the ANC lost support to the EFF, the Democratic Alliance (DA), whose raison d’etre as you know is to protect the economic interests of the previous white ruling elites by stealth (with liberal use of “nonracialism” as a soundbite to obfuscate the racialized concentration of economic power) and to advance the agenda of global capital on our shores, backslid and lost their traditional support base of whites, a holdover from its days as the National Party, to the white nationalist, far right Freedom Front+ (these are whites who view the economic status quo as inviolable and equate any form of redress with “trampling on minority rights”). I think centrist parties, and this applies to SA and globally, have been dealt a huge blow by their unabashed embrace of neoliberalism and the ruinous effects this has had on citizens. People look around at their lives and see nothing of the trappings that were supposed to “trickle down” when the “rising tide was supposedly lifting all boats”. Centrist politicians, beholden to their overlords, meanwhile continue to double down on the narrative that if only we could do more of what hasn’t worked before, the outcome would be more prosperity for everyone. At some point, the message ceases to resonate and results at the polls will bear this out, but one wonders whether any of this will be a wake-up call or whether they’ll continue to slam the door at all the reality (in the form of declining support for their policies) coming at them. The ANC may continue to whip out the legacy of Madiba on cue every five years and ride its coattails to victory but even that has a lifespan as the electorate keeps getting younger.

            Reply
          2. Ape

            Greens the bigger winners in Germany (up 100%), and the SPD the big, big losers (lost almost half their voters). None of the above came in at 10% — with a big win for Die Partei Partei, who’s agenda is to collect their salaries while continuing their satirical reports. They’re up to 3 delegates from 1. Varoufakis didn’t manage to make the threshold of 1% with only 0.3% of the vote, which I assume is the vote of every Slavic philosopher in Germany.

            So, the center does not hold. Merkel’s CDU lost (smaller than the SPD), but only a bit slid to the AFD (the usually assortment of nutty fascists), less than expected keeping them at 10%. The whole thing reeks of realignment for the next election — what will the Greens do with their new power? As long as they avoid previous mistakes of making meatless Tuesdays part of their agenda.

            Are they a new bourgeois conservative power recognizing that people want their environment to be “nice”? Or will their left take control with a hard ecologist message?

            Reply
        2. PlutoniumKun

          Stewart almost looks too to be true, a likeable and seemingly admirable Tory. One wonders what his secret is.

          Thanks for the suggestion about electoral updates, Col. Here in Ireland it was generally unremarkable, except that Ireland is reflecting (to a lesser extent than other countries), the slow decline of the traditional parties. One notable feature for me was not the elections, but the polling – it was way off, indicating that there is something going on below the surface (such as people simply deciding to lie to pollsters).

          The Greens did exceptionally well, actually topping the polls in Dublin. They are pretty much the ‘respectable’ protest vote. They would control Dublin city council now except that they didn’t actually run enough candidates. Sinn Fein did very poorly, but that seems to reflect a very bad (for them) electoral strategy. They claim they were doing well on the doorsteps, but somehow this didn’t reflect well in votes. The (neoliberal) Irish labour party continues its decline to irrelevance. The harder left did moderately well, but not brilliantly. The only hard right in Ireland is one small party (more ultra catholic than ultra-fascist) which barely registered a blip, and one high profile Trump wannabe who failed to get elected.

          The most striking thing is that the big urban areas are now more Green/left than the traditional parties, while the centre right is kept going by the rural vote, which never seems to change.

          If a general election was held today, Varadkar would probably still be PM, but probably propped up by Greens and Labour and left leaning independents. The talk is that the government is running out of steam and there will probably be an election in the autumn, although I suspect the Brexit timetable will stop that.

