Politics in the West has become a predictably unpredictable affair. When British Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election in April, pundits predicted that she’d easily win a massive 100-seat majority in Parliament. It was a reasonable forecast. Polls gave her Conservative Party a 20-point lead over the opposition Labor Party, and it was conventional wisdom that voters would overwhelmingly choose the uninspiring but nononsense May to shepherd the nation through Brexit negotiations rather than Labor’s seemingly incompetent, ha rd-left leader Jeremy Corbyn. But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box. (See Main Stories and Best Columns: Europe.) Voters began to embrace Corbyn’s promise of more funding for schools and the health service and soured on May’s robotic message of “a hard Brexit” and more austerity. She suffered a drubbing in last week’s election, which cost her ruling Conservative Party its parliamentary majority.
Throughout the West, it seems, voters are mad and not going to take it anymore. Whatever represents the status quo, they’re against. First there was Brexit, when Britons flipped the bird to Brussels and globalization by opting out of the European Union. Then Donald Trump won the presidency with promises to “drain the swamp” and put the elites in their place. And in May, France turned its back on its main parties and elected the independent, previously unknown Emmanuel Macron as president. There’s just one problem, however, with getting elected on a pledge to turn the status quo on its head: Voters get angry all over again when the radical changes they expect aren’t quickly delivered. A record 60 percent of Americans now disapprove of Trump, May is badly wounded, and Macron won’t be given a lot of time to make good on his promises to revive the sclerotic French economy. The lesson for politicians is simple: What the backlash giveth, the backlash can also taketh away.
Managing editor ■