Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump, and the Electability Question

 

Donald Trump breaks all the rules of politics, and wins. Thus goes the anti-conventional wisdom, espoused by those such as Rush Limbaugh: Hillary Clinton doesn’t know what is coming. Trump’s candidacy should be a disaster, and yet, he’s leading in the national polls, wins primaries, and brings new voters into the Republican Party. Does this prove that, after all, Trump is the one who can win in November?

We actually have a test case for this hypothesis. A few months ago, the British Labour Party broke all the rules of politics, defied panicked opposition from the party establishment, and overwhelming elected a radically different “outsider” as its leader. Jeremy Corbyn, MP is a full-out socialist and Donald Trump a faux-conservative, and yet I’m astonished by how closely the two candidacies run parallel, down to the promise of an expanded party leading to victory. Like Trump, Corbyn was considered a non-serious candidate until he shocked the political world, eschewed traditional politics, smashed long-held assumptions, and brought new voters into the Labour Party.

Several months in, how’s that working out?

Each week of Corbyn’s leadership brings new adventures: erratic ill-considered statements like his call to decriminalize prostitution which has MPs in revolt; failure to deal appropriately with unsavory associations (sound familiar?) such as anti-Semitism in a Labour student movement. Hilariously, Corbyn deleted all his past writings from his website last week — failing to realize that would inspire reporters to hunt them down in internet archives to find whatever he was trying to bury (past comments on EU membership, evidently). That’s just the latest string of embarrassments; check back next week for more preview of the kind of wild ride we could expect with a Trump Presidency.

This was predictable and, evidently, did not trouble most Labour Party voters. But somehow, earning 60 percent in a Labour Party leadership election does not translate into popularity with the general electorate (and consider that Trump’s 35 percent of Republican voters is a weaker starting point). Those new voters, while presumably real, turn out to be a drop in the bucket. The harsh truth is that the qualities a majority of Labour party voters either liked or were willing to overlook are offensive to the broader British public. Corbyn’s personal approval numbers are absolutely disastrous (emphasis mine):

Allies of Jeremy Corbyn believed that he would appeal to non-voters and Ukip supporters, to the “left behind” demographic wooed by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the US presidential primaries. Even some opponents of the Labour leader expected his anti-establishment rhetoric to produce an initial poll bounce…

While 93 per cent of voters had an opinion on him (an unusually high figure for a new leader of the opposition), only 21 per cent viewed him favourably.

Everything we know — including his current name recognition and his unpopularity with both Republicans and the general electorate –indicates something similar would quickly be true of Donald Trump.

Corbyn’s own team now admits Labour faces a devastating blow-out in local elections this May. This is not because the Conservatives are doing amazingly well at the moment. They are not: An effective opposition could do them real damage, but that’s not what Corbyn’s offering. Andy Burham or Yvette Cooper might have been uninspiring, “establishment,” more-of-the-same candidates, but Labour has simply committed suicide instead. The numbers are unbelievably, horrifying bad. If the polls are remotely accurate — and recent history indicates if anything they actually underestimate the Conservatives — Labour faces a “double-digit defeat” in 2020:

Everything we know – every last scrap of data – says that the Labour Party as we have known it is in very profound trouble indeed.

Certainly, the party is in total meltdown. Donations have literally been cut in half. There are rumors of a parliamentary leadership coup — rather disheartened by the fear that Labour voters would pick Corbyn all over again. This is not at all normal British politics — it’s hard to express how unusual it is to see this level of panicked, open opposition to party leadership. Labour MPs are openly frustrated, harshly critical, sometimes frankly despairing. One MP said bluntly yesterday that her party will “absolutely not” win the 2020 election:

 [Corbyn] and the people around him only seem to hear: ‘You’re amazing – can I have a selfie?’ The polls are terrible, aren’t they?

No one wants to be associated with a leader who is unpopular, utterly unpredictable, and quite willing to throw you under the bus; just ask Senator Jeff Sessions. The British parliamentary system leaves Labour MPs desperate with no way out except a likely- futile leadership challenge or (almost unthinkably) defection. American congressmen are less tightly bound, and the Labour reaction to Corbyn leads me to predict that if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee there will be a third-party run, and that many members of Congress will ally themselves with it. That would almost inevitably throw the election — and, with it, the Supreme Court — to Hillary Clinton.

If the Republican Party is to avoid that fate in November, it will be because — in spite of everything, and by the grace of God — the conservative movement is healthier than the British Left, and because the erratic Trump is an even worse fit for Republicans than the socialist Corbyn for Labour. Senators Rubio and Cruz have given Trump in their different ways a far bolder, more effective challenge than Corbyn ever faced. They have kept his ceiling down, and have proven able to inspire at least a portion of the electorate as his opponents never did. Donald Trump may not win the nomination after all.

