by Samuel Dale
Labour and the US Republican party are suffering almost identical political predicaments. Both have leaders drawn from the extremes of their party who have created a popular revolt to hijack the institution for their own purposes.
The successful leadership campaigns of Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn have fed off a fundamental separation between grassroots activists and the party establishment that has grown over many years. Party elders in both parties have unsuccessfully tried to stop their rise.
Trump has strongly backed anti-trade, anti-immigrant and isolationist policies that have long been treated as an embarrassing feature of the grassroots and swept under the carpet.
Just as successive Labour leaders and MPs have ignored and dismissed grassroots support for nationalisation, high income taxes and an aversion to fiscal prudence.
Both leaders have flirted with leaving Nato and supporting corrupt foreign regimes simply because they are anathema to the systems they despise at home. My enemies’ enemy is my friend, in other words.
Meanwhile, both part faithfuls feel they have, finally, got a leader who gives their views a voice without apology or qualification. And it feels great. Nobody is too concerned with winning.
And yet both party faithfuls see the anger of establishment figures and believe that their hero could be take away from them at any moment. They are paranoid.
They fear rigged elections and systems from corrupt insiders taking them back to business as usual. They don’t trust polls or traditional media. They use Twitter and Facebook to create their own reality and twist facts to their own ends.
Huge rallies across the country accompany large social media followings and well-read blogs to provide the mirage of a national movement.
Supporters have ditched any loyalty they may have had – or never had – to their parties and support only their leader as a cult.
Let’s be clear. Donald Trump is a racist scumbag who boasts about sexually assaulting women and doesn’t care about his country. Corbyn may be morally dubious with character flaws but he is largely trying to do his best as he sees it, however wrongheaded. They are incomparable on a moral individual level.
But the state of the two parties is strikingly similar, only the Republicans are at a more advanced stage than Labour. It is instructive to watch its implosion and draw lessons where possible for the next general election.
Here are three lessons for Labour.
Firstly, the Republican party shows that there is no political calculus that allows senior figures to hedge their bets. Speaker Paul Ryan hesitated over backing Trump then he endorsed him; then he constantly critcised his errors before saying he won’t defend him all while still endorsing him. It’s a mess.
Labour politicians will be asked if they support Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister for 2020. Don’t hedge you bets. Pick a side and stick with it. If you are not prepared to defend Corbyn then find a reason such as nuclear disarmament and don’t endorse him as prime minister.
Secondly, the Tory attack department will be stuffed full of attack goodies against Corbyn to release in early 2020.
It is clear that the Hillary Clinton researchers have been holding on to vile videos demonstrating Trump’s misogyny until the right moment. It has been a disaster for Trump’s campaign who refused to allow his team to vet him. Who knows what’s next.
There is no telling what Corbyn has said in his unguarded moments over 40 years of attending IRA meetings, Hamas panels and Stop the War rallies. What we have seen already is bad enough but there will surely be more to come as elections draw near.
Get him vetted and do it now. It’s not perfect but the best he can do.
Thirdly, defeat is unlikely to be the end. Trump is already laying the ground for his defeat by blaming Republicans who oppose him and rigged media.
Corbynistas already believe the media is rigged against them, polls are fixed and the traitor MPs have cost them support. The excuses and scapegoats will piled up.
No doubt the evil Tories will rig the election with their media accomplices just as Trumpers lash out at Crooked Hillary and the Clinton News Network (CNN).
Defeat will not shake the convictions of such fanatics and they are going nowhere after a heavy loss. Anti-Corbyn Labour people need to realise this. We can’t just wait for 2020 and hope it all goes away after a calamitous election.
Moreover, the stain of being associated with such as extreme figure will loom large for many years.
Anti-Trump Republicans are beginning to dread the aftermath of the US election even more than the calamity of the result on November 8. Both extreme leaders and their followers will poison their parties for years and years.
There is only so far you can stretch such trans-Atlantic comparisons but there are clear similarities and lessons to learn for Labour opposition to Corbyn.
It’s been fun to watch the implosion of the Republican party and the demise of its horrible policies but there is one nagging though. Very soon, this will be us.
Sam Dale is a financial and political journalist