          Reply
          1. Irrational

            Report from little Luxembourg and Denmark.
            Luxembourg, which has all of 6 seats:
            The Christian-Socialist People’s Party (CSV, pretty much like the German CDU-CSU), the main party of government since WWII, lost one of three seats to finish at 2 seats (21.1%), the Democratic Party (liberal, in the Continental European sense), gained that seat to finish at 2 with 21.4%, also putting the CSV in second place for the first time ever, the Greens remained at 1 seat, though they got tantalisingly close to 2 seats at 18%, the Socialists stay at 1 seat.
            From Denmark, which has 16 seats: The liberals (Venstre, again in the Continental European sense) surprisingly (current governing party) strong at 23.5% (up 7%), Social Democrats at 21.5% (up 2%), Socialist People’s Party 13% (up 3%), Danish People’s Party (far right) down at only 10% or so – 40% of their 2014 result, “Radical Left” (another liberal-ish party) also at 10% (up 4%) and a bunch of other right-leaning parties at 6% or below, up or stable for the saner elements, down for the nuttier ones. Overall quite a reassuring election in view of some recently formed right wing parties, but to be followed by a general election next Wednesday, National Day, so who knows!

            Reply
        3. Ignacio

          The French Socialist Party must be the posterchild on how to politically loose the north, the horizon and the wallet.

          Reply
        4. vlade

          Central Europe:

          Czech Republic:
          – the parties that were the effective dupoly since 1990s have suffered, but they have been suffering at least for five years. SocDem are more or less wiped out, which is not really a surprise. Civic Democratic Party which two elections back barely survived is staging a comeback though.
          – Parties of protest are getting more votes, both on the right side of the spectre (“Direct Democracy Party”) and a more progressive (if naive) Pirate party.
          – most votes goes to a weird sort of centrist populist, who’s rally seen as a strong-man by his voters I suspect (I’ve never met anyone who admited voting for him last elections, despite having in my circles people voting for all other parties that made it to parliament).
          Turnout half of usual election turnout at about 28% but 10% higher than the last EU election one.

          Slovakia:
          – a progressive, pro-EU very new party won. It’s the party of the new Slovak president, who quite suprisingly came from pretty much nowhere (human rights lawyer, who spent the last decade fighting a local municipality over a landfil), and won very convincingly.
          – the govt party, which is a weird leftist nationalist populist, even if branded as SocDem, suffered
          – nationalist far right (who is unabashed admirer of the fasist Slovak Hitler’s puppet state) got a significant boost, and ended up third.
          – hungarian minority parties, which tended to have the hungarian minority sewn up lost votes (and one of the lost a MEP).
          Very low turnouth though, 21%, so can’t read anything from the results.

          Poland:
          results mostly reflect the parliament (Law and Justice won, opposition came in second), but a newly formed liberal pro-Eu party won 3 seats and third place), and Poxit alliance lost all its seats (althought they came in fourth). At a relatively high turnout (40%), it’s possible that LaJ might win the next parliamentary elections but not be able to form a government.

          Other ones don’t know enough to comment.

          Reply
      2. skippy

        Smashing good thread I must say ….

        Anywho we only have one party here in Oz – the “investor” party – because anyone attempting to sort out any of the perks handed out to investors or roll back structural market reforms which lube cramming down others or making others an income stream is verboten ….

        Then some are confused about Milton’s quip about reduced democracy with a UBI, sorta like an early Adam Curtis exploration on some early free market breathers disrupting stuff ideologues. Seems the results were just the opposite of what was peddled and resulting finger pointing and externalization of results … I mean the good book said …

        Ending on a high note … youngest daughter [19] just quit a good paying job for a T1 national legacy C-corp. Was asked as a service consultant to engage in unethical sales tactics with customers. Said in conversation with her mangers that she would quit if forced to comply, strangely after that she started getting the Guantanamo treatment and left after a talk with the wife and myself. This C-corp just announced 6K layoffs to the joy of the investor class and equity showed their glee.

        I raise my glass of Ratu 8 year old with lemonade and club soda on the rocks in salute to those above … Cheers.

