UK Labour's Historic Loss is a Devastating Indictment of the Bernie Sanders Left



Bernie Sanders was one of Jeremy Corbyn’s first phone calls following the United Kingdom’s parliamentary elections in June of 2017, in which Corbyn’s Labour party had gained seats. On the call, Sanders asked where Corbyn got his campaign ideas. “Well, you, actually,” responded the admirer across the pond.

The feeling was mutual. Right before the 2017 elections in the UK, Sanders had gone on a three-day campaign swing for Labour and given Corbyn a more full-throated endorsement than he had ever offered Hillary Clinton.

The Bernie-Jeremy bromance has been blossomed ever since.

With the 2017 British elections coming just months after Hillary Clinton lost the presidency despite winning the popular vote in the United States by 3 million votes, Bernie Sanders saw it as his job to twist the knife and establish that only hard Left socialists could win, not pragmatic progressives interested in getting things done. But Sanders needed a real life example to bolster his case, and Jeremy Corbyn, despite having actually lost the elections in Britain, provided the perfect test case. Bernie Sanders has openly held up Corbyn as a model on how Leftist politicians could win broad electoral mandates.

Bernie Sanders is, of course, not just a man. He’s also a brand. His embrace of Corbyn would not be complete without the forces of the far Left that generally line up behind him doing so for Corbyn as well.

That support coalesced quickly. Just as Sanders was congratulating Corbyn for a job well done in 2017, Leftist opinion writer James Downie at the Washington Post was penning a column calling Corbyn’s Labour a model for American progressives who are attracted to Bernie Sanders. Around that same time, Mehdi Hasan at The Intercept laid down even starker similarities between Corbyn and Sanders, describing Corbyn as “unashamedly, unabashedly, unapologetically left-wing offer” who “spent 32 years toiling in obscurity on the backbenches before becoming leader of his party.”

Riding high with Corbyn as a successful test case, the Sanders-Corbyn comparisons kept putting in the sail of the American socialist Left. The Huffington Post UK and The Outline described Corbyn as a hero and an inspiration for the American, Bernie Sanders-Left. The Guardian, a staple publication among the socialist left, wrote up the love affair between the two far-left movements connected by the Atlantic. They should have been careful of taking too many lessons from a campaign that lost by 4 million votes, in my opinion, but I digress.

In April of 2019, as Bernie Sanders started running for president again and Brexit appeared in some trouble, the leftist Nation magazine likened the connection between Sanders and Corbyn to the conservative golden era of Reagan and Thatcher. They dubbed Corbyn “a British version of Bernie Sanders” who used to be seen, not unlike Bernie Sanders, as “a cranky radical” in the face of “New Labour’s move to the right,” similar to how the radical Left often views the Democratic party of Obama and Clinton. The Conservative party in Britain, they said, was “disintegrating in the face of Brexit,” and so obviously, it was a time of hope for the Sanders-Corbyn style brass, socialist, cranky radical politics.

Even as recent polling in Britain showed a Labour slump coming, True Believers in the Socialist Left kept the faith, as an article of faith.

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That all appears to have aged well.

In yesterday’s election, Corbyn’s Labour party suffered its worst defeat in almost 100 years, losing twice as many seats as they gained in 2017. The consensus even among the Labour party puts the blame squarely on Corbyn’s, as it were, cranky radicalism. Boris Johnson’s Conservative party was on track to gain almost 50 seats, well above what sagging popular support for Brexit would warrant. Conservatives aren’t a particularly liked party in Britain, nor is Johnson a particularly popular prime minister. The only reason Britons ended up strengthening Johnson’s hands is that Corbyn scared them more. In apparent recognition of his own culpability, Corbyn announced that he plans to step down as the leader of his party.

Corbyn ran on a platform strikingly similar to that of Bernie Sanders: it included free college, a 4-day workweek, nationalizing major utilities, free high speed broadband, and even, in those words, a Green New Deal. The problem was that Britons were too smart to buy the snake oil. Even in the most Labour-friendly areas, people dismissed Corbyn as a Marxist and ‘beyond a joke’ for the massive spending increases and pie-in-the-sky overpromises when the best Labour could have hoped for was a minority government (which means they would need support from other parties to pass their legislative agenda).

Labour lost many of those strongholds last night, because the British people recognized that Jeremy Corbyn and his promises were a fraud.

The truth is the same for Corbyn’s ideological twin, Bernie Sanders, and their rabid leftist supporters. Labour’s historic loss is a devastating indictment of the Bernie Sanders Left. It proves that while ‘free everything’ has a certain novelty and draw, it erodes quickly when critical thinking is applied. Labour’s thumping loss shows that the bubble that socialist cosplayers live in is not shared by the vast majority of the electorate, and it positively proves that people do not want to fundamentally throw out the mixed nature of the economy and transform it into a state-owned enterprise.

It is prima facie evidence that the socialist left is hurting the progressive movement.

People want viable, practical, pragmatic center-Left proposals that can measurably improve people’s lives. People want their leaders to be ambitious, but they want a plan for those ambitions to become reality. People like idealism, but they do not want to tear everything down and start over. People want their leaders to work hard to make progress, not ideological extremism that impedes progress.

Labour’s earthquake of a loss, as prominently as it looms, is only one piece of evidence for the case for center-Left, pragmatic politics. As we have discussed before, the vast majority of Democrats flipping competitive seats at the local, state, and Congressional levels in 2018 and 2019 have been moderate, centrist candidates who are running on, for example, protecting and expanding the Affordable Care Act, not on tearing it down for a whole new disruptive system.

In 2020, Democrats must take the lessons from the far Left’s crushing defeat in the UK and the victories of the pragmatic center-left here at home to heart.