Sunday, June 13, 2004

Tony Blair

The prime minister of the United Kingdom is clearly in trouble. Is this really surprising? The Labour Party is a creature from another era, if not an outright dinosaur. The middle class is growing in Britain, as it is in all modern western democracies; the "working class" is shrinking. The nasty jobs are going away, being done by machines, and I for one say "Good riddance!". The Labour Party was formed back in the bad old days of the late nineteenth century to combat the evils of the (then new) concept of capitalism. It was based on utopian nonsense and the power of labor unions. Until Thatcher it was pretty much the toy of the labor unions. Tony Blair sought to drag it kicking and screaming into the post-war world by toning down the Marxist nonsense and broadening the appeal to the middle class. He sought to include a lot of the save the gay whales sort of platforms that appeal to what Albert Schweitzer called "those with full stomachs": people in the modern world who have all their really important material needs met but who, not being in positions of tremendous responsibility or importance and having lost their faith in traditional religion, are seeking desperately for some sense of meaning in their lives and consequently latching on to whatever cause du jour has the approval of the middle class masses.

That was Tony's plan and Tony's plan worked for a while. But the Lib-Dem party is the natural party for the secular religious middle class, not Labour. What do a bunch of wine-sniffing, brie-eating, Foucault-reading mass-market pseudo-sophisticates really have to do with a bunch of dirty coal miners in Wales? No, Britain has a natural three-way split going now with the Lib-Dems gobbling up the only piece that's growing. It's not quite clear what the constituency of the Conservatives is at this point, but that's another matter. The wonder is that Tony was able to hold the two constituencies of "New Labour" together for so long. That shows real political skill.

What happened? Well, if you're not Scandinavia and haven't been "Finlandized" yet, there are times when it's just necessary to actually play the adult on the world stage. Tony Blair decided to do so. The last thing in the world the save-the-gay-whale crowd wants to do is grow up. The working class might be in favor of a display of British power if their patriotism were properly roused (think Reagan Democrats), but Iraq is a hard case to make from the patriotic point of view. The Iraq War was a patriotic-humanitarian mishmash that almost nobody was or is comfortable with, probably including George Bush and Tony Blair. Tony abandoned both his natural constituencies and now they're both abandoning him.

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