Dear Partners in thought,
A very good man who used to be the mayor of a great, historically fateful American city recently told me that the Republican Party under Trump was dead while the Democratic Party was dead too but did not know it yet, prompting me to reflect on the fate of our great Western political parties in a few historically key Western nations.
I actually think that the main “political parties”, as we have known them for decades in the West are dead or dying. Look at France with the Socialists (social democrats really) and center right parties (whatever the latter’s changing names) which commanded about 75-80% of the votes, broadly speaking for 50 years, garnered an aggregate “15%” at the European parliamentary elections of late May. Look at the UK and how “abysmal” both main parties have been since the June 2016 referendum in terms of both leaderships (not to mention putting parties before nation) and of course their electoral results…Germany is on its way too with the CDU at 25% in late May…I think one might be also tempted to think that Putin and his “liberalism is obsolete” is right (I don’t believe that though he has a point) when you see that the extremes rise, also in the voting booth (though not as much as could have been feared in May), as easy solutions to complex issues are appealing to many for a variety of reasons and fashions, when rational arguments are not wanted, especially if emanating from the “elite” as populism is inherently unsatisfied and corrosive of politics.
For my part I think it is a time where those main parties go through a “re-foundation” process to re-define their identities and value add. I think the GOP and Dems will go through such process (by gradually rejecting “Trumpisation” and economic radicalism, away from mirror vote-grabbing extremism respectively) all the more when Trump is gone (I think he does not have the numbers even if the Dems can be self-hurting) as he has been a major disruption factor for both. As for France, I think Macron is a good leader dealing with an ever riotous and challenging Gallic nation but his 2017 victory killed the main parties while his own is not yet one (re-foundation of both centre-left and centre-right will be hard as Macron is occupying both spaces on different issues, having succeeded in creating a broad “centre” where Giscard failed as he was too early 45 years ago). As for the UK, both main parties seem doomed, Brexit (and poor Cameron) being the “emotionally-charged” reason and the Boris Johnson train down the road to no-deal oblivion and overall decline that all can see as a bad unfolding and unavoidable script…If only they were letting the people speak, to settle once and for all the matter and however imperfect this way forward, three years later and based on more facts, and not those two non-representative parties…I wonder what historians will say 50 years from now.
However and in the meantime we should not despair. The dire current Western political landscape has already triggered innovative initiatives led by concerned individuals focused on tackling societal challenges “together” and not along toxic partisan lines. One such initiative, Engage Britain, is being led by well-known financier, Guy Hands, founder and chairman of Terra Firma, the British private equity group. Engage Britain aims at putting pepole, with all their differences, knowledge and experience, at the heart of tackling the most difficult and divisive challenges facing Britain – which are of course easy for all to see particularly from afar. Guy’s bet is that his fellow citizens are capable of working together, through established and pioneering solution-focused principles and methods, to help solving challenges, that parties have not been able to such as the funding of healthcare, opportunities for families living in poverty, protecting the environment or addressing decently and rationally divisive issues such as immigration. Engage Britain’s end game is ambitiously to “act as catalyst of wider civic society to build a better place for all to live”. I recommend that you go to http://www.engagebritain.org to get a good overview of such new initiative that is emblematic of things to come and will likely have a strong, positive impact on society and further marginalise political parties in the West. There is light at the of the tunnel and we should still believe in the future.