WASHINGTON -- Can it happen here? It is happening in Europe where French polls show that the National Front's Marine Le Pen would win the election for president if elections were held tomorrow. Something like it has happened in Italy where an anarchist comedian, the happily named Beppe Grillo, garnered 25 percent of the vote last year. Most spectacularly, it almost happened in the United Kingdom last month. What am I talking about? An election in which the lowly voters overcome the professional pols and vote their minds. Now there is evidence that it can happen here.
In the United Kingdom last month 45 percent of Scottish voters voted "yes" to break up their union with England, a union that has endured more than 300 years. Eight-five percent turned out to vote. Only a last minute rescue mission by the leadership of all London's political parties saved the United Kingdom, but at a high price. Owing to London's promises, the Scots have come very close to home rule. Can Northern Ireland and Wales be far behind? Moreover, the United Kingdom's professional pols face another challenge in next year's elections when its Euroskeptics again challenge them. The Conservative Party, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats, then will have to contend with their dynamic fourth party, UKIP, which already has 24 of Britain's 73 seats in the European Parliament. UKIP is the broadly conservative and libertarian party to the right of the Conservative Party. It has a rough equivalent on this side of the Atlantic, the tea party!
So the United Kingdom is already listening to its roots, the divisive "yes" vote in Scotland and UKIP with its 23 voices in the European Parliament. London's professional pols have reason to fear for their livelihoods.
The Spectator of London argues that, "The Westminster system is broken, because it has been taken over by professional politicians who focus on their opposite numbers rather than on the people they're supposed to represent." And The Spectator counsels that the professional pols follow their roots.
Here in the United States there is grumbling at the base of both parties. Both Democrats and Republicans of a certain staunch rigorism complain that the professional politicians ignore their respective political bases, save perhaps at election time when they only inflame it with talk of the "war on women" by the Democrats and several different war cries by Republicans: immigration, a balanced budget, the war on terror. At the end of every election the professional politicians of both parties return to cutting their deals, securing their sinecures, and making money.
Right now the pacifist wing of President Barack Obama's party has been thrust out in the cold as he adopts the plumage of the War Hawk and bombs the hell out of Syria and Iraq. Who doubts there will soon be boots on the ground? This despite all the protests he hurled at President George W. Bush. Obama's war whoops even surprised me. What is more, his supporters on the tax-and-spend left are grumbling that he has caved on taxing and neglected to spend. They have a point. If he followed their policies national bankruptcy would be upon us sooner, but he promised them a socialist paradise and now he is scurrying to the political center.
As for the Republican leadership it has given the back of its hand to the libertarian right, so much so that even Senator Rand Paul is hunkering down. On social issues, immigration, even spending and balancing the budget, the Republicans have blended into the middle. As I say, the grumbling can be heard from both ends of the spectrum.
Is there something being missed here by the professional pols? London's Spectator thinks so. "It is crucial to recognize," the magazine editorializes, "that the current 'anti-politics' mood is not an anomaly or a cry of pain. It is the start of a new political order, one in which people want bold ideas to get out of what they see as a political and societal morass." In the United Kingdom the 45 percent "yes" vote and UKIP are seen by some as "the start of a new political order." Can it happen here? In both parties, we have the ingredients for that new order. Might the socialist left in the Democratic Party and the tea party in the Republican Party compose the voices of the future? The forthcoming elections should be followed with a jeweler's eye.