        Reply
    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I pulled only one nugget from the Guardian piece:
      “What does it say about us as Conservatives,” asks Cooper, “if our only hope for the next generation of voters is that they don’t vote?”
      But I have qualms about this nugget. I’m not convinced voting really matters. I view both Republicans and Democrats as ‘Conservatives’ — just slightly different flavors. I think Neoliberalism is quite alive and well in both camps. I haven’t noticed how the expressed will of the American public — both those calling themselves Republicans or calling themselves Democrats, and who vote, — has resulted in meaningful policy for either. There is plenty for the Cartels and Billionaires, no matter which party holds sway. Neoliberal thought has so corrupted public discourse that even the leftmost impose Neolilberal terms and limits on their discussion and thoughts on issues.

      I suppose the nugget might be better rephrased to say the only hope of our Elites for the next generations of voters and non-voters is that they remain docile and apathetic — entertained by the puppet theater and how so-and-so looks in their bikini.

      Reply
      1. eg

        I think you are saying, “never mind what it says on the label, all of this beer is coming from the same tap” sort of thing?

        Reply
      2. Oregoncharles

        Again: when asked, self-described “Democrats” and “Republicans” are only about 30% each – currently a few more D’s than R’s. “Independents,” meaning everybody else, are over 40% – a very solid plurality. Bill Clinton won election with 42%.

        That doesn’t mean “independents” will actually vote as a bloc – they’re all over the place, not necessarily in the middle, whatever that is (not the boundary between the conservative parties). It does mean the traditional parties are breaking down, as in Europe.

        So the big question is: how long?

        Reply
        1. skippy

          “independents” …. ahhhh …. “the market place of ideals” where not unlike L.A. in my experience one can be many things in a day.

          Surfer at dawn patrol, enraged commuter to work, rising star at work with many hats, lunch at fine eatery [being seen], post hours at work to ensure next day one is not ambushed by the previous, enraged commuter, chillax time at the spa until someone brings their head shot portfolio just in case, night life options where one can be punk, techno, rock, new wave, piano bar, or go ethnic, then the whole conundrum of which social strata of friends to share the experience with …. beach middle class, beach upper class, various elite enclaves of Palos Verde, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Air, or on occasion Thousand Oaks sorts … don’t cross the streams …

          Sadly you can not mix the latter, been there and done that, taking middle class Redondo Bch people up to say Bel Air is a classic case of tribalism. Self reinforcing biases just exclude any sort of community or similarity. Which in retrospect is absurd when many of the elites kids have the same propensity to engage in high risk activities as the lower classes. Case in point, girl from Bel Air with 4 pictures of latent presidents at BBQ’s, with family, going down stairs to the lower level are plastered on wall. She at collage level engaged in, behaved in, anti government and property rights vandalism, to include military sites – moth balled. These activities were known to friends and families, yet at social gatherings the dominate topic was she needed to sort her self out lest she negate her future prospects of work that might engage state or federal funding.

          En Fin ….

          Reply
      3. Ignacio

        “I’m not convinced voting really matters”

        There it is. That’s why conservatism has kept control of policies by disengagement and why democrats are conservative. Dems and Reps figth for the same kind of voters.

        Reply
    3. flora

      The essential point, not addressed in the article, is that it’s the neoliberal ideology that has run out of steam, and to the extent that it was adopted by most mainstream political parties, it’s taking them down with it.

      Thank you. I agree. The neoliberal ideology is economic and economic values, not social identity and social values.Yet this article, interesting as it is, spends the first half talking about identity interest groups and the Tory party (and US GOP and Dem parties, too) appeals to identity. The second half of the article hints at economics but doesn’t really address economics straight on. There probably isn’t any attractive way to present ‘lets-make-the-rich-richer-and-everyone-else-poorer’ to the majority of voters.

      Here’s a quote from one of the men who pushed neoliberal philosophy – Milton Friedman.

      ” One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

      The results are in. Neoliberalism is a failed economics. My 2 cents.