But let’s not presume that, if he does, he’s headed to the White House in November.

There are 22 comments.

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  1. Hercules Rockefeller Inactive
    Hercules Rockefeller
    @HerculesRockefeller

    I can see the parallels but I think it’s a stretch. The Labour Party was in a lot of trouble before Corbyn. They were essentially thrown out of Scotland in the spring 2015 election. The Labour Party lost 26 seats and had mass resignations of leaders shortly after.

    The Republican party is, at least, in a better position legislatively across the country. The Labour Party has lost it’s base of working class British voters, and have embraced hard left niche groups. The Tories and UKIP have picked up those voters. The Corbyn election was like doubling down on more of the stuff British voters had just rejected.

    • #1
  2. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    A third party run will assure a Hillary victory.  We must get to the convention without a Trump victory and  replace him.  Hillary will destroy Trump in debates as he has nothing to say, has no conservative responses to her, no counters to her attacks on him.  She may be a crook, she may be economically illiterate, but she has her left wing demagoguery down pat.  Trump is also economically illiterate, perhaps more so than Hillary.  Rubio, (Carly), Kasich or Cruz could deal with all if it, but Trump doesn’t have a clue and Hillary will come across as the adult.   He’ll just attack and lose the female vote,  conservatives will stay home.   While the left wing media has been giving Trump attention and not really going after him, once he’s the candidate they’ll try to bury him. We could lose control of the Senate.  So then we lose the court, the congress and the White House, and finally the country.

    • #2
  3. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Hercules Rockefeller:I can see the parallels but I think it’s a stretch. The Labour Party was in a lot of trouble before Corbyn. They were essentially thrown out of Scotland in the spring 2015 election. The Labour Party lost 26 seats and had mass resignations of leaders shortly after.

    … The Corbyn election was like doubling down on more of the stuff British voters had just rejected.

    I know, I agree that the Republicans should objectively be in better shape than Labour. But my point is, first, that the idea that Trump wins in November because he’s expanding the party has absolutely no evidence whatsoever. That in fact things some primary voters are fine with — or actually like — can indeed be a massive turn-off to the broader electorate. There are very clear signs we’re seeing some of the same things here.

    And, second, note how the party responds to that kind of erratic leadership. Labour MPs would run away if they could, and Republicans will. We’re already seeing signs of this: before Trump has even won the nomination we’ve had one sitting senator, a handful of congressmen, and a sitting governor make it clear they will never support him — not to mention the party’s last nominee. There are others on the fence — and I think it’s quite clear that people like Ron Johnson in WI, for instance, would seize the chance to back a third-party candidate and distance themselves from Trump.

    • #3
  4. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    I Walton: While the left wing media has been giving Trump attention and not really going after him, once he’s the candidate they’ll try to bury him.

    I didn’t even address this point, but that is also a very big factor — and one hardly in play to the same extent in the UK.

    • #4
  5. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    This was very nicely done and is quite persuasive. One thing to add. Joining the Labor Party cost next to nothing, and so — when Corbyn ran — the lunatic left joined the party and stole it. Our problem is not quite the same. But we do have a lot of primaries and even some caucuses in which non-party members can participate, and that has on some occasions provided Trump with the margin of victory.

    • #5
  6. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Paul A. Rahe:This was very nicely done and is quite persuasive. One thing to add. Joining the Labor Party cost next to nothing, and so — when Corbyn ran — the lunatic left joined the party and stole it. Our problem is not quite the same. But we do have a lot of primaries and even some caucuses in which non-party members can participate, and that has on some occasions provided Trump with the margin of victory.

    Thank you!

    I’ve never looked into the truth of it, but I do recall that there were at least some rumors that some mischievous Tories and Lib-Dems were paying the 3 pounds and voting for Corbyn just to cause trouble. Not that it mattered — it wasn’t remotely close.

    That’s very short-sighted partisanship — and the same for any crossover Democratic votes for Trump. In the short term, Corbyn’s victory has put Labour on the road to sweeping defeat. But it’s not actually healthy for a governing party to face no effective opposition. It also means that some very ugly things that were nearly forgotten not that long ago are suddenly part of the political discussion — and that is, likewise, unhealthy.

    • #6
  7. Brian McMenomy Inactive
    Brian McMenomy
    @BrianMcMenomy

    Leigh: I’ve never looked into the truth of it, but I do recall that there were at least some rumors that some mischievous Tories and Lib-Dems were paying the 3 pounds and voting for Corbyn just to cause trouble. Not that it mattered — it wasn’t remotely close.

