21 November 2019
Lean a Little To The Left
by J R Thomas
A couple of weeks ago my learned and distinguished colleagues Messrs Pooley and Urquhart both reported their pleasant experiences canvassing in the British general election and the polite and warming responses they received on the doorsteps. Call me a cynic…
Quite a number of years ago this correspondent was the man with the pocketful of leaflets and a clipboard, hammering on doors. Like my colleagues, I found that the response was nearly always supportive and warming. At that time I was a student and several of my fellow undergrads were on door knocking duties, albeit for different political hues. One night in a bar in North Newcastle – a Tory but highly marginal seat – we decided to compare canvass results. Ho, ho, ho. We soon realised that those marked for our respective affiliations as Tory, Liberal, or Labour had frequently promised their support also to the other two parties. (Anything to get rid of us, perhaps.) The only voters who seemed reliable were those who had insulted us – the mild bespectacled Jesmond resident who had called me “Tory filth” was down as Labour on all three returns; the old lady who told my elfin and pretty Liberal counterpart that Liberals were “a waste of space” and should be shut down had also so indicated to the Labour canvasser, and seemed safely in the Conservative pot. So Richard and Don, sorry to be spoilsport, but try a little salt with the sugar.
At which point we turn to the west and cross the Atlantic to a land where the government has not yet regulated salt content or the size of Mars Bars. The land of the free, if overweight.
But we must begin with an apology. Two weeks ago we said that Elizabeth Warren, the rapidly rising star of the Democrats had achieved this by applying “thoughtful moderation to some of her ideas (easing her views on tax for instance) and has become more business friendly”. Ms Professor Senator Warren perhaps read this in her daily news-digest, saw the error of her ways, looked at the examples of Messrs Corbyn and Macdonnell, and smartly swerved left. So far to the left that she seems to be in danger of leaving the road, crossing the verge, and ending up in the ditch. Having suggested a 3% wealth tax as an early feature of her presidency (if elected), she did her figures again – and went for 6%. Here’s a concession – it will only start after the first US$50m of capital, so it is aimed at a very precise group of people – hello Mr Bezos. His tax bill in that first year is likely to be $6bn. Given that after 18 years or so of such confiscatory taxation he (and all his fellow billionaires) will have dropped out of the wealth tax net it is likely to be a relatively short lived tax, though possibly a lot shorter even than that, as America’s great entrepreneurs clear off elsewhere. If they go before the election they should be free and clear – but, if after, Ms Warren having spotted the problem, they will pay over 40% of their assets to be allowed out.
Why has Ms Warren gone for these somewhat bizarre tax proposals? Because of those durned economists who run slide-rules over politician’s dreams, that’s why. They took one to another of Elizabeth’s proposals, free health care for all. That will cost about $20trillion, and the Professor has promised it will not involve raising tax rates on ordinary working Americans. These figures simply do not compute and so it is hunt the dollar time; and thus hunt the billionaire time. (Hint: they’ll be in Ireland or Australia if they know what’s good for them tax wise.)
She has got other new ideas too; ban fracking and get rid of cheap carbon generated energy. Possibly good for the planet, certainly very bad for the American economy, and a danger to American foreign policy which will once again become oil dependent. A Workers Bill of Rights – no details yet but many Americans think they can guess. Could she win the nomination on this sort of platform? Well, maybe. Bernie Sanders is slipping away in the polls on increasing concerns about his health, and the impeach Trump campaign continues to damage Mr Biden in its backdraft (as, we have suggested here before, that was perhaps the prime campaign objective).
Certainly one experienced Democrat observer and commentator is privately suggesting that if Ms Warren wins the blue nomination it will be all of The Donald’s Christmas’s come at once. That commentator says that the Democrats running such a candidate would be certain disaster, with such persuasion that admirers are muttering that the commentator should perhaps run herself. After all, she almost won last time. Yes, just when you thought it was safe to get in the polling booth, Hillary is lurking outside. Mrs Clinton has laughingly responded to suggestions to her face that she should run again, given the paucity of talent seemingly available, with a giggle and “Never say never”, and said she was under enormous pressure to run. Hardly the attitude of a retired candidate, more the approach of one wanting to be sure of a walk in the park with a coronation at the end. Could she? Of course. Will she? Quite possibly. Mrs C is a very ambitious woman. Her health is good, she still has a formidable pull across the country, and her contact book is more powerful than anybody’s. The downside is perhaps her age – though at 72 she is younger than Biden and Sanders, and only two years older than Warren. The other downside might be Bill Clinton’s health – he is known to have heart problems, but seems better than he did four years ago, and he is her greatest proponent. With, say, Andrew Yang as her Vice Presidential nomination we are looking at almost a dream ticket.
Conventionally, a Clinton announcement ought to be made fairly soon, if she is to be a contender. It is less than three months to the Iowa caucus on February 3rd and to the New Hampshire primary on February 11th. Recent rule changes make caucuses more like primaries (almost the final abolition of the smoke filled room selection technique), and if Mrs C could win at least New Hampshire her momentum ought to be unstoppable. Not to have her name on the ballotpapers from the off would be a dangerous approach, should a bandwagon start to roll for another candidate. But there are no real signs of wagons with more than three wheels at the moment, so Hillary and her team may be pondering an alternative strategy. One perhaps more appealing to a lady who really cannot go through another gruelling and potentially very nasty primary season. That would be to hope that the eighteen remaining candidates destroy each other in the first five or six contests in the early season, and a despairing party turns with gratitude and love to the familiar and the moderate. Then the lady is chosen, if not by acclamation, at least with minimal opposition. And all that remains is to beat the Donald.
But if that fails, the Clinton’s have another arrow in the sheaf. Mrs Clinton has taken recently to appearing in public with daughter Chelsea. The Clinton dynasty is by no means extinguished yet.