Back in 2003, Megan McArdle, an American journalist then blogging under the name “Jane Gault”, formulated what looked like an iron rule of politics.
Dubbed “Jane’s Law”, the theory went that “the devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant” while “the devotees of the party out of power are insane”.
There is a fair degree of truth to this. Not for all supporters, but some hardened activists.
The subsequent election of Jacinda Ardern, however, changed everything for Labour. The prime minister could not be called a radical and governs comfortably within the framework of New Zealand’s post-Muldoon consensus.
Her Government is oriented towards the status quo but with modifications for slightly higher taxes and somewhat greater spending than would have prevailed under National. Part of this comes down to coalition constraints, but there’s also very little in Ardern’s history as a career politician that suggests she would really be the one to upset the apple cart.
Some highly principled socialists are annoyed by this. It is very much a minority view, however, and most on the centre left are just happy to be notionally in charge of things again. So things that were described as a crisis now require patience and prudence. It is accepted that the Government should take its time in addressing these formerly urgent concerns while taking a longer term approach.
In other words, the transition from crazy to complacent seems to have been completed.
Very complacent. The year of delivery has delivered, well almost nothing.
But if you’ve caught any of the televised debates between the candidates for the Democratic nomination, you will see that middle of the road challengers seem to be in short supply. Those with track records as moderates seem to be on the back foot while those who are able to frame their policy ambitions in more radical terms seem to have all the energy.
On Trump’s signature issue of immigration, for example, many of the front runners claim to be in favour of decriminalising illegal immigration altogether.
This swerve to the left comes as research shows that white liberals (a core Democratic constituency) have been markedly radicalised in recent years. Trump’s unattractive qualities has probably accelerated the trend but is by no means the only cause. The continual feedback loop between leftwing activists and journalists on social media is almost certainly an important factor.
Yes, Twitter activists now drive much of the media.