    I followed it in the Telegraph, and yes there were scattered instances of mischief-making, but it was mostly the leftist of the left-wingers that saw their opportunity and seized it, not caring that Corbyn is a buffoon that might get 20% in a general election and lose official opposition status to the SNP.

    • #7
  8. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Brian McMenomy:

    Leigh: I’ve never looked into the truth of it, but I do recall that there were at least some rumors that some mischievous Tories and Lib-Dems were paying the 3 pounds and voting for Corbyn just to cause trouble. Not that it mattered — it wasn’t remotely close.

    I followed it in the Telegraph, and yes there were scattered instances of mischief-making, but it was mostly the leftist of the left-wingers that saw their opportunity and seized it, not caring that Corbyn is a buffoon that might get 20% in a general election and lose official opposition status to the SNP.

    That’s basically what I recall.

    Other crazy possibility is that there actually are defections — and the Lib Dems suddenly reappear! It is not at all clear the Blairites will stick with Corbyn’s Labour.

    One thing in all this has been the reminder how political popularity and influence are fleeting. Tony Blair was on top of the political world not so very long ago  — young, charismatic, promising, inspiring, sweeping to a massive victory.

    Last year his own party completely ignored his desperate pleas and gave him the cold shoulder.

    • #8
  9. Brian McMenomy Inactive
    Brian McMenomy
    @BrianMcMenomy

    Leigh: Other crazy possibility is that there actually are defections — and the Lib Dems suddenly reappear! It is not at all clear the Blairites will stick with Corbyn’s Labour.

    Could happen, they need a leader, though.

    We are starting to learn the danger of one entity pulling the debate so far to the left (Sanders) or so much in a populist direction (Trump) that it move the center of gravity of the discussion the wrong way.  You don’t want your domestic political opposition to be completely unhinged; it makes policymaking and compromise virtually impossible, and coarsens the discussion to the point that no one is actually listening, just talking past one another.

    • #9
  10. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    So Tony Blair would be an establishment LINO to Corbyn’s supporters?

    • #10
  11. Richard Rummelhart Inactive
    Richard Rummelhart
    @RichardRummelhart

    As one person above has already pointed out the media has a tremendous influence on American elections. This is in part due to the fact that the number of newspapers and news networks in the US far exceeds the number in England.  However, I believe, that  the largely one side media bias is largely responsible for the success of Trump.  As pointed out by AL Franken  in his book “Lies”, the media is bias against liberals.  This explains why Trump is getting so much more press than the other Republicans.  The press sees Trump as the true conservative who can defeat Clinton the true liberal.

    It is unfortunate the press is doing this since it is so unfair to Hilary.  Also as a result of this media’s bias the Republican voters are not being give the opportunity to learn about the other Republican candidates.

    • #11
  12. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Hoyacon:So Tony Blair would be an establishment LINO to Corbyn’s supporters?

    Yes, something like that.

    • #12
  13. David Sussman Contributor
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    Leigh,

    Thoughtful post. There’s a lot I could say about Corbyn (many of his followers are former George Galloway sycophants espousing anti-semitism) but remember it was Conservative (leaning) Prime Minister Cameron who surprisingly won re-election shellacking Labour.

    • #13
  14. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    David Sussman:Leigh,

    Thoughtful post. There’s a lot I could say about Corbyn (many of his followers are former George Galloway sycophants espousing anti-semitism) but remember it was Conservative (leaning) Prime Minister Cameron who surprisingly won re-election shellacking Labour.

    I don’t have words with which to describe my opinion of George Galloway.

    • #14
  15. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Leigh:

    Hoyacon:So Tony Blair would be an establishment LINO to Corbyn’s supporters?

    Yes, something like that.

    To be more specific: the Labour Party went from defeat to defeat during the Thatcher years. Tony Blair very explicitly brought the party towards the center. “New Labour” was an incredible electoral success. But things change, and the political winds shifted, and not all of Labour was content with it all… and the Tories snuck in first with a coalition government and now a majority. And in response Labour is pretty decisively rejecting Blairism — which won them their only three election victories since the 1970s.

    A few years ago, one could find articles saying the Tories were doomed forever…

    • #15
  16. Brian McMenomy Inactive
    Brian McMenomy
    @BrianMcMenomy

    Leigh:

    David Sussman:Leigh,

    Thoughtful post. There’s a lot I could say about Corbyn (many of his followers are former George Galloway sycophants espousing anti-semitism) but remember it was Conservative (leaning) Prime Minister Cameron who surprisingly won re-election shellacking Labour.

