Was Boris Johnson's Win Bad for Democrats? Not Quite

By Froma Harrop

December 17, 2019 5 min read

Right-leaning opinions have declared British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's trouncing of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a favorable portent for President Donald J. Trump in 2020. Not so fast. Other readings of the British election results see the very opposite.

For starters, Corbyn was a despised figure including within his own party. Trump is, let us say, also less than universally loved. Even a strong economy hasn't lifted his approval ratings above the disapproval ones, which, according to reputable polls, remain quite high.

Although Johnson, a populist Conservative, had often been likened to Trump — and Trump backed him — Johnson made the point of not getting near the toxic American during his recent trip to Britain.

Johnson was selling a unique political product: separating the United Kingdom from Europe. Trump's passion is separating Americans from one another: whites from nonwhites, the educated from the less so, American soldiers from their officers.

It's true that Britons living in the rust belt north fled their Labour Party home to vote for the Conservatives. Likewise, Trump won in 2016 because several thousand struggling American workers switched their votes to Republican. But, again, the British working class was voting to complete Brexit. It was not buying into any vague promises to replace the National Health Service with, to quote candidate Trump, "something terrific."

On the contrary, Johnson campaigned fervently for strengthening the United Kingdom's socialist health care system. By contrast, Trump has been doing his darndest to dismantle our market-oriented Affordable Care Act. To see how little middle- and working-class Americans care to lose their health care security, consult the results of the 2018 midterm elections.

It's a safe bet that before the 2020 election, Trump will conjure up some bold-sounding plan purporting to ensure that everyone has affordable health coverage — with every intention of dropping it should he win. One suspects that a good number of his voters who have taken a chance on him before will not take the bait this time.

There is another way Labour's drubbing could work in the Democrats' favor. It should drain support from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the two hard-left candidates, who'd surely lose to Trump. The Sanders cult now argues that the U.K. results augur no such thing. Sanders has little to do with Corbyn, they insist.

With impeccable timing, Sanders' organizing director, Claire Sandberg, tweeted the campaign's endorsement of Corbyn the night before the election. In speaking of Corbyn two years ago, Sanders told the Guardian, "I think he is doing quite well. ... I have been very impressed by the campaign that he has been running."

Meanwhile, Bernie's sidekick, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, had been working her Twitter fingers posting support for the Labour Party leader. After taking office last year, she famously spent 45 minutes on the phone seeking wisdom from her hero Corbyn.

One imagines that James Downie, now digital opinions editor at The Washington Post, wishes he hadn't written a piece in 2017 titled "Jeremy Corbyn's Success Is a Model for American Progressives."

Some on the left have responded to the bad news Corbyn brings their candidates with a non sequitur. According to Politico, they're complaining that Democratic moderates "had never been held accountable for Hillary Clinton's 2016 loss." They should recall that, in fact, Clinton beat Trump by nearly 3 million votes — despite the left's demonization of her, its talking points picked up by Trump and his Russians. The undemocratic Electoral College elected Trump, not American voters.

The hope is that Democratic caucusgoers and primary voters are reading the signposts. And if Republicans want to see Johnson's win as good tidings for Trump's reelection, Democrats should not stop them.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Jon Curnow

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