Mon Aug 3rd, 2015 at 03:58:51 PM EST
Owen Jones has had a good go at trying to describe why the zombie-followers of Blair are being rejected:
Guardian - Owen Jones - Jeremy Corbyn's supporters aren't mad - they're fleeing a bankrupt New Labour
How have the Labour left, from arguably its lowest ebb in the party's history, apparently ended up on the brink of taking the leadership on a wave of support? If you listen to many self-described "centre-left" voices, it's because the Labour party has gone quite, quite mad. Cod psychology now abounds to describe the rise of Corbynism: narcissism, people wanting to show off how right-on they are on Facebook, mass delusion, an emotional spasm, and so on. Corbyn supporters are having a temper tantrum against the electorate, so this patronising narrative goes, they think voters have "false consciousness" on a grand scale. Some sort of mass psychological disorder has gripped one of the great parties of the left in the western world, and the only real debate is how it must be cured or eradicated. And the tragedy is this: the great "centre-left" condescenders are able to identify any factor for Corbyn's spectacular rise other than the culprit: their own political cause, or rather its implosion.
Some of these commentators huddle together on social media, competing over how snarky and belittling they can be towards those oh-so-childish/unhinged/ridiculous (delete as applicable) Corbynites, unable to understand that rare thing, the birth of a genuinely grassroots political movement. And that's the problem: this snarkiness is all some seem to have left. Much of the self-described "centre-left" - I'd say Blairism, but some embrace the label more than others - now lack a clear vision, or a set of policies, or even a coherent distinct set of values. They increasingly define themselves against what they regard as a deluded, childish left. They have created a vacuum and it has now been filled by the Corbyn left.
Their plight is quite straightforward....
However I want to make a stab at a slightly larger question : Why Corbyn, like Bernie Sanders in the US, is managing to attract such enthusiasm from all quarters of political opinion except the gate keepers and agenda setters of the professional commentariat.
Clinton famously had a sign on his desk that read "It's the economy, stupid!!". And he was right, but the follow-on question that always needs to be asked is "what economy?" or, more precisely, "whose economy?"
People don't vote for a balance of payments, a deficit or an exchange rate. They vote for their own personal economy, that gritty equation of what puts money in their pocket against what takes it out. That's cost of living, taxes and stuff. They might be a bit more generous at some points, but mostly they'll look to themselves and their own.
They certainly don't like politicians taking money from them just to give away to people are considered to be "undeserving". Both Labour and the Democrats have done awful jobs of talking about what benefits do, who they help. How most of that money goes to subsidizing poverty wages. But more than that, they have always talked about job-creation in the abstract, as if their mere presence in office waves a magic wand and all will enter into the land of jobs and wages.
Yes, it happens. But it's a remote thing. Conservatives talk about lowering taxes and getting government out of the way and jobs will appear. Its horseshit and demonstrably so, but say it often enough and people believe you. Its a cheap soundbite that's easy to understand.
Where are the cheap narratives on the left hand side of the fence? When Labour came into power after WWII they didn't say "a better future for all" and leave it at that. They said, we will build a national health service, we will provide work for all that want it, we will build homes fit for heroes, we will bring the national utilities into public ownership for the good of all. Specific programmes to right specific wrongs.
That's where Blair succeeded, initially. He had specific answers for problems and, to some extent, he did address them. Of course, there were other problems he created that finally did for him (not just Iraq). But, for a while, it worked.
Miliband failed because he his messaging was vague and contradictory eg his famously terrible stone of pledges. The individual items in the manifesto were good, but with Ed Balls promising austerity and with the shadow welfare secretary promising to be even more vicious than IDS in punishing the poor there was nothing that made any sense.
And that's the problem. This fabled centre-ground all those quisling social democrats talk about is simply another way of describing Clinton triangulation. But with the Tories rushing ever further to the right, the centre left end up chasing after them.
We know that survey after survey, in both the UK and US, show that the centre ground of the electorate is far to the left of the so-called centre of the political classes. But nobody has tried to address this in at least a generation. Now Corbyn and Sanders, as well as Syriza, Podemos and others, are calling time on the cozy conservative consensus and brazenly saying "We Can fix this!!!". They are winning converts, not just from the disenfrachised, but from many who recognise in their promises echoes of the needs that they have tried and failed to find elsewhere on the political spectrum.
Politics could get very interesting in the next few years