Last year, I made the claim that parliamentary systems are on balance superior to presidential systems. For the record, I still think this is true. They are more efficient, decisive, and (as a general rule) far more representative of the populace’s political views. However, I have been proven incorrect in at least one of my claims.
If you remember, one of the arguments I made for parliamentary systems was that there would always be relatively centrist, moderate leaders at the helm because party bosses control leadership positions. Unlike in the United States, where voters get to pick individual candidates, prime ministers and cabinet officials are selected by veteran MPs. This means that the crazy American primary process just doesn’t exist in parliamentary systems. Unfortunately, this attribute does not guarantee that moderate, pragmatic politicians control party leadership. To understand why, we must simply look across the pond. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, has somehow retained his position as Leader of the Opposition despite being an ill-informed, anti-semitic, senile idiot. This makes absolutely no sense because Corbyn’s Labour Party is squaring off against an internally divided and listless Conservative Party. In any other year, Labour would be experiencing massive support as dissatisfied voters abandoned Theresa May’s Tories. This year, however, Labour’s growth is being retarded by Corbyn, a man who keeps receiving party support despite being derided by voters.
Why is this happening? Well, I think it is for the same reason that Trump has been able to endure for so long. The “deciders” – Labour Party elites and primary voters – have a far different worldview than average voters. For example, I often see Trump supporters sharing Breitbart articles and memes about Hillary Clinton. In the echo-chamber that they reside in, these are “sick burns,” but most voters aren’t daily readers of Breitbart. They don’t feed off conspiracy theories about Obama being a literal demon or Clinton giving a “stand down order” to kill American diplomats. Labour leadership is the same. They are strongly motivated by issues like anti-globalization and Palestinian rights to the point of being unrelatable. This, of course, is not to say that the concerns of the aforementioned groups aren’t legitimate. Obviously Benghazi was a serious incident that required investigation, and issues such as Palestinian rights are deeply important, especially given the West’s ties to Israel. The problem arises when extremely political groups, due to their isolation from broader society, believe that the general public is motivated by the same issues that they are. Often this just isn’t the case. As hard as it might be to believe, large numbers of voters simply aren’t aware of these issues at all, and even if they are, they usually only possess a cursory understanding.
As we are witnessing this year, allowing these highly motivated but somewhat delusional groups to control the direction of parties is not an effective strategy. At this point, it is clear that Clinton will be the 45th president of the U.S. because the “Trump Train” has gone off the rails and will potentially take down the entire Republican party with it. In Britain, the tiny Liberal Democratic Party is surging in support and might soon occupy a significant number of parliamentary seats all because far-left Labour lunacy just doesn’t sell. Clearly, constituencies like those supporting Corbyn and Trump are significant and important – they’ve both been able to hijack powerful, well-established political parties. However, they aren’t significant enough to win an election, so their influence is self-defeating. The central challenge for the near future is to clamp down on these extremist elements while ensuring that they are still able to voice their concerns and play a role in the political process. Giving them total control is suicidal, but ignoring them completely will only increase the levels of hate and vitriol currently pervading our society.