This is a tale of how a bluff, loud, lying, bullying, rotund, ostensibly blond, narcissistic vulgarian came to capture the hesitant yet sufficient mandate of his country. He kept his slogan simple and easy to remember in four words or less. While the opposition mired itself in murky messages, the vulgarian turned the election into a plain, easy to understand referendum on immigration and the evils that foreigners do. He spoon fed the electorate his straightforward program over and over again until everyone in the country could recite his slogan, even if they were opposed to it, by heart.
Meanwhile, the opposition had no clear message, no easy to identify plan for getting the country back on track. The sad part was the blond charlatan worked for the rich and the opposition worked for the poor and voiceless. But because the opposition’s platform was cobbled together with ill-fitting planks and muddled strategies and a delivery of that message so lacking in the crowd-inspiring fire of showmanship, the opposition’s honest but misfired message got lost in the noisy street music of the vulgarian.
Thus did nearly two weeks ago Boris Johnson secure for the British Tory Party its biggest election victory since 1987, and thus did Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour message of concern for the voiceless and downtrodden get lost in the obfuscating noise. The Tories had this simple message: Get Brexit Done. The easily comprehended image of Boris driving a forklift through a wall bricked up with the slogan written across it (short enough to fit on a red hat, if needed) captured the imagination of the British people. In summary, he “polished up the handle so carefully that now he is the ruler of the Queen’s Navee.” And everything else.
And yet two things are clear. Jeremy, however ineptly, worked for the good guys. Boris worked for the bad guys. The British people were fooled by marketing. To be fair, it’s harder to get behind a party if you cannot summarize its policies. For example, where did Labour stand on Brexit? There was no one clear message and it depended on who you asked. Since that all-important topic was, for many Britons, the single issue that would decide their vote, ambiguity was fatal. Positively no one was unclear on the Tory position on Brexit. Again, it was summarized in a slogan: Get Brexit Done. Never mind that Brexit is what Putin wants. Never mind that Boris ducked interviews and refused to answer questions about his ties to Russia. They had a message and voters could remember it.
Meanwhile, in America, Democrats are celebrating a 2020 election as if they have already won it, as if it’s a fait accompli. Trump, in the estimation of most Democrats, is finished. Why, with so much victory to spare we can even afford to put one or two third party candidates in the field and still easily defeat Trump, this confident message goes.
If that all sounds familiar, it should. It’s the same mistake we made in 2016. It’s the same mistake Britain made two weeks ago. It’s the same mistake we are making again because we have not learned. I see too many messages these days about Trump going down in flames, and too little evidence that it’s true. In 1944 General George Patton said, “We could still lose this war,” and he was right to say it. The reason we didn’t is because we kept fighting. Our lives depended on it then, and they depend on it again. With climate change a clear and present danger, an emerging second Cold War potentially on the horizon and an idiot in the Oval Office preparing to put nuclear weapons in space, the world cannot survive another four years of Donald Trump. We need to start taking up this fight with deadly, concentrated earnest and a clear message for the road ahead – and we need to start today.