Opinion: In today’s politics, there is only the backlash

British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the press Friday. May’s gamble in calling an early election backfired spectacularly, as her Conservative Party lost its majority in Parliament. (AP Photo / Tim Ireland)

Britons and Americans alike woke up Friday to something they hadn’t expected 24 hours earlier: a mild rebuke of the U.K.’s ruling Conservative Party. Prime Minister Theresa May called early elections with the idea the Tories could strengthen their hand by picking up some marginal seats which were held by the left-wing Labour Party but last summer supported Britain’s exit from the European Union. Instead, the Tories narrowly lost their majority and, in Britain’s multiparty system, are trying to win support from Northern Ireland’s unionist party to form a government. May, rather than bolstering her bargaining position with the EU, could be forced out as party leader and thus prime minister.

It’s a turn of events as stunning as last summer’s Brexit vote … and Donald Trump’s victory a few months later … and the 2010 U.S. midterm elections … and, to a lesser extent, the 2014 midterms. Less stunning, but equally sharp in terms of its departure from the status quo, was Barack Obama’s win in 2008. If Jon Ossoff can pull off a win in Georgia’s previously deep-red 6th District that’ll go on the list, too.

Is there anything more to politics today than the backlash?

Consider this condensed history of the past several years: Obama rode a tide of anti-Dubya sentiment (and, in his besting of Hillary Clinton in the primary, anti-establishment sentiment) to the White House and filibuster-proof congressional majorities. Within a year, the filibuster was back in play in the Senate. Within two years, the House majority was lost. Obama hung on in 2012, but the Senate was in Republican hands two years later. It’s not just a phenomenon between the two major parties: A revolt within the House Republican caucus cost John Boehner the speaker’s gavel. Then came Trump, and a Washington that could hardly be more different than it was eight years earlier. And yet, already, Trump faces the kind of dissent — both externally and to some extent within the GOP — that might produce an opposite wave come November 2018.

People participate in a Tax Day protest on April 15 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith / Getty Images)

From Bush to Obama to Trump, Pelosi to Boehner to Ryan (to Pelosi?), the common thread in the shifting of the tide is simple opposition to whatever was going on at the time. And the more vague that opposition, the better. Obama rose to power promising “change” without very many details; the details created the tea party — and a Republican majority voters sent chiefly to put a halt to the Obama agenda. Trump promised a sharp departure from the Obama trajectory but not too many policy specifics; his rhetoric combined with the stumbling start to his presidency has yielded “the resistance,” which in turn promises little more than to obstruct Trump. One can imagine a scenario, à la the tea party in 2010, in which the Democrats regain some measure of power but lack the mandate to do more than stand in Trump’s way. And on it goes.

And so it goes, from what I can tell, in Britain, whose politics I used to cover closely from my perch in Brussels but now follow only loosely from afar. Brexit was nothing if not a cry for change from the EU status quo; Thursday’s elections appear to have been driven by voters taken aback by last summer’s results and what (they believed) it portended for their future. Yet it’s far from clear what happens next. There was just the backlash to the backlash.

The problem with backlashes is they’re rather inchoate when it comes to offering what comes next. There may be no better example before us right now than the campaign Ossoff has run. He offers a stream of pleasant-sounding but ultimately empty platitudes about being an “independent voice” who will “work with anyone” to accomplish … what exactly? Oh, yeah: To “fix” this or that. How exactly would that work out? Er … you’ll have to elect him to find out*.

In a way, all of this reflects a deep-seated problem — with America’s two major parties, anyway — of staleness. There is precious little Democratic creativity when it comes to policy, just the faith that eventually they’ll win enough elections and make enough heave-hos to accomplish the objectives they’ve been pursuing for nearly a century. The problem is the opposite on the right: The conservative policy apparatus produces reams of ideas about how to reform, shrink and limit government, but hardly any of them are adopted by Republican leaders. Neither makes for dynamism in elections or political debate.

