@NYTimeskrugman: Corbyn and the Cringe Caucus http://t.co/VoO60Y2CRh
I haven’t been closely following developments in UK politics since the election, but people have been asking me to comment on the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as a serious contender for Labour leadership. And I do have a few thoughts.
First, it’s really important to understand that the austerity policies of the current government are not, as much of the British press portrays them, the only responsible answer to a fiscal crisis. There is no fiscal crisis, except in the imagination of Britain’s Very Serious People; the policies had large costs; the economic upturn when the UK fiscal tightening was put on hold does not justify the previous costs. More than that, the whole austerian ideology is based on fantasy economics, while it’s actually the anti-austerians who are basing their views on the best evidence from modern macroeconomic theory and evidence.
Nonetheless, all the contenders for Labour leadership other than Mr. Corbyn have chosen to accept the austerian ideology in full, including accepting false claims that Labour was fiscally irresponsible and that this irresponsibility caused the crisis. As Simon Wren-Lewis says, when Labour supporters reject this move, they aren’t “moving left”, they’re refusing to follow a party elite that has decided to move sharply to the right.
What’s been going on within Labour reminds me of what went on within the Democratic Party under Reagan and again for a while under Bush: many leading figures in the party fell into what Josh Marshall used to call the “cringe”, basically accepting the right’s worldview but trying to win office by being a bit milder. There was a Stamaty cartoon during the Reagan years that, as I remember it, showed Democrats laying out their platform: big military spending, tax cuts for the rich, benefit cuts for the poor. “But how does that make you different from Republicans?” “Compassion — we care about the victims of our policies.”
I don’t fully understand the apparent moral collapse of New Labour after an election that was not, if you look at the numbers, actually an overwhelming public endorsement of the Tories. But should we really be surprised if many Labour supporters still believe in what their party used to stand for, and are unwilling to support the Cringe Caucus in its flight to the right?