Pour one out for Jeremy Corbyn
While America watched Lamar Jackson play Madden 2005 on rookie difficulty Thursday night, Jeremy Corbyn prepared to resign as leader of the Labour party after the Conservatives won their fourth consecutive British general election.
No love will be lost between Corbyn and the liberal British media establishment. This is understandable. He was fundamentally unsuited to what they consider the greatest challenge of the era: delaying Britain's departure from the European Union with an endless series of niggling complaints and calls for second and third referendums. For many decades Corbyn himself supported withdrawal. This was in keeping with a long history of anti-E.U. sentiment on the British hard left, one that goes all the way back to the initial vote to join the European Economic Community in 1975. When he was elected to his party's leadership in 2015, he took a more moderate — and some would argue incoherent — position.
Europe is almost certainly the only subject about which this could be said. Corbyn did his best to downplay his years of opposition to the E.U. while refusing to rescind his endorsements of the IRA, Hamas, and the dictatorship of the late Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Nor was he willing to compromise his views on a number of issues that put him at odds with his party's leadership in the post-Thatcher era. From unilateral nuclear disarmament and recognition of Palestine as an independent sovereign republic to republicanism and the almost total nationalization of British industry, Corbyn was an unreconstructed socialist in the tradition of Arthur Scargill and Tony Benn, not a Blairite neoliberal.
Any doubt about Corbyn's fundamental unsuitability for leadership of a major political party, one premised upon the idea that actually winning elections and forming governments is both possible and desirable, should be put to rest. Brexit was the single issue that could have endeared him and his party to the British electorate in 2019, especially in the north of England, a reliable Labour stronghold that swung almost totally to the Conservatives on Thursday. These voters were not pulling the lever for Tories because they support their economic agenda. But they were willing — perhaps delusionally — to sacrifice their own interests for what they believed to be the cause of the nation. If it is hard to imagine a group of existing voters who are terrifically keen on enjoying cozy relations with a wide assortment of terrorist luminaries and abolishing the monarchy and banks while having middle-of-the-road views on Europe, it might just be because no such constituency exists. To his own party's most reliable supporters, Corbyn had nothing to offer.
Moderation on Brexit doomed Labour outside London, but it might have been Corbyn's only saving grace in the eyes of the party's cosmopolitan establishment. It is impossible to overstate the amount of in-fighting, blame-gaming, screeching, whingeing, and gotchaing, that will take place in the pages of The Guardian and other publications in the coming weeks and months. Some will probably suggest that it was a plot all along; Corbyn deliberately flubbed the election because he secretly wanted Boris Johnson's Brexit plan to succeed. (This might even be true.) In the end he will probably go down in history like his predecessor Michael Foot as someone even more reviled among the center-left Labour intelligentsia than his Tory opponent.
I think this will be unfair to Corbyn. Many of his views are ludicrous, but others — on housing, for example, and wages — are humane. More important, though, is what he has represented: the possibility than an utterly guileless, quixotic, utopian visionary could accomplish something, indeed anything in the political climate of 2019.
Just the idea that a man who lists his chief hobby as taking photographs of storm drains could theoretically have become prime minister fills my heart with joy.