They have, however, generated cynicism in the public, which has evolved into the tribalism we see now. Why simply pick a side and defend it/attack the other regardless of events? In part, because the events don’t lead either party to do anything differently. There is what there always was, which the voters had at one time or another already rejected. So what do they do? Reject the one in place currently, and begin preparations for turning against the next in line. Plus ça change.

Voters have traditionally gotten tired of going too long in one direction but, as with everything else it seems, the pendulum swings faster today than ever. You can blame that on lousy politicians, but in large part they simply hold mirrors up to the electorate reflecting ourselves back to us. You can say they need to act more like leaders, but we also have to come to some kind of consistent agreement about where we’re willing to be led. Right now, the only consensus is we’d rather stay on course for nowhere.

*Don’t point to his “plan” to cut $60 billion a year in “waste.” Not when he’s changed his position on at least one item after it was pointed out it would hurt Georgia (and not save as much money as he was claiming anyway), and not when he’s indicated the money would simply go to other spending items. His “plan” is the essence of faux budget-hawkery and the kind of vacuous politics I’m talking about.

Reader Comments 0

107 comments
Caius
Caius

One of the major problems is that the voters do not understand who does what in our governmental system.  Most believe most power is assigned by the Constitution to the Executive.  So who is President is the great gatherer of votes in our election cycles.  Then the President cannot get his program done because the authority to do his program rest with the other branches. And folks get upset.  And the President gets the lion's share of the blame.


And now we have a President who believes that the Constitution assigns to him the total power to govern.



JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

I'm really sick of the Liberals.

The Kathy Griffin, Trump beheading controversy did not even get their attention.

Delta and Bank of America pull their money from the play where Caesar is Trump and is knifed to death, but now the play vows to go on with various nut jobs trying to justify it.

They however are not the biggest problem.

Nope

The biggest problem is Republicans who don't fully realize we are in a war with the Libs.

McConnell needs to nuke 'em. 

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@JohnnyReb


No need to go nuclear. Griffin lost her job and some gigs and play lost valuable advertisers. So these folks getting hurt one way or another. This going to war talk just adds to the hysteria. 

RubyL.Gordon
RubyL.Gordon

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bu22
bu22

The negative politics impacts this.  What was it, 80% of Hillary's ads were attacks on DJT?  I don't really recall anything from her side other than how dangerous DJT was.  Of course, DJT made fun of everything and everyone.  As bad as it was, they look like perfectly polite dinner guests compared to a lot on this blog. 

bu22
bu22

Look what happened to term limits-all talk disappeared once the Republicans got in control.  And the signature issue Obamacare-dozens of hard core conservative Republicans voted to keep Obamacare rather than make what they considered insufficient change.  Now a bunch of moderate Republican congressmen (and still some of the hardcore right) are planning on voting to keep Obamacare.  What happened to balanced budgets in 2001?

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Keen observation, Kyle. 

At some point, friction and resistance will halt the pendulum's swing.

I'll hang with the resistance to BIG GOVERNMENT crowd.

I'll leave the friction through factions to the big government enablers. 

At some point, intersectionality will defeat the dems' agenda.


McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@FIGMO2


I think Kyle's point is eventually you have to be for something and not be in the resistance crowd. Else you get nothing. 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@McGarnagle @FIGMO2

I'm in support of curtailing the federal government's expansion beyond its enumerated powers.

The arbitrary and ambiguous term "general welfare" has encouraged unlimited spending with minimal return.

While politicians...dems, in particular, "FEEL GOOD" about it, I DO NOT!

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

As FYI and in case you have not looked, the lunacy at the Bookman blog continues unabated.

I reviewed this morning but stopped when reading how Obama had been such a good chief executive for the country.

There is only so much BS one can handle this early in the morning. 

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@JohnnyReb


Thats in comparison to Obama vs. Trump which is an unfair comparison given Trump been in office a few months. I predict Trump presidency will not live up to its hype. As long as Trump doesn't screw up the economy he may be ok.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@SGTGrit @JohnnyReb

Deeply believes.

He and his following there are all wrapped up in Trump while their party disintegrates.

