On Thursday, December 12, the United Kingdom held its first December general election since 1923. While I won’t pretend to be an expert in British politics, the election – and its subsequent results – seem noteworthy due to several striking similarities to the current political climate in the United States.
What can we learn from Thursday’s election in the UK to help us with our political betting throughout the 2020 election cycle in the United States?
You have several comparable characters like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, or Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, as well a debate around the growing class divide – with different camps bringing dramatically different solutions to the table.
The results of the UK general election – which has Boris Johnson and the conservative party winning in a landslide – will be used to push several different narratives in the United States, as the democratic primaries are swiftly approaching.
Additionally, Thursday’s results have shown us the rifts in the working-class vote as well as the ongoing struggle between the centrist left and liberals – similar to the conflicts taking place within the Democratic Party. Throw in some organized disinformation campaigns revolving around particularly harmful accusations, and the stage is set for a dramatic right-wing coup (figuratively, not literally).
Perhaps most importantly, is what we’ve seen play out in terms of political strategy. Not only in terms of how media pundits and the establishment elite will approach opposing the progressive wing of the Democratic party, but how conservatives can position themselves to benefit from the in-fighting.
More specifically, we’ve gotten a glimpse at the weapons and tricks that will be used against Bernie Sanders, should he gain too much momentum as the potential DNC nominee.
The 2019 United Kingdom General Election
The political system in the UK is quite different than that of the United States. For starters, there are more than two meaningful political parties; however, every Prime Minister since 1922 has been a member of either the Conservative or Labour Parties.
Other active parties include the Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party (SNP), Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and Sinn Fein.
The United Kingdom is divided into 650 parliamentary constituencies – each of which sends one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons.
Elections may result in either a majority government – in which one party controls over half the seats in the Commons, or a minority government – in which coalitions are formed to create the needed majority when passing legislation.
After Thursday’s vote, the Tories (Conservative Party) are estimated to have gained 50 seats – giving them a majority of 86 – while Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is expected to lose 71 seats. The 2019 general election is the worst Labour result since 1935.
Not only is he large and doughy with a ridiculous messy head of hair, but Johnson is known to have a similar communication style as well. He’s been accused of selling out the British working class to billionaires and corporate interests, in addition to using homophobic, sexist, and racist language.
Another similarity he shares with Donald Trump is an understanding of how to appeal to working-class voters. While his economic policies may not help this section of the electorate, culturally, Johnson knows how to relate.
His 2019 campaign has been primarily centered around completing the Brexit deal, to remove the UK from the European Union. Within “woke” circles, a desire to leave the EU has become synonymous with racism – as much of the debate around exiting the trade deal revolves around open borders and immigration.
Much like how the working-class voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio rejected the snobby establishment Democrats in 2016, citizens throughout the UK rejected the perceived elitism of the Labour Party this year.
Jeremy Corbyn ran a campaign meant to appeal to the working-class – including saving the country’s National Health System from privatization after documents were leaked showing the Tories plan to let US insurance companies into the market.
Like the United States, the UK is experiencing a widening class divide, with the rich acquiring more capital than ever and everyone else feeling the negative effects of years of austerity measures.
Much like the Democratic Party, Labour is split between an elitist “moderate” faction and the more liberal socialists like Corbyn. The elitist, Tony Blaire centrists of the party wanted to remain in the EU, while the other side wanted to leave. Corbyn was stuck in a position where committing too far in either direction would cost him a sizable portion of the electorate.
While Boris Johnson promised the working classes a majority government and the completion of the Brexit deal, all Jeremy Corbyn could offer was a Labour-led minority with the intention of holding a second referendum. To pro-Brexit voters, this was the equivalent of being asked to vote on leaving over and over again until the EU got their desired outcome.
If he didn’t have enough working against him by way of the Brexit deal, Corbyn’s policy plans drew the ire of the wealthy elite – both within his party and throughout the country. He came under a non-stop attack, accusing the long-time social activist of being anti-Semitic and being a pawn of Putin.
How the UK Election Results Will Be Used
As is tradition in today’s media landscape, what happened in the UK will be consumed, digested, and repackaged into a variety of “hot takes,” dependent upon someone’s preconceived notions.
If you’re a staunch Republican and supporter of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson’s victory is a scathing indictment of socialism and liberal elitism. There are both cultural and economic factors at play.
If you’re a liberal, Thursday was another example of corporations and the wealthy getting their way. The smear campaign worked, mainstream media is complicit, and too many people were distracted by Brexit to vote in their best interests. Corbyn should have firmly supported leaving the EU, while simultaneously focusing on anti-racist messaging.
