Under Tony Blair, the UK Labour party tried to position itself ideologically as a neoliberal "third way" movement very much along the lines of Bill Clinton's Democratic Party. But at the moment, at least, Labour is facing off against a very different right-of-center party — one that under the leadership of David Cameron has moved considerably to the center on some issues outside the traditional Labour-Tory disagreement about redistribution, and that has long stood to the left of the GOP on health care:
A Corbyn theory: If the US Republican party was as centrist as the UK Tories, Democrats would face the same existential dilemma Labour does.— Neil Irwin (@Neil_Irwin) September 12, 2015
Imagine a Republican Party that believed the following:
- Gays and lesbians should have equal marriage rights.
- Human activity is causing dangerous climate change, and something should be done about this.
- The government should guarantee health insurance to everyone.
- Taxes should not be cut so deeply as to cause a large budget deficit.
That is the kind of Republican Party that could win the allegiance of a healthy slice of the Democratic Party's more upscale voters and a potentially very large slice of the Democratic Party's donors.
Some Democrats would be inspired to respond in essentially the Blairite way by insisting on the need for even more centrist repositioning on economics to compensate for the GOP centrist repositioning on cultural issues. But other Democrats would have precisely the opposite response — with the GOP now owning such a hefty slice of the "sensible center" neoliberal middle ground, it's time to offer a real alternative grounded in a substantially different approach to economics.