Could not happen to a more deserving bunch.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@McGarnagle @JohnnyReb

No doubt Obama had a smoother presentation.

However, it covered a destructive agenda.

The jury is out, but Trump will be like a contractor where when you look the place is a mess but the end product is what counts.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@JohnnyReb @McGarnagle


That's a reference to whichever party loses. Although even if Ossoff wins, its just one congressional seat. Actual legislative impact will be minimal.

bu22
bu22

@JohnnyReb @McGarnagle Well a Handel victory would be a great message nationally about local control and against big money.  You have a handpicked packaged candidate who doesn't even live in the district backed by massive out of state money and volunteers.  He deserves to lose regardless of the merits of the two candidates.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Let's all hope Bernie Sanders and Fauxahontas do start their own party.

I can't think of a better move for the Democratic Party.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@JohnnyReb  The Democrats must be delighted with their young bright depth chart of presidential candidates comprised of Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Cons should start a campaign directed at Mitch McConnell on changing the Senate rules to require only a simple majority to pass a bill.

McConnell needs to forget about the "regular order" he loves so.

Clearly, the Dems only care about obstructing Trump so Repubs need to seize the opportunities their majority offers.

Perhaps then the Dems will come to their senses and realize if they are to participate in governance they have to change their ways. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

AndyMan/IReport/Whine keeps filling the pages of this blog with his ignorant, simplistic drivel, and when he is challenged, all he does is to deflect, change the subject, and call people names. He is, one must admit, a good student of his lying Leader, who operates very much the same way.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@MarkVV 

And then there is Sarge, the other "good Christian" who demonizes the political opposition on a regular basis. Sarge? A real Christian? ROFLOL!

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@MarkVV


No point in arguing with andy. He's in the tank for Trump like none has ever seen. Never the less, I think fair minded folks give Trump a pass on alot of things but there eventually comes a time when Trump crosses the line for each individual. I hope the country is not in the gutter before that time comes for most.



breckenridge
breckenridge

I-Whine you need to be careful in your demonizing of liberals, make sure you point the finger exclusively at American liberals.  That's because Jesus of Nazareth was a liberal, a 100% true-blue liberal. And we all know a "good Christian" such as  yourself would never badmouth Jesus.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@breckenridge  Sorry but we'll pass on your faux knowledge of Jesus Christ and the Bible.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

MarkVV 9 minutes ago

@AndyManUSA#45 @MarkVV Should you not stop showing how stupid you are? Where in the description of "office duties" of the President is stopping investigation of a former associate?


Well, let us see here, my man. As the overseer of all the investigative duties of the executive branch of the United States Government, the President, Donald Trump, would be in possession of all of the evidence and all of the findings of the Flynn investigation. It is well within his bounds and well within his duties, to make informed decisions about the viability and direction of current law enforcement investigations. You should check out the US Constitution when you get a chance. What the FBI does for a living is the President's prerogative. The House and the Senate have oversight authority, but, come on, man, we haven't even identified a crime yet. How many years will they need to entrap someone in their own testimony? What would the Senate even present? mccain's babblings?


You are a clown and you deal with a scholar. I win.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45 @MarkVV I do not have time to argue with an idiot/simpleton, who does  not understand that an action that is nominally within the rights of an official becomes criminal when the intent of that action is corrupt. You keep straying into whether the facts show that such criminality. I have not argued that; my argument was a refutation of your idiotic claim that Trump's action could not be criminal because he had the right to take that action. 

You have shown yourself to be to dull to carry  an argument, but you sure can substitute stupid insults for that. 

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@MarkVV @AndyManUSA#45 I'm going to pull an eyeball on you, it would be "too" dull, if you were to use proper grammar. Now all the weak minds think I am smarter than you, right?


Anyway, who has more authority to make the correct decisions on the course of an investigation, the boss, Trump or the underling, comey?


You should really stop, while I am ahead.



MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45 @MarkVV There is no point to debate a simpleton as ignorant as IReport/AndyMan, who cannot keep track of what the argument is about. 