      Reply
      1. tegnost

        There’s always the option of going faulkner and putting your personal thinking in italics, or gertrude stein and going all small case with no punctuation… rambling jack kerouac is a popular tone but tends to monotony thus my personal favorite is x-ing the paragrab
        https://www.eapoe.org/works/tales/xingc.htm
        …all in good fun of course

        Reply
  11. KLG

    I see the Reagan-Bush swag among certain frat boyz and sorority girls here in the Empire State of the South. Yves will see it in Birmingham. Their Atlanta is a zombie culture on steriods, of wishful thinking that will not lead to wish fulfillment. These “kids” know nothing of Ronald Reagan and might not be able to pick Poppy Bush out of a photo array. They do sense that their Morning in America is really twilight, though, and the cognitive dissonance, such as they cogitate, is making them uncomfortable as it dawns on them that the house in Buckhead is not in their future and that their unfortunate Governor Kemp is an answer to questions no one is asking.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckhead

    Reply
  12. Susan the other`

    Thank you Yves, this was a complex summary and a good link to Corey Robin, whom I scanned. All good stuff. It really is now the politics of chaos, as you say. I’m wondering where “Business” lies on the continuum of liberty and equality. Because I thought it was a cornerstone of UK conservatism – like it is touted to be in the US. So the detail that caught my eye was Boris’s “Fuck Business” comment. Corporations are following their own self interest and advocating for Remain and Bori’s is dismissive of them? Finance must be the last stronghold for Brexit. It’s the British Alamo. The only thing that can be done at this point politically is refine and define terms. Just exactly what kind of “Market” are we all talking about. When Theresa said “Brexit means Brexit” she wasn’t kidding. Brexit is, in fact, meaningless. Because conservatism itself is local and when they try to scale it up it is transformed into neoliberalism and free marketeering which is at best a mirror image of conservatism. So how do you scale up conservatism so that it maintains conservative values from bottom to top? We are not talking about one monolithic market here, we are talking about an aggregation of local markets – and aggregations are political. So nobody gets to say “fuck”.

    Reply
  13. Olivier

    “Macron’s credibility is weakened by his allies’ poor showing in the EU Parliament elections”. With respect, Yves, what planet are you on? As David pointed out, the traditional parties of the left and right, as well as the hard left of Melenchon, have been crushed. The traditional right is definitely not the ally of Macron anyway, so I fail to see how their poor showing has any bearing on him. Meanwhile his own LREM came in second place but missed being first by less than 1%! After months of yellow vest unrest, after the Benalla affair etc etc this is a triumph. Macron even has the sense not to crow and admit that it is technically a defeat (his PM ate humble pie in public and said all the requisite things), which shows that he is learning.

    Mark my words: with French politics now an RN vs. LREM duopoly, if Macron does not make any serious mistake and barring any outside shock severe enough to redraw the political map all by itself, he is a shoe-in for second mandate and a 10-year presidency. No wonder he is grinning.

    Reply
    1. David

      I think the majority view of the REM election result is ´not as bad as it could have been.´Macron made a huge personal investment in the campaign and tried to turn it into a ´me or Le Pen’ competition. In the circumstances, and with all the media support, the result was OK but not spectacular.
      There is a structural problem here though. Historically French elections have been fought between a collective Left and a collective Right. In the first round it’s everyone for himself, whilst in the second, less successful parties drop out and put their weight behind the most successful. At least that’s the theory. The problem here is that neither the REM nor the RN has natural allies. They can both expect to get 20-25% of the vote in the first round but no more. They have no immediate and obvious allies later . Macron’s hope in elections over the next few years will be that his party comes first or second in the various contests, and ideally has the RN as competition. But it may not work as tidily as that, and anyway there’s the small matter of keeping the party together, without an ideology other than leader worship.

      Reply
  14. Stadist

    I don’t know really, in my country there seems to be quite a lot of ‘liberals’ who claim government is only a problem. Terminology is all over the place nowadays.

    Reply
    1. jrkrideau

      Invite them to spend an invigorating weekend in Somali and check back with them on their return.

