Little Rock After the shocking slap-in-the-face beat down shocks of the Trump victory in the United States and the Brexit election in the United Kingdom to depart the European Union, nothing seemed certain, and little seemed to be going our way. The Netherlands and French elections turned back populists certainly, but more by way of damming up the dikes, than giving real hope to progressives, since largely only the middle held.
Last night was different though. I got to the trailer after 8 PM on an impossibly long day that had begun before dawn and ended with a radio station board meeting and a run down to the Darragh room of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) to celebrate KABF board member and longtime ally, comrade, and friend Paul Kelly’s retirement from Arkansas Advocates for Children. Turning on the computer, my Facebook was blowing up! My friends and ACORN organizers were joyous at the early projections of election results in the snap election called by Prime Minister Theresa May in her attempt to bolster her Conservative Party majority numbers in order to get a freer hand in negotiations with the EU over Britain’s defection. One post after post after another literally shouted in capital letters that they weren’t going to bed yet. 8pm for me was already 2am for them, and I would wager many were still glued to the telly a 4AM to see where the last seats might fall.
If many had felt sure that Hillary Clinton would have a cakewalk victory last November, weeks ago people were even more sure that Theresa May would lap the field in the election. The more serious speculation and concern was less about how large a majority she might win, but whether the fabled Labour Party would even survive what was expected to be a crushing defeat.
Instead in a potential election lesson for us all, Jeremy Corbyn, the much maligned leader of the Labour Party, constantly derided even within his party as being too hard left, has emerged as the clear winner along with a resuscitated Labour Party. Labour picked up 31 seats, while the Conservatives lost 12 seats it appears, putting them below any majority, much less a mandate, and forcing May to scramble for a partner to try and maintain any semblance of her government. The Scottish National Party also lost 19 seats, while the Liberal Dems just held there own and UKIP blanked. So, yes, with 318 Conservative seats to 262 Labour seats, the Conservatives won by some measures, but losing their majority, their bargaining position, and potentially their government is a Pyrrhic victory of historic propositions.
The other message not just in Britain but to the world, if they are listening, is that a campaign that is avowedly directed to the young, to workers, to immigrants, and others outside of the elites, can be powerfully effective. One post said “Blairism is dead,” referring to New Labour which much like Clintonian democrats was a move towards the middle that muddled the clarity of positions in an expediency that confuses and alienates voters. There are so many lessons here!
ACORN in the United Kingdom is also celebrating because we bet big on voter registration, especially among our expanding base of renters. Registration was up 2% and the voting numbers followed along, as they often do with the enthusiasm of newly registered voters, and ACORN was smack dab in the middle of that.
Listen and learn. Pay attention in class to class now!