I suppose the major news of the last few days needs some form of comment from me, though for the life of me I can’t think of anything to say about it. All been said already, I suppose. The one thing that did surprise me was Tom Wolfe saying he was supporting Bush. I was about to read ‘Bonfire Of The Vanities’ but I think I’ll burn it instead or something.
Kerry should be glad he lost
FOR THOSE of us who were disappointed, and even horrified, by George W. Bush’s return to power there was one consolation in yesterday’s result. On the contrary, the previously unmentionable hope for the supporters of liberal politics in America, is that Senator Kerry has done the Democratic Party a favour of immense, historic proportions by losing to Mr Bush. In military history, it is a commonplace that there are certain battles worth losing rather than winning — and if ever this were true in politics, then the 2004 US election would be a case in point.
To see what I mean, step away from America for a moment and consider the most successful left-of-centre party in the modern world: Britain’s “new” Labour Party. Now ask yourself what electoral event laid the foundation for Labour’s success. This would be the 1992 election, in which a manifestly incompetent Tory Government was unexpectedly and undeservedly returned to power.
If Neil Kinnock instead of John Major had won the 1992 election, the devaluation of Black Wednesday would have occurred even sooner. The monetary crisis which undermined the Tories’ long-established reputation for economic competence would have been blamed on Labour’s mismanagement. Black Wednesday (or Monday or Tuesday) would almost certainly have brought down the Kinnock Government and would unquestionably have ended Labour’s hopes of ever again becoming a serious party of government. Indeed, as a very minor contributor to the outcome of the 1992 election through my articles unravelling Labour’s absurd tax plans, I have often been thanked by friends in the party for inadvertently helping them to avoid the terrible fate awaiting them if they had gained power.
So was 2004 a good election to lose, just like 1992 in Britain? Will the Democrats one day thank John Kerry for losing, just as Labour is grateful to Mr Kinnock? This seems distinctly possible, given the challenges now facing America, especially in geopolitics and macroeconomics. Iraq is a mess which Mr Bush created and it is surely fitting that he should be the one forced to clean it up. The same is true of ballooning government deficits, escalating oil prices and the small but growing, threat of a crisis in the US balance of payments leading to an international run on the dollar.
Extricating American forces from Iraq will be extremely difficult for Mr Bush, especially if he tries to maintain significant control over its foreign policies and its energy resources. Restoring stability to Iraq, without handing the country over to an overtly anti-Western or theocratic regime will become even harder if Mr Bush decides to pick a fight with Iran over nuclear proliferation — or, even worse, if he backs Israel in a “pre-emptive” military attack. To control America’s public finances will be equally difficult, given that the President and his party are now totally committed to ever-lower taxes, ever-more aggressive military postures and ever-more generous corporate subsidies.
It is quite likely, therefore, that in the next year or two President Bush could face a military or economic crisis (or both) — and, crucially, that such a crisis would be analogous to Black Wednesday in its political effects. If Mr Bush suffered a serious military setback, either in Iraq or in a broader confrontation involving Iran, Israel and other Middle East countries (not to mention North Korea or Taiwan), the Republicans would lose their reputation as the “party of national security”, just as the British Tories lost their reputation as the party of economic competence in 1992. The damage to the Republicans’ national security reputation would be even greater if America were hit by a serious terrorist attack or if withdrawal from Iraq turned into a disorderly Vietnam- humiliation.
On the economic front, the Republicans risk disgrace if they raise taxes or if, as is much more likely in my view, America suffers a financial and inflationary crisis because of its failure to bring the federal budget back under control.
But even if the Bush Administration manages to avoid any such disasters, the analogy with Britain in the early 1990s suggests that the Democrats should be grateful to stay out of the White House for the next four years. The electorate’s decision to let Mr Bush clear up his own messes does not just threaten the incumbent with poetic justice; more importantly it offers a reprieve from a potential death sentence on the Democrats. If a newly-elected President Kerry were to suffer a terrorist attack or a humiliation in Iraq or some kind of fiscal crisis, the political backlash against the Democrats would be far worse than the damage faced in similar circumstances by Mr Bush.
For as hard as Mr Kerry would try to blame the Bush legacy for any such disasters, the public would see them as evidence that the Democrats as a party are weak on terrorism, prone to defeat in military confrontations and ideologically committed to higher tax. It is again worth imagining the public reaction in Britain if it had been the economic policies of Mr Kinnock, instead of Mr Major, that were blown away by the markets six months after the election of 1992.
In sum, the next four years could be a good time for the Democrats to let right-wing Republicans take their policies to their logical conclusion and beyond. Just as Mr Major took Thatcherism beyond its logical conclusions with policies such as rail privatisation and the bizarre moralising of “back to basics”, the Republicans could overreach themselves not only in economics and foreign policy but also in social and environmental matters and o n the membership of the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the Democrats must rebuild their party, unite around an impressive new leader and wait for Republican mythology to self-destruct in the face of events. All this will happen in time, very possibly in the next four years. If so, the Democrats may one day hail Mr Kerry as the man whose defeat paved the way for Hillary Clinton, just as Labour now reveres Mr Kinnock as the lucky loser who made possible the triumphs of Tony Blair.
In my own life I’ve finally settled into my new house with 2 Slovak chambermaids, a guy called Andy who’s working as a scaffolder and a spanish guy called Ramon who doesn’t seem to speak English. They’re all fine, though I’m not likely to have any interesting socio-political debates with any of them. Which isn’t a problem really, it’s just a house.
Apart from that I’ve spent a fair deal of time going to job agencies, which I’ll continue in a minute. I may have found another appalling job in another mortgage centre, though, mercy mercy me. The guy who found it was called ‘Leee’ with 3 ‘e’s. It was written on his nametag and his business card. And he looked like Elvis, with sideburns down to his neck.
So I’d better keep looking. I’m in a very reasonably priced internet cafe in the market, which smells of fish.