Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of PowerBy Robert A. Caro (Knopf, 712 pp., $35) I. MANY LIBERAL Democrats have yet to come to terms with Lyndon Johnson.
Europe’s Angry Muslims: The Revolt of the Second Generation By Robert S. Leiken (Oxford University Press, 354 pp., $27.95) After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent By Walter Laqueur (Thomas Dunne Books, 322 pp., $26.99) In two separate incidents in March, Mohammed Merah, a French-born French citizen who thought he was waging jihad, ambushed four soldiers around Toulouse, killing three of them. A week later, he shot dead three children arriving for morning classes at a nearby Jewish school, along with a young rabbi who was father to two of them.
Last week was a pretty good one for Mitt Romney. He moved ahead of Rick Santorum in the polls in Wisconsin. His lead in national polls of Republicans increased as well. And he continued to get prominent endorsements from star conservatives like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, indicating a party moving in his direction. But despite all this encouraging news, there was a cloud on Romney’s horizon: his terrible approval ratings. How terrible?
For Bismarck, politics was the art of the possible, while Napoleon would always ask of any general, “But is he lucky?” Put the two together and we can see politics as a game somewhere between chess and poker. Any politician has to gamble and take risks. He needs judgment, he needs nerve, but he also needs luck. Over the first weekend of May last year, Nick Clegg showed considerable skill in playing a poor hand. The voters had just delivered a somewhat oracular verdict in the British general election.
With the very major caveat that this could well be a fleeting change, it's interesting that President Obama is shedding support on his left and picking it up in the center: Liberal Democrats' approval of Obama remained subdued, averaging 80% in the past week, similar to the 79% in the previous week and below the 88% found just prior to the midterm elections.
On Friday, May 7, for the first time since 1974, we woke up the morning after the British election and didn’t know who our prime minister would be. No party had won an absolute majority, and so, for a period that a BBC-TV documentary has dubbed the "Five Days that Changed Britain," Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, held the balance of power and negotiated with Gordon Brown, who was still entrenched as prime minister, and the Conservative leader, David Cameron. Finally, the Tories cut a deal with Clegg.
Two days after the British general election, Alan Watkins died. He was the doyen of London political columnists, after nearly half a century of writing weekly, wisely, and wittily about Parliament, and the Tories (his book, A Conservative Coup, is the best account of the fall of Margaret Thatcher), but, above all, the Labour Party, which he knew intimately.
Many observers are wondering why the Conservatives failed to gain an outright majority in last week’s elections. After all, Labour has been in power for thirteen years, Gordon Brown is deeply unpopular, and the budget is in crisis. Moreover, David Cameron worked hard to modernize and moderate the Conservative party, and despite a surge after the first debate, the Liberal Democrats scored only a modest gain in the popular vote and actually lost five seats. The answer is starting us in the face, and it’s disturbing: the Tories fell short because the right-wing anti-Europe, anti-immigrant partie
WASHINGTON—Britain produced an electoral earthquake all right, but not the one so many expected. The real lessons have less to do with two-party systems than with how economic change has challenged old strategies on both the right and the left. The Conservatives under David Cameron came in first with the most votes and the most seats.
So what happens now? That's the question Britain asks itself this morning. It would have been easier to answer if the country had managed to make its mind up yesterday. but for the first time since 1974, a British general election has produced no winner, only multiple losers. Gordon Brown remains prime minister for now but his credibility is destroyed and it seems most unlikely that the country would wear any coalition deal he cobbled together.