Only the People Can Decide

In the United States as in Great Britain, the political system has been so strained  by issues of such immense controversy that they cross party lines, immobilize the system, and can only be settled by the voters as a whole.

There will be no other determination of whether President Trump gets to finish his task of grinding to powder and replacing the ruling bipartisan elite that he believes grievously misgoverned the country in the post-Reagan years. In 2016, he neither won a mandate for revolution nor incurred a cause to be denied or removed from office. Almost half the voters substantially agreed with the president in 2016, and this remains the principal issue: that the previous four presidents and their Congresses misgoverned the country.

This view holds that the elder President Bush allowed the Republican Party to be split by a charlatan (Ross Perot), bringing in the Clintons, who brought on, with George W. Bush, the subprime mortgage debacle and the world’s greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression; and that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama produced a series of Middle East-related foreign policy disasters. There was a faulty intelligence response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a completely misconceived war in Iraq, an immense humanitarian disaster generating as many as 10 million refugees, the premature departure from Iraq which helped produce ISIS, and the abandonment of nuclear non-proliferation with respect to Iran and North Korea (where all four presidents were swindled).

According to this view, the Bushes allowed the Republican Party to be shamed and jostled into insane notions of self-impoverishment over completely speculative notions of climate management, and Obama was allowed to get away with a defeatist and corrupt economic policy that provided slightly more survivable welfare arrangements and a flat-lined “new normal” of 2 percent economic growth despite immense deficits and a shrinking workforce, though the Obamas’ rich chums on Wall Street, in Hollywood, and in the Silicon Valley were well taken care of fiscally.  

And all four previous presidents are accused of pursuing trade policies that imported unemployment into the United States and doing nothing while up to 20 million illiterate peasants poured into the country illegally or while oil imports increased and the manufacturing sector was farmed out to other countries by companies that repatriated unemployment but not profits.

It is a powerful indictment of bipartisan policy and while sometimes overstated, as often happens in politics, it cannot easily be refuted. Instead, the president’s opponents in both parties have described him as a boorish mythmaker, a crook, and a pathologically dishonest egomaniac who is tarnishing the whole constitutional process by abuses of


Thunderbolts to the System

The thunderbolt of the Trump assault on the whole system is an unprecedented victory by a disruptive political outsider. Some have tried to invoke Andrew Jackson as a precedent, but he had been a drummer-boy in the Revolutionary War, a famous citizen-general, briefly a U.S. senator, and was deprived of apparent victory in his first charge for the presidency in 1824 by the House of Representatives, though he led the popular and electoral vote in the election (but lacked an Electoral College majority).

No one has seriously tried to defend the presidents and Congresses in the seven preceding terms since Ronald Reagan. No one defends the endless Mideast wars or the bad trade deals or the legislative and executive imposition of commercially unsound mortgages (the political free lunch of expanding family home ownership at no cost to the taxpayers, that reduced almost the entire world banking system, except Canada’s, to insolvency).

The climate terror is now supported by confected waves of child-demonstrators and the same tired academics who are the leaders or the chief useful idiots of the international climate-activist Left. They were defeated in the Cold War, beat their swords into thermometers, and assaulted capitalism from a new angle, militarizing the Sierra Club and Greenpeace and the birdwatchers and butterfly collectors, all in the name of saving the planet. It has been a formidable improvisation, but is a long way from Al Gore’s “settled science,” much less the Prince of Wales’ somewhat tedious assertions that the end is nigh.

The Democrats, apart from a ritual defense of the Obama era in general, have just moved farther leftward, recommitting themselves to sharply higher taxes on middle- and upper-incomes, more open borders, the green terror, socialized medicine, and an ardent flirtation with vast reparations for African and native Americans. And they have united with their media echo chamber to greet each new unfledged anti-Trump allegation as an impeachable presidential offense, chanting as if in hypnosis the confected group-faith that the president is an evil man awaiting from one week to the next the proof of his criminality.

Wails and Shrieks for Impeachment

The New York Times spurred most of the Democratic presidential candidates with any measurable support to demand the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Yet the Times knew there was no truth to the allegation of sexual abuse 35 years before.

The Washington Post took its turn last week with hearsay from a “whistleblower” about a conversation the president had, overheard by dozens of listeners, with the president of Ukraine. The spavined fire-horses charged out of the station again: Maureen Dowd hoping this would be the “Big One,” and Nicholas Kristof saying “It stinks,” (both in the Times). It is almost inconceivable that any such conversation could produce a serious legal problem for President Trump. It cannot be ruled out that the Trump entourage has generated this round to discredit the Democratic media mobs again, and to get the murky business of the Biden family’s collateral profits from the vice presidency into the public square.

The president has substantially succeeded with respect to  the economy, the southern border, trade, and energy production, and he will strive on to “drain the swamp.” His enemies are so envenomed, only the election next year can resolve the question whether the political establishment Trump attacked survives in recognizable form or he creates a new policy orthodoxy, as FDR did in the 1930s, when he entered office at the bottom of the Great Depression with a mandate to rebuild the country.

The system is substantially gridlocked between two alternatives that cannot be bridged; the people must choose the way forward. But they will, and that is why democracy works; the people ultimately decide and that is the one incontestable political legitimacy.

A Thirsty People Suffer a Drought of Good Government

The United Kingdom has suffered a comparable drought of good government since the departure of Margaret Thatcher as prime minister in 1990. Debt has increased, taxes have risen, and the country has wobbled between the attractions of plunging headlong into the supranational European Union or revitalizing itself as an important sovereign nation, close, as always, with kindred European spirits, but also close to its Commonwealth relatives in Canada and Australasia, and the United States.

The Euro-integration option would mean largely emasculating institutions that the British have worked out gradually over 800 years with relatively little civil strife, and practically none (apart from the former province of Ireland) since 1685, a third of a millennium, in favor of government from Brussels by commissioners very tenuously responsive to the constituent governments and to the talking shop of the European Parliament.

The impasse has become so sharp that parties are divided and a bare parliamentary majority of Remainers, drawn from seven parties, is trying to dictate to a government that no longer has the confidence of the House of Commons and wishes a general election. The Remainers are trying to direct government by legislation, in defiance of the public’s vote three years ago to leave the European Union, and to deny the government an election. It is the worst shambles of British government since Oliver Cromwell dismissed the legislators, had the king decapitated, and made himself Lord Protector, an arrangement that only survived him by a few months and was followed by the return of the son of the late king.

Instead of any such extremities, in the U.K. as in the United States, the people will decide. Prime Minister Boris Johnson presumably will concede a request for an extension of Britain’s departure from the European Union from Halloween to New Year’s Eve in exchange for an immediate election. Only the people can decide, and they will, in the one country as in the other, almost certainly in favor of the incumbent. Any alternative now visible is completely implausible.

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About Conrad Black

Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years, and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world as owner of the British telegraph newspapers, the Fairfax newspapers in Australia, the Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun-Times and scores of smaller newspapers in the U.S., and most of the daily newspapers in Canada. He is the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, one-volume histories of the United States and Canada, and most recently of Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other. He is a member of the British House of Lords as Lord Black of Crossharbour.

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