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This article (via Larison) makes for a good read as to why the EU has so few defenders, but I don’t quite agree with this:

All of which raises the question: what it is about the EU that does appeal to its supporters? But that question misses the point. This is not black magic – there is no secret subtext that only EU initiates can decipher. There really is nothing appealing about the EU. As a pragmatic, political arrangement, which has done terrible damage to whole nations, it is steadfastly rebarbative. Its supporters cannot be attracted to it. They see its flaws, the way it treats people, its flight from accountability. So, no, they’re not attracted to the EU – they’re repelled towards it, repelled by the sight of ordinary people being able to determine their political future, by the spectre of the democratic will, in all its grubby uncontrollability and aspiration. It is fear of people, not love of the EU, that makes Remainers’ hearts beat that little bit faster.

Certainly, the EU seems to place things over democracy in its goals. But the idea that there’s simply no reason for the EU’s existence other than some romanticizing about the European dream is nonsense. There’s a reason why it exists, a very good reason, though admittedly not one that makes politicians feel good about talking about it in such terms: money.

See, we have something here in America that’s similar: NAFTA. Granted, it doesn’t have all the same features: no new currency (notwithstanding Paulites’ insistence that we’ll all be shopping with Ameros soon), no customs-free travel zone or free movement between countries, and there’s no NAFTA commission that inks trade deals on behalf of the three countries that make it up. But it is a common free trade market like the EU, between three countries with deep economic and cultural ties. And it’s one of the most reviled features of American political life. Liberals hate it because it’s shipped hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs to Mexico (to poor-paying, dangerous, sexual harassment-infested maquiladoras), and it also allows for companies to just threaten a move to pacify workers and get what they want (Out Of Sight is indispensable reading on this subject). Conservatives have a more complicated relationship with it: the free-marketeers like it, but the base clearly doesn’t care for it, and they’ve become less willing to simply accept it after finding their new champion in Donald Trump. But nobody really loves it, in part because it directly benefits almost nobody and directly hurts lots of people. Comparing new free trade agreements to NAFTA has become a standard tactic for opponents of the agreements, showing just how hated it is, as if merely invoking the name of a two decade old treaty is enough win the argument. And, as Trump and Bernie Sanders showed this year, it increasingly is, and for good reason: the consequences of NAFTA were far worse than even the most pessimistic critic claimed back in the day. But of course, nobody in the government appeals to NAFTA as some expression of pan-North American solidarity. No, they promise, they won’t make those mistakes this time, though of course fixing the original ones is off the table (likely because Mexico can’t/won’t reform itself to enforce its own laws on labor and the environment, and even if it did, it would lose its appeal to corporations). And truth be told, while there are undoubtedly some benefits Americans receive from this arrangement, the cost has become increasingly seen as not worth it here.

Which brings us to the EU. It seems crazy to compare it to NAFTA. After all, the EU looks and acts like a government, it has elections and everything. But it’s a government obsessed primarily with economics: raising and spending money, policing how member states raise and spend money, facilitating the movement of goods and people to ensure people make the most money. It doesn’t really do foreign policy. Human rights are an afterthought. It might be moved to make a disapproving utterance when a member country effectively suspends democracy (Hungary) or moves to do so (Poland), but it doesn’t really do anything about it. It handles immigration–a government-y thing to do–but does so purely through the lens of maximizing positive economic activity, no other considerations considered or allowed. And while it does do some redistribution to poorer areas in Europe to develop them, the end goal there is so that they’ll ultimately make more money. The point of the EU is and always has been to make money for its members. What other things it does are oriented to that end. Granted, it’s not as evil as NAFTA is–improverished regions can get development grants that they wouldn’t otherwise get, and avoiding customs lines is wonderful–and despite being thoroughly elitist it does accept some limitations and tradeoffs in protecting people in crafting its regulations, which is more than can be said for some regulatory bodies and political parties you might name. But, on the other hand, you have what it did to Greece (irrelevant as that is to the UK, which is not on the Euro, but nevertheless). People who were sold on this institution as something analogous to the US federal government and that it would have that kind of relationship to its countries now seem to be mad that it clearly is not that at all: the federal government has not seen fit to spend multiple years humiliating, say, Florida for the crime of rebelling against it on economic policy. But that was never the case. It was always about building up Europe to challenge America economically. And I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s done a poor job at that at all. But Europeans are figuring out that this is really what it’s all about, that they’ve been lied to, and it’s causing a spot of bother.