To the affluent centrists within the Labour Party, the election was a rejection of socialism. Corbyn pushed Labour too far left, and the country doesn’t want to tax the wealthy or repair and protect the NHS. The “leave” voters who voted for the Tories did so because they’re stupid, racist, and inspired by a kind of “cultural backlash.” Plus, Jeremy Corbyn was an anti-Semite!
What Can We Expect in the US?
The political culture in the United States is faced with remarkably similar conflicts at the moment.
From the Right
Donald Trump draws the base of his support from working-class populists who relate to the President based on his apparent outsider status – evident by the way mainstream media and most of the population talks about/treats him.
Trump’s policies may not do much to help them, but he continually repeats phrases like “we’re living in the strongest economy in American history,” and they believe it. But more than anything, he’s a rejection of the Democratic elite – the Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s of the world.
They’re tired of being told that they’re racist and sexist for not agreeing to vote for a party that abandoned the workers of our country long ago.
If Bernie Sanders wins the nomination, he’ll need to do a better job than Jeremy Corbyn to attract these voters. Of course, a considerable percentage of the Republican electorate will reject Bernie based on the word “socialism” alone. But a decent number of Trump’s supporters only went with the GOP in 2016 because of how the DNC treated Senator Sanders.
The more significant battle will be fought between the progressive and the moderate democrats. We’re seeing it now in the primaries – how there’s a growing populist-left movement trying to take over the party, while the DNC establishment elite fight tooth and nail to stop it from happening.
Many affluent democrats rely on identity politics to attack Republicans and progressive rivals alike. They’ll be responsible for launching Russiagate conspiracies and claims of anti-Semitism if any of the liberal candidates perform too well in the primaries.
Like the Tony Blaire faction of the Labour Party, these democrats would rather see Trump win than have someone like Bernie Sanders shake up the current system – forcing them to pay taxes and support free healthcare.
Now, it’s widely known that the Democratic party is already split between moderates and progressives, but I’m not sure there’s anything as divisive as Brexit on the table. That said, in 2016, we saw at least 20% of the primary voters who picked Bernie Sanders’s either voting for a third-party or Donald Trump in the general election.
After four years of Donald Trump, would they make that decision again? What if Bernie Sanders wins the nomination? Will centrist Democrats rally behind the party’s candidate? There’s no way they’ll vote for Trump directly – these are the people who have spent three years obsessing over “orange Drumpf” and impeachment. Might they field a third-party candidate like Mike Bloomberg or Hillary Clinton instead?
It’s hard to say if the 2020 election will feature a hyper-polarizing topic like Brexit, or if the current state of affairs even needs one. Hatred for Trump, mixed with frustrations over the Democratic Party, ignoring working-class progressives once again may be enough.
Forecasting the 2020 Presidential Election in the US
Between what we’ve seen in the United Kingdom and what we learned in 1972 , I’m expecting an extremely similar result in 2020 – ending in Donald Trump being reelected to a second term. The progressives and centrist democrats will continue to fight over the nomination, with Bernie Sanders eventually coming out on top.
After Joe Biden self-implodes, Bernie’s massive base will overwhelm the primaries on behalf of the Senator from Vermont. He’ll come to an agreement with the DNC, with the party agreeing to support his candidacy. In exchange, Sanders will take on a relatively moderate Vice President.
Over time, the VP choice will blow up in Bernie’s face in some way. Additionally, the Clintonian wing of the party will be working the back channels and undermining the campaign all the way. The neoliberal media will never get on board, accusing Senator Sanders of anti-Semitism and of working with Russia/ being a favorite of the Kremlin.
That’s why you’ve been seeing Donald Trump appealing to Jewish voters so enthusiastically lately – including passing a law to prevent BDS movements on college campuses. He’ll use those moves to draw a contrast between himself, and Bernie, who’s been outspoken about needing to observe the rights of the Palestinian people.
The British Election’s Impact on US Political Betting
The British elections have already made an impact on the 2020 election betting markets.
- Donald Trump, who was a +125 favorite to win reelection earlier this week, is now listed at +110. Bovada’s oddsmakers are seeing him pull away from the pack.
- Joe Biden has remained steady at +600.
- Pete Buttigieg has dropped slightly from +650 to +700.
- Bernie Sanders winning the presidential election is currently posted at +800. He’s moved up as high as ~ +550 in the past.
- Andrew Yang has fallen from +1800 to win the election to +2200. I suspect the UK showed bookmakers that the world isn’t quite ready for a progressive leader yet.
Your best 2020 election bets for now are: