UK politics a bellwether for US? Not so fast
Voters in Georgia signaled that, despite what the media and pollsters say, a populist heart is still beating in America
Youth turnout in Britain’s recent snap general election was greater than in any election in the last 25 years, with 64% of 18-24 year-old voters heading to the polls. That showing helped derail conservative Theresa May’s effort to shore up support for the Brexit effort, the referendum of which once portended the right-wing/nationalist/populist wave that swept Trump into power.
Those who note UK politics can be a bellwether for America were right last November, when Trump’s election followed the Brexit vote. That same notion would lead one to expect that the anti-May/Brexit turnout last week in the UK would signal a turn against Trump.
So what happened in the Georgia special election on Tuesday, which saw Trump supporters come out in droves to elect a representative aligned with Trump? Despite a record-breaking near-US$25 million dollar fund-raising effort by Democrats, their fresh-faced candidate was defeated handily by a boring Republican opponent whose uninspiring campaign echoed Theresa May’s recent missteps.
It must be noted that the district has been solidly Republican for decades, and was last won by Trump appointee Tom Price by a 20 point margin. That makes Karen Handel’s four-point margin look small, which could be seen as a victory for Democrats. But resolve among Trump supporters was palpable in this election.
It seems clear that, despite extremely hostile media coverage of Trump as well as polls that see his support tanking, there is an apparently un-pollable base of support that has sent a message to Republican lawmakers. Jon Ossoff was polling two points ahead of Karen Handel on the eve of the special election, yet she won by four points. Yes, it is within the margin of error, but it indicates the Trump movement will continue to outperform. It also means that Republicans will continue to, in many cases reluctantly, stand behind Trump, and that Democrats will likely have to shelve their plans to impeach Trump, which hinge entirely on winning back congressional majorities.