Liberals need to stop moaning and start winning

I watched the reaction of the Liberal (in the American sense) keyboard warriors to Donald Trump’s election with interest. Everyone who had voted for him was wrong-headed; it was (only) because the Democrats had the wrong candidate; and anyway the good guys were cheated by the electoral college.

That’s all very comforting, but it shows that peculiar Liberal disdain and unwillingness to learn that means they lose an awful lot of elections to supposedly less educated people. How about just considering that it was nothing to do with any of that?

Could it actually be that Liberals just don’t know how to win? Could it actually be that they are inferior campaigners, out-thought and our-strategised at every turn by their Conservative opponents? Could it be that their naive and frankly lazy view that elections can be won and influence can be gained only through the power of rational argument is completely flawed? Could it be that Liberals lack a fundamental understanding of what motivates people? Could it even simply be that Liberals lack passion, do not work hard or smart enough, and are not actually “fired up” after all?

Could it even be that Liberals aren’t half as clever or rational as they think they are?

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There is also, perhaps, a fundamental intellectual flaw in modern Liberalism, as outlined here by David Goodhart.

On my recent trip to the States there was only one person I met who was convinced the election was rigged. He told me the Russians would hack the computers to show Trump had won Ohio and he would thus be fraudulently elected. He was a college-educated Clinton voter.

Let that sink in, Liberals.

It means you can be just as tribal (and just as pre-disposed to shaping the evidence to your own views rather than the other way around) as anyone else.

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Liberal commentators told me, quite vehemently, that my tweet above was nonsense on the basis it was “not backed by any reputable pollsters”, even though it was basic common sense. Even after the last 18 months, Liberals (and by extension much of the media) would rather put their faith in pollsters than actually get out and speak to people.

Could it be that it is time for a fundamental rethink? Maybe our campaign techniques aren’t as clever or modern as we think they are; maybe our communications are over-complex or even just shambolic; maybe we are simply not motivated enough to put the work in? If we are as clever as we think we are, we would at least consider each of these points before just condemning our opponents as unthinking bigots.

By the way, it is absolutely right for Liberals to be completely furious about what happened on 23 June and 8 November – and at the setbacks to international cooperation, women’s rights and basic human compassion which have accompanied these defeats. That fury should never be forgotten and should drive us

All of which means it’s time to stop moaning and start winning.

That means need to learn from where it has gone wrong, put it right, and maybe even get out and meet a few Conservatives to see if we can persuade them to join our side for the greater good rather than demeaning them from behind a keyboard.

And remember, as a wise Liberal once said, “We do these things not because they are easy…”

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3 thoughts on “Liberals need to stop moaning and start winning

  1. Seymour Major says:

    There is a big difference between the position of liberalism in the US and the UK. In the US, there is no Labour Party which threatens the Democrats’s position as the alternative party in a two-party only system. Thus, they have been and will be able to take advantage of the General Election cycle when swing voters decide that they want a change. In all likelihood, if there is no significant difference in quality between two presidential candidates, the candidate from the non-incumbent party should usually win after an 8-year incumbent presidency.

    Part of Trump’s campaign success was also built upon a large amount of ‘make-believe’. Trump had no political record. That made it very difficult for Clinton to campaign against his promises. The parallel with Brexit was probably the problem of a lack of a provable argument. Nobody in the Remain camp could find a way of arguing that if you took back sovereign power from the EU, you not bring down immigration. The economic arguments of the Remain camp cut no ice because the model of the UK outside the EU was unknown and untested with whilst a significant number of heavyweight politicians argued that the UK would be better off.

    I would suggest that the problem for Liberalism, which you have alluded to, is strongly linked to a problem which Liberals in the UK have been grappling with in since the 1920s, when the Labour replaced the Liberals as the alternative to the Conservative Party. Long before the advance of Labour, the Conservatives had learned how to advocate appropriate political changes in order to win the popular vote (something they learned from a Liberal called Edmund Burke). This made it much more difficult for Classical Liberalism to be the driver of reform and it forced the Liberals towards aligning themselves with the left. However, they were never going to be able to compete with the rise of the Labour Party with the power and structure of Trade Unionism behind it.

    Since the 1920s, for all of their efforts to recover their position as the left-leaning alternative to the Conservative Party, So many of their policies were similar to Labour that many wondered what was the point of having a Liberal Party. Liberalism seemed only to appeal to be able to appeal to disgruntled middle class voters in by-elections particularly. Until 1997, they never gained a significant number of seats in General Elections. Their success in General Elections between 1997 and 2010, when they obtained upwards of 48 seats, was partially built upon a long-term strategy of localism and concentrating resources in by-elections but they became invisible as policy makers . Whenever they tried to appear to stand out be different, they came up with policies which were Utopian and unworkable in practice (such as a wealth tax). They were able to get away with those policy initiatives as long as they were never going to be in Government.

    Going into a coalition with the Conservatives meant that they had to make compromises. It was a noble patriotic thing to do in the National Interest but it was also political suicide. Those utopian Liberals that propped up their support suddenly found that their emperor had no clothes. They are now back to where they were in the 1960s.

  2. 416 says:

    I’ve had a bit of a similar epiphany today, even before reading. I think you’re right. I’ve learned something: it’s a mistake to equate tolerance and compassion with smarts/intelligence. Branding intolerant people as stupid racists achieves absolutely nothing. We need to drop the word racist and focus on selling the simple idea that all humans are human, and there is only one race.

    The people we might call racists… they have families and friends—people they would help out if help was needed. We need to focus on getting them to see that helping strangers—treating them more like family—will help build a calmer, peaceful society. In fact we all need to do this. We need to focus on positive change, rather than insults.

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