December 17, 2019

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Lessons From The Tory Landslide.

Last week’s U.K. general election revealed two political dynamics that the rest of the world should study closely.

The first is very old: Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. Jeremy Corbyn and the tightly knit clique of pro-Hezbollah, pro-Maduro doctrinaire Marxists and viscerally anti-Semitic conspiracy fans clustered around him mistakenly thought the British working class was hungry for revolutionary social change. They have received their just reward.

The second dynamic, which helped propel Boris Johnson to the greatest Tory majority since Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 landslide, will haunt his premiership and determine its outcome. More than a personal triumph for a man whose political career last year appeared over, more than a historic recasting of the British electoral map, more than the ignominious collapse of the Liberal Democrats, more than the triumph of Scottish nationalism, the election result demonstrates the power of the most disruptive force in global politics today.

Mr. Corbyn misdiagnosed that force as a rejection of capitalism. It’s more subtle. Voters around the world want the prosperity and opportunity that global capitalism provides, but many fear and reject the social consequences of the free market. Large-scale immigration, job losses to automation and foreign competition, the unequal distribution of capitalism’s rewards, and the financial instability and risk associated with innovation are all massively disruptive and inspire backlash—a global surge of populism and identity politics. From Hungary and Turkey to India and beyond, voters are embracing politicians who attack classic liberal political and economic values and vow to defend the cultures and communities this avalanche of change seems to threaten.

It is easy but profoundly misguided to conflate Mr. Johnson’s Conservatives with these movements. Though he recognizes and aims to address the discontent liberalism and capitalism evoke, Mr. Johnson hopes to draw on the Burkean traditions central to the Conservative Party’s long history to develop what we might call National Conservatism. His will be a fundamentally liberal and pro-enterprise political approach that is nevertheless grounded in the traditional sentiments and loyalties of the people it seeks to represent.

It’s not really so much populism as just a government that doesn’t see half of its populace, or more, as adversaries.

Plus: “Those who believe nationalism is fundamentally hostile to capitalism and liberal values need to study British and American history. Anglo-American conservative nationalism is more of a revolutionary force than a reactionary one. If Boris Johnson unleashes it, he may just make Britain great again. “

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