If the definition is insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then we may want to check on the mental health of many center left pundits.
While some of us argued early that Trump could indeed win the Rust Belt with a coalition of disaffected voters, the serious center left said that nice suburban moderate voters would be turned off by Trump’s demeanor and hand him a crushing defeat. (They also claimed that Sanders’ associations from his youth would destroy him in a general election–much as they claimed in 2008 that Obama’s ties to black liberation theology would doom him.)
Those same serious center left pundits spent the better part of the last year insisting that Jeremy Corbyn would be the destruction of the Labour Party in Britain. Everyone on the American center-left from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama dissed Corbyn–and not politely, either. Bill Clinton called him “the maddest person in the room.” Obama said that under Corbyn, Labour was “disintegrating” and had lost touch with “fact and reality.” JK Rowling insisted that we “may be facing the destruction of Labour as a viable political party” under Corbyn and even that Corbyn and his followers were “red tories” who would be “delighted” if Labour were decimated. Jim Messina and Eric Boehlert got in on the act, mocking polls showing Labour closing in on May.
The Guardian’s coverage, usually quite good in most respects, has been nothing short of appalling when it comes to Corbyn. That’s particularly problematic since The Guardian is the only respected left-leaning major publication remaining in Britain. If Hillary Clinton’s campaign was supposedly damaged by incoming fire from the likes of Glenn Greenwald and the Young Turks, how much more devastating is relentlessly negative coverage from the nation’s leading newspaper? Who knows how well Corbyn might have done if the weight of the center-left establishment had been fully behind him?
As it turns out, a Corbyn-backed Labour manifesto of universal coverage and services turned out to be really popular, once it became the focus of attention. Given the option of a electing a real champion against austerity-loving finance capitalism, youth turnout exploded, with Labour candidates receiving over 60% of the vote from millennials.
In the aftermath of Labour’s surprising success, the usual suspects are trying to claim that rather than an authentic surge for an economic populist left, the result represents an overseas backlash against Trump. But that would only explain why far-right candidates are underperforming–not why left-populist politicians like Melenchon in France and Corbyn in Britain are doing so well.
Nor is it clear why we should continue listening to the same political analysts who got both the American and British elections so terribly wrong. That would be the definition of insanity.