The Warning For US Republicans In the UK Conservative Victory

Bill Scher

In my pre-UK election explainer, I noted that projections showed Labour taking a net of about three dozen seats from the ruling Conservatives. That ended up being one.

There are certainly reasons for UK Conservatives and US conservatives to cheer. The ruling party bet on austerity on won. They stuck by their controversial cuts, promised to cut deeper, and won more seats.

How? The economy wasn’t going gangbusters, but it was better than it was when they came to power.

In the Conservatives’ final ad, they laid out the statistical evidence of an economy on the “mend.” And Prime Minister David Cameron asked voters to “turn the clock back five years,” reminding them of the glib letter left by the outgoing Labour Treasury Secretary (“there is no money”) and describing their legacy of “spending and borrowing too much .. a deficit almost as large as that of Greece.”

But the high deficits weren’t the result of wanton spending. They were the result of the global market crash. Labour leader Ed Miliband tried to make this point, having years ago disavowed the bank deregulation that the previously “New Labour” implemented. But having served in that Labour administration (albeit as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change), Miliband was unable to distance himself from the last Labour government that voters had rejected.

In other words, voters had long memories.

That’s what should worry Republicans in America.

In the United Kingdom, the 2008 market crash happened on Labour’s watch. In America, that happened on the Republicans’ watch.

The UK Conservatives were able to get re-elected, despite unpopular cuts, because the economy, however imperfect, was better than before. Similarly, Barack Obama was able to get re-elected, despite an unpopular stimulus, because the economy, however imperfect, was better than before.

Unlike Republicans, Miliband at least made a stab at holding his party accountable for past mistakes, making a case that the party had learn valuable lessons and recalibrated its policies as a result. He just was a bad vehicle to do so becase, like Walter Mondale in 1984, he was present at the past debacle.

Republicans at least won’t put up anybody who was part of the Bush administration as their next presidential nominee. Even if it’s Jeb Bush, he has the ability to distance himself from his brother if he chooses.

But so far, no Republican, no matter the last name, has made that choice. The party may find itself in Labour’s shoes next year if they don’t.

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