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Our politicians in washington, dc are pure cowards, to the man. They are totally afraid of the monkey media, completely paralyzed by it. They could leave the toilet seat up tonight, tomorrow morning it will be a major headline across all the monkey media outlets, even though leaving the toilet seat up is like, not a crime. It would still be discussed all day long amongst the monkey media members, they would convene panels and seek the advice of legal experts and by the end of the day, you would think that the toilet seat leaver upper was destined for prison. 


Is this fair? Who appointed the monkey media judge and jury? This is the very basis for Kyle's column today, we stare at the tv and the phone all day and the monkey media plants little messages in the weak minds and the weak minds pass along the messages instead of just thinking about it, for a moment. 


We will never have a government that satisfies the people that elected it and the people who didn't elect it because the monkey media will not allow it. 


When are we going to "not allow it?" Do you want your government back, working for you? Question the monkey media, use your brain for something else besides their trash can.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Dear Mr. President,


Why don't you just pardon Michael Flynn? bill clinton pardoned terrorists that killed police officers and the last time I checked, Flynn is only "guilty" of talking to some Russian dude on the telephone, which was part of his job description. You have much more patience with these monkey liberals than I would have and I do not admire this trait in you at all. Where is the fighter that we elected? 


If you have to burn the village (dc) to save it, then just do it.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

I'd pardon myself. And then I'd eliminate the FBI. Entirely. That's how you drain the swamp.


People admire the strong horse.


MAGA

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

At the very least, how about Sarah Palin as the new FBI Director? Can we at least agree on that?

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Our government is full of little pi$$ant criminals like hillary, rice, lynch, comey, obozo and you're going to hound a soldier like Flynn, who you have no evidence against even after years of investigations?


We have evidence on the pi$$ants. Is this one of those dual reality things?

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

For President Trump to have obstructed justice, shouldn't there be like a crime associated with this? You know, someone being charged with something first? Tell me, and answer honestly, if you saw a good man, a man who bravely served his country in several overseas theaters, stood his ground against our worst enemies, being politically hounded by a kangaroo court, would you not step up to the plate and try to right a wrong? Or would you cower and run when you saw a woman being raped? Would you turn around a run when you saw some old dude getting beat up and robbed?


Cowardly little monkeys.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Perhaps it is beyond some people's capacity to comprehend but 1) health insurance already is a total disaster and 2) it is well within Trump's executive authority to shut down the investigation and tell everyone to go pound sand. Before the monkey liberals could do anything at all about it, they'd have to win back the house and senate (hahahahahaha, aaahh, yeah.) 


But he hasn't. Some obstructionist he is.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45 It is obviously beyond IReport’s capacity to comprehend that it may be “well within Trump's executive authority to shut down the investigation” and still constitute obstruction of justice and abuse of power. His nixonion ”Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal” already has been decided by the courts to be wrong.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@MarkVV @AndyManUSA#45 You couldn't be more wrong. 1) Cox was a special prosecutor, maggot mueller is a consultant. 2) The monkey democrats controlled Congress in Nixons time and were able to bring articles of impeachment (Nixon should have told them to FO, like Trump would.) 


Are you clueless?

MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45 @MarkVV You are the one who is clueless. It has nothing to do with what Cox was and Muller is, but with the fact that nobody is above the law in a country with a President, rather than an absolute monarch.

According to the idiots, the President with his rights as a Commander-in-Chief could just  order to drop a nuclear bomb anywhere anytime and would would be just fine with them, because he has the "full executive authority."  

Also, as we have heard from Trump, he could just shoot somebody in the street and his followers would still vote for him, IReport's comments show him to have been right. 

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@MarkVV @AndyManUSA#45 Yeah, except he hasn't done any of the above and you act like he's already been convicted. You, sir,  have major mental issues.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45 @MarkVV There is nothing to explain. You failed the argument, and now you are just blowing hot air. You claimed that Trump could not be guilty because what he did what within his executive authority. Wrong. All the rest of your comments was hogwash.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45 @MarkVV Should you not stop showing how stupid you are? Where in the description of "office duties" of the President is stopping investigation of a former associate?