Friday, June 9, 2017

A Pig's Breakfast

"A Pig's Breakfast" is a Britishism for a messed up muddle, which is what UK politics looks like right now in the wake of yesterday's disastrous parliamentary election that appears to have resulted in a "hung parliament." (It wasn't totally disastrous. The SNP lost something like 21 votes and both Conservatives and Labour picked up seats in Scotland, which was all to the good.)

Presumably Prime Minister Theresa May (the first regular, committed, weekly church-attender in 10 Downing Street in decades) had called this election ti increase her party's majority and so strengthen Britain's hand in the upcoming Brexit negotiations with the EU. Instead she has no majority and a likely much weaker position vis-a-vis the EU.

That is obviously not good for her, or for her party, or (most importantly) for the United Kingdom. Particularly worrisome is the increased stature of the radical leader of the Labour Party, whom NY Times columnist Ross Douthat recently characterized as a kind of analogue on the British extreme Left to marine Le Pen on France's extreme Right. However that may be, the ascendancy of such an extreme figure as Jeremy Corbyn again highlights the ongoing collapse of traditional politics in Western democracies, of which the traumatizing 2016 US election of President Donald Trump has thus far been the leading example.

Since Theresa May is a woman, comparisons have inevitably been made to Hillary Clinton's stumbles last year. And perhaps there is some similarity in how both underestimated the degree of popular disenchantment with governing political elites and politics as usual. The more important question, of course, is where all this will lead. Whatever kind of coalition Theresa May may manage to cobble together, whatever drama passes for (or substitutes for) governance in the US in this age of Trump, the fact remains that Western democracies are increasingly widely perceived by more and more of their citizens as having failed them - something not so widely experienced since the 1930s.

Despite the cultural assaults on traditional institutions that has been going on in Western societies now since the 1960s, it is, of course, those traditional institutions and the values they embody that the US and the UK must now depend upon to keep both our countries on course. 

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