Democrats have little to show but anger since their stunning upset loss to Donald Trump last November. So it’s perhaps no surprise they are turning their sights on tightening polls across the pond for electoral hope.
As the leftist New Republic put it this week: “It will be like Bernie [Sanders] winning the election” if left-wing activist Jeremy Corbyn pulls a come-from-behind victory over Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May.
The Democrats and their media allies have expressed similar hopes before, but have not picked up a seat despite several hyped-up special elections across the U.S. since Trump was elected. They did win one that didn’t translate into a fresh seat, which the leftist New York mag wryly headlined: “Democrat wins all-Democratic special election in California.”
From England, the American left is hoping for a “political shockwave” from Thursday’s Parliamentary vote.
“Jeremy Corbyn comes from a left-wing activist side that subscribes to a conspiratorial anti-capitalist ideology,” said Timothy Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “It would be difficult to imagine two men who would get on worse than Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn.”
A victory by Corbyn’s Labour Party would be huge, but even a “close outcome would be a Trump-sized upset, and demonstrate just how dramatically the politics of both left and right have shifted in Europe and the U.S. since Brexit—and since November 8,” opined the New Republic.
Trump and terror have been key issues in the race. Corbyn reluctantly admitted that the bomb attack on an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester was an act of terrorism, after initially calling it “an appalling act of violence” and a “terrible incident.” He also pointed out the “recent rise in hate crimes” shows how “far our society has to go.”
May pounced on such comments.
“Corbyn said the terror attacks in Britain are our own fault a few days after one of the worst terror atrocities we’ve ever seen,” May said last week. “The choice that people face about the election has become starker between me working constantly to protect the national interest and Corbyn who isn’t up to the job.”
Corbyn, for his part, has criticized the Conservative government for not spending enough on police and public services.
“They wanted this election to be very much a kind of Brexit vote and I don’t think that’s in the hearts and minds of Londoners at the minute, not nearly as much as the security is,” voter Rachel Sheard, 22, told the Associated Press after casting her ballot.
Since calling for the election in early April, Conservative leads of 20 points or more in the opinion polls have nearly faded away. But those numbers turned around in the wake of the Manchester and London terror attacks.
“The Conservatives had a wobble last week, but have regained a clear lead in the last few days,” said Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI.
“I suspect there has been some move” in the polls toward the Tories due to the terror attacks, said Timothy Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University in London.
But it’s not just security, said Bale. Corbyn’s hard-left politics may hurt him in the end.
“Very few Brits see Corbyn as an alternative prime minister,” Bale told Fox News. “He’s unlikely to win.”
If May’s party prevails, as expected, political analysts say it will be an endorsement of the special relationship that May has worked hard to protect since Trump was elected. The Conservatives are also “desperate” for a free trade agreement with the United States, so if May wins “we are going to see a UK that is less critical of President Trump than many other powers, and if it is critical it will be made in private,” said Bale.
On the other hand, a victory by Labour would indeed mean a break with tradition, said Bale. Many Labour prime ministers have attacked Washington during past campaigns, but “once they come into office they are anxious to maintain the special relationship.”
That would evaporate with Trump at the White House, and Corbyn at 10 Downing Street, warned Bale.
As for the message for Democrats hoping Corbyn and England can send an electoral message to America, Bale says what’s likely to happen is just the opposite. The message from today’s vote is likely to be: You can still get elected in Britain even if you’re prepared to do deals with Mr. Trump.
“If you’re a Democrat you have to realize there’s not really a route to power through a more left-wing strategy in England as well as the U.S.,” said Bale, “There are some Democrats saying ‘if only it had been Bernie [Sanders] and not Hillary [Clinton] we would have won.’ I think Britain’s election is about to tell you that’s probably not the case.”