Is this British campaign ad a look at the future of Democratic politics?
Cast into the political wilderness by Donald Trump’s election and a run of of congressional cycles dominated by Republicans, Democrats are locked in a contentious search for a defining message — and revamped slate of policies — to lead them back to power.
The UK’s Labour Party, in a similar pinch but with a general election less than a week away, has taken the progressive populist route. Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected rise to leadership in the fall of 2015, months after another romp by former Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives, represented a sharp left turn for the party, which under Tony Blair and his successors had mostly run parallel with the (Bill) Clinton-era Democrats.
Now, with another UK vote nearing (it’s on June 8), Labour ally Ken Loach, the British director, has produced a film/ad — shared online by Corbyn — that could offer some insight into what the Democratic party might look and sound like in the coming years, should it choose a similar path to Labour.
You’ll be unsurprised that Corbyn has a fan in Sen. Bernie Sanders, who in the UK this week declared himself “very impressed” with his counterpart’s campaign, which he suggested to the Guardian was a lot like his own insurgent bid.
The script drips with the more visceral language of the left.
“We know there is no chief executive or shareholder value without the worker,” says one woman, as the scene cuts to a man declaring, “We know that wealth, privilege and power are carved up in obscene fashion.”
The “demand” for “health, work, home, education, and care in time of need” as delivered by “planned” means and “under democratic control” are evocative of a more fiercely leftist politics than most American candidates — or British for that matter — have been willing to endorse for decades.
The spot wraps up with a nod to the Labour manifesto, or party platform, entitled, “For the many, not the few.”
Whether this would be a winning formula in the U.S. — it’s not expected to boost Labour into power, even with the UK race running tighter than expected — would likely divide opinion among rank-and-file Democrats.
Activists from the Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren wing of the party (and the party’s left outskirts) see in Corbyn’s rise, and messages like this, a reason for optimism. For the the more moderate liberals who backed Clinton, a more intense, ideological iteration of Sanders is unlikely to inspire much confidence — or support.