      Those are not “liberals” those are Ayn Rand libertarians with no real idea of how the word works.

      Reply
  15. Oregoncharles

    “But all of the focus on UK political machinations misses that the UK hasn’t had a crashout due to the forbearance of the EU, and the UK political classes act as if the EU will continue to be oh so accommodating. ”
    From, as Lambert would say, 50,000 feet, I think it’s clear that the EU is trying very hard to avoid a crashout. From this great distance, that’s probably down to two factors: first, some Very Important People (and corps, etc.) stand to lose big if Britain crashes out. They appear to have won out over those who stand to gain. (It’s certain harm versus uncertain gains.) Among other things, a basket case offshore would be very uncomfortable.

    And second, they must be hoping that if they stall long enough, Britain will come to its senses and cancel Article 50. In forcing an EU Parliament election in Britain, without causing massive rioting, they’ve already won big on that score, so they’re probably feeling pretty good about this strategy.

    And they aren’t going to be talking about either of those considerations.

    Partly, this is invoking my priors; I said before that the EU had something to lose in Brexit, even if that’s less than Britain had. I’m not comfortable disagreeing with Yves, who obviously knows more about it than I do, but so far my analysis is looking pretty good. At least until Boris becomes PM and promptly crashes out.

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  16. Glen

    In America, conservative fumes will work just fine as long as the Democratic party continues to offer us a choice like Joe Biden, conservative fumes lite.

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  17. Clive

    As I think I’ve — literally and figuratively — hit bottom here and having diligently read everything above, I will add a footnote that (to be taken in a context of everything that’s been said heretofore) if any of the parties, certainly here in the U.K., really “gets” where it’s at, even if it is short on solutions to its problems (and knowing you’re up the you-know-what creek without a paddle is a good sign of realism) then it’s, shock, horror, the Conservative party.

    You won’t read this sort of thing, for example, much in Labour or the Liberal Democrat publications. These legacy parties are apparently merely waiting for the “inevitable” that, real soon now, politics is about to “get back to normal”.

    Something tells me that it’ll never be “normal” again. Certainly not post-war political norms normal, anyway. Although we may, oddly enough, see a return to pre-war (WWI, that is) structuring of Old Tory, Liberal (this is British liberalism I’m referring to here, which is subtly but importantly different from the US Liberal tradition) and Radical groupings. But not necessarily inhabited by the same party groups as we know and love them today.

    It is I suppose at least exciting. Unfortunately I for one have had quite enough excitement, thanks.

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    1. Oregoncharles

      I’ve been waiting 20 years for the party system to collapse. Britain got there first, right behind France.

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    2. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Fascinating thread. Thanks to all.
      How does any political system get ‘back to normal’ when it can’t provide services — because the money necessary to pay for those services is all stashed in the Bahamas, the Caymans, the tax havens offshore?

      Meanwhile, the feckless politicos like May and Biden still talk about ‘balanced budgets’, which means that they can’t provide solutions because they’re (still) trapped in an austerity Doom Loop.

      They’ll never come up with the funding for their programs, because they won’t gut the tax havens. (Biden, FWIW, was the US Senator from Delaware, a state that excels at releasing people from liability and helping them ensure that their wealth remains anonymous, and untaxed.)

      It appears that political parties based on exalting the power of debt owners over borrowers is imploding over a wide range of political systems. We seem to be at some kind of phase change, and inequality appears to be an accelerant.

      It’s MMT’s moment now, but attracting elected and policy wonks who can actually implement it sanely will be a critical factor moving forward.

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  18. Synoia

    Westminster will remain irrelevant unless it Crashes out of the EU.

    If it does crash out it will be irrelevant because the Neo Liberal world order sets the rules.

    It’s little more than a badly run US state Government. At least those don’t have delusions of Sovereignty.

    Reply
  19. greg kaiser

    “We know how that movie ended.”

    We will when we actually hit bottom and the consumers can no longer support the economy of the Wall St parasites!

    Reply

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