I don't bother much with news from the Old Country. For one, it's a fulltime job keeping up with affairs in this vast New Country I've joined. For another, the Old Country to me is the one I grew up in: the smoky, puddingy, child-beating, hymn-singing, warm-ale-quaffing, hypocritical, monoracial, foreigner-mocking, duty-bound, traditionalist England of the "long 1950s," that lasted from the end of postwar austerity (gasoline no longer rationed, 1950) to Swinging London (announced by a 1966 Time magazine cover story).
For better or worse?and there are of course some betters and some worses?that England no longer exists, so that when I read about England today I am reading about a foreign country, with the same level of curious but dispassionate interest I bring to a news story about Albania, Benin, or Cambodia.
Or perhaps not quite the same level. There's that common language, which makes it easier to grasp what's going on than is the case with Albania etc. And then there are the curious parallels between political and social developments in England and this cousin nation.
Consider for example this piece by English opinion journalist Peter Hitchens.
There are foreignisms in it that need explaining. Question Time, for example, is a TV "topical debate" program; a panel of politicians and random other notables (novelists, clergy, media opinionators) take questions from a studio audience. It's a BBC program (or "programme"), so the overall political/cultural ambience is about what it would be if the show were produced by MSNBC.
You also need a sketch of recent British political history to hand, at least a timeline of recent political leadership: Margaret Thatcher (forceful Tory, 1979-1990), John Major (feeble Tory, 1990-1997), Tony Blair (forceful Cultural Marxist, 1997-2007), Gordon Brown (feeble C.M., 2007-2010), David Cameron and Nick Clegg (coalition of feeble C.M.s, 2010-present).
If you have digested all that, let's go to the parallels. Hitchens:
British conservatism ? I use the word widely ? has really been talking to itself for the past quarter-century. Since the collapse of the Thatcher project, which was never that good in the first place, it has been an exile community, a bit like the Jacobites after 1745.
Substitute "American" for "British" and "Reagan" for "Thatcher" and you have a true insight about U.S. politics. (Though not an original one.) There a numerous other places in Hitchens' column where you can do the same. After the 1997 electoral debacle, says Hitchens:
The Tories sat about, making daisy chains, until the day they believed inevitable, when some pendulum or other would swing them back into office. They never fought against the Blairite ideology [i.e. Cultural Marxism ? J.D.] Most of them quietly accepted it.
He then writes of
deluded old Tories saying "That Tony Blair, best Tory Prime Minister we ever had, haw haw."
They seemed to think that because he hadn't nationalised the ice cream industry, or raised the basic rate of income tax, he wasn't the head of a radical government. Didn't they understand that the Left these days cares about culture, sexual politics, open borders, the constitution and the ceding of sovereignty to supranational bodies, plus of course the expansion of a vast client state of welfare recipients and public service workers? No, they didn’t.
During that period, the Blairites sought to get the message across to the Tories ? you can’t come back into office until you have surrendered to our policies.
And surrender they did ? abjectly, unconditionally. Bring anything to mind?
Some of my conservative friends, when I pull my "We Are Doomed" routine on them, say: "Not so fast there, Derb. There's life in the GOP yet. We still have N governors and control M state legislatures . . ." (N and M are some moderately impressive numbers I can't be bothered to remember or look up.)
Well, that's great: but will that N and that M stop the advance of homosexual marriage? Or end birthright citizenship? Or deport illegal infiltrators? Or replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a conservative jurist? Or pull our 48,000 troops out of Germany? Or end affirmative action? Or bring back vocational education? Or outlaw public-sector unions? Will they bring about any rightward change at all in our economy or society? Of course not! Hitchens:
A Survation poll in the Mail on Sunday showed that support for same-sex marriage among the under-35s is 73 per cent. 50 per cent of Tory voters back it too. It’s only among the pre-revolutionary population, the over-55s, that there is a majority against it, and it is not a very big majority.
I suspect most middle-aged people don’t really have strong feelings about the issue one way or the other. Christian sexual morality more or less collapsed when divorce-on-demand became legal in the late 1960s . . .
The fact is that propaganda works, and people like being in the majority.