At the beginning of The Big Lebowski, Sam Elliott pleasantly drawls about the film’s hero: “Sometimes, there’s a man. I won’t say a hero, ‘cause what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man…Well, he’s the man for his time and place.” In the case of the British election, Jeremy Corbyn is that man. And it’s depressing we live in a world where a Corbyn win would be considered shocking or destabilizing.
Since Theresa May called for this general election in early April, Corbyn has transitioned from a no-chance political sideshow to a likely prospect for Britain’s next Prime Minister. Since 2015, he’s led up the Labour Party only to be lambasted by most of the main British press outlets, the ruling Conservative government and even some of his fellow Labour Party members as too idealistic, too rebellious, too leftist, you name it. Now, he’s one polling point away from victory come Thursday.
This surge really isn’t that surprising so long as your worldview allows for the rapid changeability of the world and is honest about humanity’s great hopes and aspirations. Sweeping changes are now the norm across the Western world, as are do-or-die elections. A candidate like Corbyn probably wouldn’t stand a chance in a normal political climate but we are, of course, living in anything but that as of now. The world keeps proving its basic unpredictability and this groundswell of support for Corbyn is just the latest example.
When Britons go to the polls on June 8, plenty will be on their minds. They’ll know it’s possible for their politics to undergo an absolutely radical and tectonic transition at the whim of the electorate—see Brexit. They’ll know it’s as possible for a belligerent, extremist conservative to seize power through electoral apathy as for such a person to be stopped at the polls—see the American and French elections respectively. They’ll know terrorism and national security threats don’t stop afflicting a country just because the Prime Minister is a tough-talking right-winger—see the Manchester and London Bridge attacks.
These are just a few of the major narratives sure to be flitting through most British voters’ heads as they consider whether or not to give Corbyn a chance. Not to mention, the right-wing populism that got Brexit passed and May elected is already showing its cracks. Nigel Farage jumped ship on UKIP and thus proved he had no plan to move the country forward after Brexit, Trump’s administration is a global laughing stock and other major far-right luminaries like Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders were crushed in their countries’ elections.
And it’s worth remembering Theresa May doesn’t even have the anti-establishment appeal or zeal that led people to lend an ear to the far-right anyway. Trump won and Le Pen made a mark by adopting economically liberal rhetoric on the campaign trail; May is a Thatcherite through and through. Her free market / privatization based ideology is fading in popularity even amongst right-wing voters. And, as mentioned, the fact terror attacks are happening in Britain despite years of Conservative rule counts against her too. She started out as the most popular Prime Minister since the 1970s and is now courting a 50% rate of dissatisfaction among voters.
But let’s also take a minute to realize how completely ridiculous it is to think a candidate like Corbyn would have no appeal even without all these extenuating circumstances. Where right-wing populism operates out of despair and desperation—an “only we can protect you” mentality—Corbyn’s left-wing populism, like Bernie Sanders’, comes from a place of hope. His is the same sort of idealism that still allows religions and social movements to flourish and occasionally triumph in the pursuit of a better, more just and compassionate world.
It shouldn’t be surprising that a person with Corbyn’s economic viewpoints would wind up garnering widespread support. Neoliberal centrists like Tony Blair and Barack Obama borrow ideas like Corbyn’s on the campaign trail to ensure their victory, only to discard them after that’s achieved; the same goes for Trump appealing to white working class voters only to throw them under the bus soon after assuming office. Jeremy Corbyn has thirty plus years of proof his money is where his mouth is on this subject. If he gets elected, democratization and wealth redistribution is coming. Once you understand that, it makes sense the papers and politicians funded by billionaires wouldn’t want him at the helm and would do everything they can to discredit him.
It’s also genuinely refreshing to hear a politician fearlessly advocate for non-interventionism even in the face of recent terrorist attacks. He knows it’d be more politically expedient to adopt the status quo response to things like this: increase military involvement and domestic surveillance, lock down the borders and scapegoat the immigrants to fight the boogeymen. But he’s sticking to his guns about the adverse effects of all these policies and it seems like people are willing to listen.
If he’s elected, Corbyn will effect a foreign policy shift unlike anything the western world has seen in decades. He’s on the exact opposite of consensus on nearly every issue. He’s skeptical of NATO and the EU for completely different reasons than the Brexiteers. He’s pro-Palestine and has taken a stand against every major British military campaign in the Middle East.
These sorts of ideas are always going to sell to more conscientious members of an electorate if they have an honest chance to vote for them. If you have an opportunity to meaningfully vote against constant war, extreme wealth inequality and an increased police state, it’s hard to understand why you wouldn’t take the chance—particularly when the person running on these ideas has consistently proven his loyalty to them for over three decades.
So if Corbyn wins on Thursday, it’ll be shocking only because what we have considered politically acceptable for so long is shocking in and of itself. The ideas he espouses shouldn’t be considered radical, centered as they are around self-evidently appealing concepts like equality, peace and freedom. The status quo is what’s truly unsettling, not this one man’s rapid rise in popularity. He isn’t gaining traction as an outlandish hero, some revolutionary crusader; he’s garnering support because he represents a world far more sane and explicitly moral than the one we have now.
Sometimes, there’s a man…