In 2015, the UK had a General Election. The Conservatives won. Licking its wounds, the Labour Party elected a new leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn was hardly a natural leader – a socialist straight out of the mold, he had been a dissenter all his life – but he reflected members’ resentment at having been stage-managed for so long. This effect went two ways – with Corbyn’s election, many people who broadly agreed with his views were motivated to join his party. And they became easily the largest party – a half million members, 10x that of any other party.
But in terms of the electorate (about 50M), that’s a tiny number. To many members of the general public, Corbyn was fatally flawed. He was known to sympathise with groups like the IRA (Ireland) and the PLO (Palestine), which the UK media likes to present as terrorists – any group which opposes the UK is conveniently labelled “terrorist”. And Corbyn did not play cricket.
Fast forward to 2016. Our Brexit referendum. The day after losing the vote, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, resigned. To be replaced by Theresa May. At this point in time, their government had a slim majority, but a majority nevertheless. As long as they weren’t too radical, they could pass their agenda.
Dissatisfied with the slimness of this situation, May decided to call another General Election in 2017, in the hope of crushing the opposition. My own feeling was “how can she be so flippant? If we’re going to deliver Brexit, we don’t have time to get distracted”. But, aware of Corbyn’s history, May called an election. She was Aesop’s fabled hare, the general public resented her attitude, and Corbyn did very well. He didn’t quite win, but he erased May’s majority – it took a couple of years, but May had been fatally wounded.
Fast forward to 2019. Bear in mind that throughout all this time, the public did not really like Corbyn. We saw countless interviews on tv which went along the lines, “I can’t vote Labour, not while he’s in charge”. By now Boris Johnson had replaced May, and he limped to yet another election. This time Corbyn was beaten. Trounced.
If you’re still with me, I’ll get to the point.
In 2017, the public voted for Corbyn in numbers, to give his arrogant opponent a bloody nose. But they never really warmed to him, not in the numbers he required to become PM. As soon as the opponent was someone who was palatable – I used the word “charisma” the other day – the electorate showed Corbyn the door.
My point is, I think the US went the exact same route. In 2016, Americans really did not like Hillary Clinton, so they voted for Trump, to give her a bloody nose. The only difference is that Trump won. But I don’t think people particularly voted “for” Trump, so much as “against” Clinton. By extension, put a decent candidate up against him, he will fold.
I don’t really know if Biden is the answer to that – I’m too far away to make a judgement. From what I hear, I’d probably have as many issues with one as with the other.
But I think their first issue is credibility, just like it was with Corbyn.