[Marxism] Boris Johnson and the Coming Trump Victory in 2020

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Dec 14 10:43:02 MST 2019

(Strictly for information purposes.)

NY Times Op-Ed, Dec. 14, 2019
Boris Johnson and the Coming Trump Victory in 2020
By Roger Cohen

Donald Trump, in his telling, could have shot somebody on Fifth Avenue 
and won. Boris Johnson could mislead the queen. He could break his 
promise to get Britain out of Europe by Oct. 31. He could lie about 
Turks invading Britain and the cost of European Union membership. He 
could make up stories about building 40 new hospitals. He could double 
down on the phantom $460 million a week that Brexit would deliver to the 
National Health Service — and still win a landslide Tory electoral 
victory not seen since Margaret Thatcher’s triumph in 1987.

The British, or at least the English, did not care. Truth is so 20th 
century. They wanted Brexit done; and, formally speaking, Johnson will 
now take Britain out of Europe by Jan. 31, 2020, even if all the tough 
decisions on relations with the union will remain. Johnson was lucky. In 
the pathetic, emetic Jeremy Corbyn, the soon-to-depart Labour Party 
leader, he faced perhaps the worst opposition candidate ever. In the 
Tory press, he had a ferocious friend prepared to overlook every 
failing. In Brexit-weary British subjects, whiplashed since the 2016 
referendum, he had the perfect receptacle for his “get Brexit done.”

Johnson was also skillful, blunting Nigel Farage’s far-right Brexit 
Party, which stood down in many seats, took a lot of Labour votes in the 
seats where it did run, and ended up with nothing. The British working 
class, concentrated in the Midlands and the North, abandoned Labour and 
Corbyn’s socialism for the Tories and Johnson’s nationalism.

In the depressed provinces of institutionalized precariousness, workers 
embraced an old Etonian mouthing about unleashed British potential. Not 
a million miles from blue-collar heartland Democrats migrating to Trump 
the millionaire and America First demagogy.

That’s not the only parallel with American politics less than 11 months 
from the election. Johnson concentrated all the Brexit votes. By 
contrast, the pro-Remain vote was split between Corbyn’s internally 
divided Labour Party, the hapless Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish 
National Party. For anybody contemplating the divisions of the 
Democratic Party as compared with the Trump movement’s fanatical 
singleness of purpose, now reinforced by the impeachment proceedings, 
this can only be worrying.

The clear rejection of Labour’s big-government socialism also looks 
ominous for Democrats who believe the party can lurch left and win. The 
British working class did not buy nationalized railways, electricity 
distribution and water utilities when they could stick it to some 
faceless bureaucrat in Brussels and — in that phrase as immortal as it 
is meaningless — take back their country.

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It’s a whole new world. To win, liberals have to touch people’s emotions 
rather than give earnest lessons. They have to cease being arid. They 
have to refresh and connect. It’s not easy.

Facebook reaches about one-third of humanity. It is more powerful than 
any political party — and it’s full of untruths, bigotry and nonsense. 
As Sacha Baron Cohen, the British actor, said last month of the social 
media behemoths: “The truth is that these companies won’t fundamentally 
change because their entire business model relies on generating more 
engagement, and nothing generates more engagement than lies, fear and 

That’s the story of Brexit, a national tragedy. That’s the story of 
Johnson, the man of no convictions. That’s the story of Trump, who makes 
puppets of people through manipulation of outrage and disregard for 
truth. That’s the story of our times. Johnson gets and fits those times 
better than most. He’s a natural.

“Brexit and Trump were inextricably linked in 2016, and they are 
inextricably linked today,” Steve Bannon told me. “Johnson foreshadows a 
big Trump win. Working-class people are tired of their ‘betters’ in New 
York, London, Brussels telling them how to live and what to do. Corbyn 
the socialist program, not Corbyn the man, got crushed. If Democrats 
don’t take the lesson, Trump is headed for a Reagan-like ’84 victory.”

I still think Trump can be beaten, but not from way out left and not 
without recognition that, as Hugo Dixon, a leader of the now defeated 
fight for a second British referendum, put it: “There is a crisis of 
liberalism because we have not found a way to connect to the lives of 
people in the small towns of the postindustrial wasteland whose 
traditional culture has been torn away.”

Johnson, even with his 80-seat majority, has problems. His victory 
reconciled the irreconcilable. His moneyed coterie wants to turn Britain 
into free-market Singapore on the Thames. His new working-class 
constituency wants rule-Britannia greatness combined with state-funded 
support. That’s a delicate balancing act. The breakup of Britain has 
become more likely. The strong Scottish National Party showing portends 
a possible second Scottish referendum on independence.

This time I would bet on the Scots bidding farewell to little England. 
And then there’s the small matter of what Brexit actually means. Johnson 
will need all his luck with that.

As my readers know, I am a passionate European patriot who sees the 
union as the greatest achievement of the second half of the 20th 
century, and Britain’s exit as an appalling act of self-harm. But I also 
believe in democracy. Johnson took the decision back to the people and 
won. His victory must be respected. The fight for freedom, pluralism, 
the rule of law, human rights, a free press, independent judiciaries, 
breathable air, peace, decency and humanity continues — and has only 
become more critical now that Britain has marginalized itself 
irreversibly in a fit of nationalist delusion.

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