Friday, May 7, 2010

Lessons from the UK general election for Republicans

David Cameron didn't quite seal the deal with the UK electorate. Losing several targeted seats necessary to form a majority government, the conservative Tory Party lacks the seats in Parliament to claim authority to seat Cameron as Prime Minister. Instead, Cameron must attempt to find a coalition government with either Brown's Labour Party or Clegg's Liberal Democrats. Gordon Brown, as Prime Minister, has a constitutional right to form the coalition government first however. Brown's party took a serious beating in the election, losing a net 91 seats. Despite receiving glowing press reports and a surge in the debates, Nick Clegg's party had a dismal night and actually lost 5 seats.

While BBC coverage of the election spent a good deal of time focusing on the possibility the Labour Party would align with the Liberal Democrats, Clegg has conceded Tories have a right to form a governing coalition because they have the most seats:
Mr Clegg said: "I have said that whichever party gets the most votes and the most seats has the first right to seek to govern, either on its own or by reaching out to other parties and I stick to that view," said the Lib Dem leader.

"I think it is now for the Conservative Party to prove that it is capable of seeking to govern in the national interest."
Ed Morrissey suspects Cameron will have a tough time forming a coalition that will be fragile at best in the end.  Cameron was clear that cuts would be necessary to fix the fiscal nightmare facing the UK.  Lib Dems and Labour opposed those cuts.  Passing cuts to the "cradle to grave" entitlements citizens have come to enjoy will be difficult, if not impossible, under such a fragile coalition government.

The results of the election seem to confirm the denial seen on the streets of Greece may have plagued British citizens as well.  Had the British electorate been sold on the necessary cuts perhaps they would have given Cameron the majority he will need to pass those cuts into law.  They just weren't ready to admit the party is over.

There are lessons in this election for Republicans who now enjoy the same widespread belief they will gain power in the next election Tories enjoyed a few months ago.  While I would like to believe the American people are ready for a return to responsibility they may not be ready to face the cuts to Social Security and Medicare necessary to avoid a financial future now facing Greece.  They can however, remain committed to repealing the unpopular new health care entitlement before it has a chance to work its way into the American psyche as a just reward for citizenship.

There is a danger that comes with a sense of inevitability in elections.  In recent days, some Republicans have shown less enthusiasm for voting in recent days.  It would be a mistake for Republican candidates to take voter enthusiasm for granted.  It is also equally dangerous for those on the right to think return to power is so inevitable they need not support and actively work to elect the candidates who challenge the Democratic majority.

While Clegg was unable to translate enthusiasm for his youth  and change message into votes, he now enjoys a good deal of power as king maker.  Third party candidates on the right don't enjoy the same benefits in the US.  Let's leave it to the left to duke it out among themselves with third party candidates.

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