    I don’t have words with which to describe my opinion of George Galloway.

    At least not ones we should use, I agree.

    • #16
  17. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    The big difference to me between Corbyn and Trump is that Corbyn is wedded to socialist, far-left agenda.  Trump is wedded to whatever suits him in a particular moment.  He is decidedly anti-ideological.  He stands against standing for anything, except that it will all turn out great in the end.  An electorate that doesn’t care what your ideas are but just wants someone to do something might find that appealing.  I mean, I look at that with terror, but other people might not be so inclined.

    • #17
  18. HVTs Inactive
    HVTs
    @HVTs

    Quinn the Eskimo: The big difference to me between Corbyn and Trump is that Corbyn is wedded to socialist, far-left agenda. Trump is wedded to whatever suits him in a particular moment. He is decidedly anti-ideological

    Trump is about Brand Trump; he does what he must to improve his brand’s market share.

    In my view, everyone here seems to have missed the thing that’s truly “the big difference” between Corbyn and Trump.  Let me confess I’m not sure  what to make of it or what—exactly—it tells us about British or American politics.

    It’s this: Corbyn spent his entire adult life as a political activist, always a hard Leftie. He moved way right to align with Labour.  Trump has no fixed political mooring . . . not earlier in his life, not now.

    So UK voters knew exactly what Corbyn was about, and his new found leadership role has not changed him.  That’s hardly the case with Trump, who is clearly making it up as he goes.

    • #18
  19. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    The person that most resembles Donald Trump is not the BLP, but Rob Ford, who along with Ford Nation stormed the city of Toronto with 59 percent of the popular vote.

    This would be like Chicago electing a populist Republican mayor.

    • #19
  20. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    HVTs: Trump has no fixed political mooring . . . not earlier in his life, not now.

    Some people see that as a feature.  Other see William James and his political progeny, the most benevolent were the Progressives (and that’s not saying much for them).

    • #20
  21. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    HVTs:In my view, everyone here seems to have missed the thing that’s truly “the big difference” between Corbyn and Trump. Let me confess I’m not sure what to make of it or what—exactly—it tells us about British or American politics.

    It’s this: Corbyn spent his entire adult life as a political activist, always a hard Leftie…

    So UK voters knew exactly what Corbyn was about, and his new found leadership role has not changed him. That’s hardly the case with Trump, who is clearly making it up as he goes.

    Basically, the main difference here between British and American politics is that, by definition, the party leader has to be a Member of Parliament. So Corbyn is literally as close to an outsider as Labour voters could possibly get. Think beyond Ted Cruz’s challenged relationship with his party: maybe Ron Paul?

    I recognize the difference between the two ideologically, but I’ve read enough from both of their supporters to realize there are very striking similarities in their movements that can’t be dismissed. I made that case more in my previous post.

    On electability, both claimed to expand the party — and did. But the numbers that may seem so impressive in a primary suddenly look very flat when the broader public gets involved.

    And, second, both engage in the kind of behavior that sends political allies scurrying. Trump is probably worse than Corbyn, if possible, on that point.

    • #21
  22. HVTs Inactive
    HVTs
    @HVTs

    Leigh:Basically, the main difference here between British and American politics is that, by definition, the party leader has to be a Member of Parliament. So Corbyn is literally as close to an outsider as Labour voters could possibly get. Think beyond Ted Cruz’s challenged relationship with his party: maybe Ron Paul?

    I’ve not had the opportunity to see the previous post, but there’s something still not adding up here.  Corbyn followed failed Labour leader Ed Miliband.  Ed pushed out his own brother, David, for the Party leadership position by galvanizing the leftie & union-organizing wing of Labour against David’s center-right Blair/Gordon Brown wing.  So Corbyn extends the direction BLP was already travelling under Ed Miliband.  BTW – Brothers Miliband have far left pedigree — father was prominent Marxist academic from the 60s.

    Whether it made any electoral sense for BLP to double down on Leftism from Miliband to Corbyn is a separate issue.  The party’s path is explainable within the confines of long-standing faction infighting.

    Trump represents something sui generis for the GOP.  Hundreds of thousands (millions before it’s all done, if not already) are voting who previously didn’t vote in primaries or who voted for only establishment-conforming candidates.  Corbyn is more like Sanders, who although nominally an Independent, has always represented the Democrat’s Left wing.  He’s the promise the Left invested in Obama come to life, much like Corbyn is the fruition of Labour’s leftie dreams.

    • #22

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