Last week, the U.K. held the highly anticipated special election called for by conservative Prime Minister Theresa May. It was a showstopper. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn rocked the neoliberal bubble to its core with a 2016-style upset, embarrassing May and capturing Labour’s biggest gain in vote share since 1945.
Far from being the end of his party, as neoliberal analysts like Ezra Klein were predicting, Corbyn, though he did not become Prime Minister, exceeded expectations, earning praise from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and exciting progressives domestically and across the Atlantic.
But not everyone was happy. One person who surely felt the sting on election night was Jim Messina.
Paste readers may remember Mr. Messina as the former Obama aide responsible for killing the public option and single-payer in the Affordable Care Act, who, back in march, tweeted out his sick friend’s GoFundMe to help him pay his medical bills. Paste reported on the incident. Well, as it turns out, Mr. Messina’s foresight has not improved. In April, the former neoliberal attack dog and data expert took a job working for Theresa May and the Tories on their election campaign.
The U.K.'s special election marks the third political battle Jim Messina has been on the losing side of recently. As The Financial Times reported, the consultant was paid £276,000 by David Cameron's anti-Brexit Remain campaign, and €400,000 by Italy's former Prime Minister for help with his constitutional reform effort. Incidentally, those defeats were so embarrassing they both resulted in the resignation of his employer.
Some may find it surprising that an Obama Democrat who went on to support Hillary Clinton in 2016 would side with a woman in Theresa May who had begun to pal around with Trump—especially when the President is someone he clearly has no love for:
However, it actually makes sense. Establishment Democrats like Messina see a progressive uprising as a greater threat than conservatives because, rather than “a new direction,” they prioritize keeping their leadership intact.
Messina and his ilk came up in the aftermath of the Reagan Revolution. Within their lifetimes, it was “Morning in America.” Reformers had to compromise and struggle for every inch of progress. And then came Bill Clinton who revitalized the Democratic Party by divorcing it from “big government” platform of the New Deal and Civil Rights Era. Of course, after his two terms, George W. Bush brought the GOP surging back until Barack Obama won the largest landslide victory in a generation.
Naturally, given these experiences, Messina and his fellow neoliberal Democrats see the recent string of losses as but another example of the pendulum swinging away from them, and the newly mobilized left as a contemptuous, largely emotional and undisciplined mob without the knowledge or ability to win and effect change. This is why—when Corbyn became Labour's leader—former President Clinton dismissed the leftward shift he represented as a strategic misstep, stating that party members had “picked a guy off the street” because he was the “maddest person in the room.”
At this point, it’s a wonder the ex-Obama aide and other prominent neoliberals have not realized the tides of history are moving against them and adapted as a result. More puzzling is the fact that despite their success rate, which pales in comparison to that of most local weather forecasters, these individuals continue to get paid for their services.
Edit: the original version of this article said Labour gained the highest number of seats since the post-War Era. That has been corrected.