Parties Can’t Wait Out the Insurgency

Things will not simply return to normal the day after Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump are defeated.

Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn
Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn (Joshua M. Hoover/Sleeves Rolled Up)

Mainstream Labour politicians in the United Kingdom and sensible Republicans in the United States have adopted the same strategy to cope with the attempted hostile takeovers of their parties: wait out the insurgency and hope that things return to normal after what can only be a crushing defeat for Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump, respectively.

There is of course little the far-left Corbyn and the right-wing nationalist Trump have in common, except that they are each remarking their parties in their own image.

And therein lies the danger for non-Corbyn Labour and the anti-Trump Republicans: the longer these men serve as their leaders, the less control they have over their destiny.


Corbyn’s influence is the most pugnacious, because — unlike Trump — he has institutional support.

The pacifist former backbencher, who unexpectedly won a leadership contest last year, has the support of a plurality of constituency parties in this year’s leadership election. Most of the trade unions back him. Corbyn has inspired tens of thousands often young left-wing activists to join Labour. Since center-left lawmakers defected from his shadow cabinet en masse in the wake of the European Union referendum, the party has effectively been led by Corbyn loyalists. They, in turn, are putting their own people in unelected positions, enabling them to exert an ever-wider influence.

If the majority of parliamentarians, who do not support Corbyn, think his followers will come to their senses after what is almost certainly going to be Labour’s worst electoral defeat in a generation, they are in for a surprise. Corbyn’s people are less interested in winning elections than they are in taking over the Labour Party to use it as a vehicle for their social activism.


Trump’s supporters do seem to think he can win. The polls may show Hillary Clinton, the Democrat, with a double-digit lead; according to the Trumpeteers, those surveys are as rigged as the rest of the political process. Although that somehow didn’t stop Trump winning the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

As in Labour, the vast majority of elected Republicans in the United States are appalled by Trump and know that he is going to lose. Some have said they would rather vote for Clinton.

But then what? Trump’s supporters will undoubtedly find reason to blame the mainstream of the Republican Party for his defeat. They have stood by Trump through his misogyny and his racism, his ignorance, his lies and his petulance. They are not going to change their minds even if Trumpism is repudiated by a majority of the country in November.

Trump is the avatar of their frustrations with the modern world. These Americans are not about to make peace with globalization, feminism, social liberalism and racial equality. More likely, they will turn the Republican Party into one of resistance against modernity.

That is not something most Republicans want, but there are enough quislings in the party to continue what Trump started.

Watching the party burn

Republicans should have stopped Trump much earlier. They should have recognized the unique threat he posed to their party, and indeed the country, and frustrated him every step of the way in the primaries.

If that hadn’t worked, they should have taken the nomination away from him at the convention in Cleveland, Ohio last month.

Now there’s little they can do but watch their party burn.

Labour’s lawmakers made similar mistakes. They should never have nominated Corbyn for the leadership last year in order to “widen the debate”. At least they did the right thing this summer, when the vast majority of them expressed their lack of confidence in Corbyn in an official vote.

Unfortunately, Corbyn refused to do the honorable thing and resign and now Labour is stuck with him.

Short of some extraordinary plot that would no doubt aggravate their true believers, there seems to be no way of repairing the damage that has been done and getting rid of Corbyn and Trump without splitting the Labour and Republican Parties. For some, though, that may be preferable to veering off a cliff.

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