I just read Charles Simic’s post to NYRBlog on “The New American Pessimism.” Because I tend to agree with him that grounds for pessimism are legion, I feel it may be useful for us to look across the pond at Great Britain, where the political state of affairs may be even more disconcertingly ludicrous than it is here. While we have tended to promote political parties whose “tent” covers a mélange of ideological differences, the British have tried to keep each of their parties focused on a single set of ideological values.
This works very nicely until no one of those parties can attract the votes necessary for an electoral majority. When that happens, power is resolved for coalition-forming; and the results can range from merely odd to downright dodgy. Certainly the current coalition in which the Conservatives have enlisted the Liberal Democrats for support seems good for little more than promoting a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot reaction.
Presumably that is the reaction that has led to such a strong show of protest outside the venue of the annual conference of the Liberal Democrats in Sheffield City Hall. However, the real WTF moment had to come when party leader Nick Clegg tried to explain his position to the rest of the party (and, indirectly, to all of those protesters on the outside, both literally and figuratively). Here are Clegg’s words as reported by Brian Wheeler, Political Reporter for BBC News:
We've put down our placards and taken up the reins of power. It's a big change but it's worth it.
You can't do everything when you are in power, but you can't do anything when you are not. With power comes protest. We need to get used to it.
I have to wonder whether or not any American protester would utter such drivel, let alone stand for it. Clegg should consider one of our greatest protesters, Martin Luther King, who liked to invoke the metaphor that we keep our eyes on the prize. Clegg’s eyes seem so focused on power itself that he seems to have forgotten what the prize is. Will the rest of his party stand for this absurd precept that power matters more than principle?