Like I said, were I eligible, I would probably have voted Remain had I lived in the UK, in large part because there are tangible benefits to this arrangement for actual people that are nice, and in part because of the appalling tactics of the Leavers. While it’s possible to support Leave and not be personally racist, just like someone can support Trump and not be racist, throwing your lot in with those people makes a statement all its own. Validating those men and their tactics will lead nowhere good. Anyway, on the positive side, it is nice to have a day where another English-speaking country is being ridiculed for racism, xenophobia and a bullshitting media after nearly a year of it being us all the time. Nice to have a breather.

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It would be pretty surprising if Brexit led to Irish reunification. But given the retreat of the church there and the increasing liberality of the Irish Republic, and Northern Ireland’s desire to remain within Europe, it seems at least conceivable in a way it hasn’t ever been before. You never know.

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I find myself without much of a strong opinion on the issues. If I lived in the UK I figure I would vote Remain, but sometimes I read American writers with really strong opinions and I just don’t see the urgency for us. In or out, life is pretty much going to go on for us as normal for us. What really strikes me is just how uninspiring the British political classes are–my distaste for David Cameron and George Osborne was I thought pretty strong, though Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have easily surpassed it. At this point the Leave people seem to simply be throwing out the names of countries (with the implication that they’d eventually join the EU and add to dreaded immigration totals), even though Turkey is unlikely to ever be a member of the EU and the math just doesn’t work out for a new peasant underclass of Albanians to swamp Britain (the former has about 1/20 the population of the latter, and not all of those are going to leave home, and of those not all are going to go to Britain, etc.). Whatever. Remain probably will win, but not by enough to settle the issue forever.

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None of these tricks are unfamiliar to American liberals. Nor is the entitlement lying behind them.

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Here’s the thing: Great Britain does not need nuclear weapons for any reason. If for some reason another country used those weapons against it, then US missiles could (and most certainly would) retaliate. Some sort of formal arrangement could be easily reached, and short of that, under such an event the US government would likely just make an offer. But the practical aspect of it aside, the basic reason a country acquires nuclear weapons is to join the ultimate “don’t fuck with us” club, and because of the UK’s strong and longtime bilateral ties to the US, the odds that another country would actually want to fuck with them are remote. A non-nuclear armed Britain would be every bit as safe as the current one, if not more so, as there would be no fear of some sort of accident occurring. But as with favoring a less-interventionist foreign policy that Britons have generally said they prefer, Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to liquidate Britain’s nuclear stockpile (something even many right-wingers there don’t oppose) is not only unacceptable but proof that he’s dangerous because…he’s a hippie or something, apparently.

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Gary Younge has a very good explanation of why it happened and what it all means going forward. I’d just like to say that I doubt that Corbyn’s staunch noninterventionist views will hurt him much, as this amounts to groupthink among media commentators and elites on both sides of the Atlantic. Public opinion measurements have portrayed the British public as much less inclined to commit to military interventions as their elites in the major parties. They just don’t care much about Great Britain’s ability to project power globally, so if anything, this could be a potent wedge issue for Corbyn. The real danger is if Corbyn’s gamble is wrong, and the gains from absentee voters and defectors to other parties aren’t enough to build a majority. But it is at least a plan and this is more than the Blair wing was able to articulate.

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What’s the cause of that facial expression?

The dominance of New Labour over the Labour Party in the UK has been shattered by two major events. First, the May elections, in which they proved that they had no better idea on how to win an election than anyone else. (Admittedly, Ed Miliband wasn’t a typical Blairite and had some quirks, but he did support austerity and ran an election campaign that was textbook New Labour.) The second was the decision by Labour’s post-election interim leadership to abstain from voting on a welfare cuts bill. Either of these events alone could have been survivable, just as New Labour survived the Iraq War and the many scandals of Tony Blair’s last years in office. Both, however, were not, and have triggered a surprise surge in favor of an actual progressive leftist, Jeremy Corbyn, to lead the party. To Blairites, this is an absolute calamity. The pitch of New Labour going back to the 1990s was that (a) New Labour could win while Old Labour couldn’t, and (b) New Labour shared the same values as Old Labour, but just preferred newer, more sophisticated methods of advancing them. Suddenly, tons of Labour members find themselves doubting both of these assertions, so New Labour found itself needing a New case and a New spokesman to give the party-within-a-party a New direction. So naturally, they turned to the freshest, newest, most innovative leader they can muster: Tony Blair.

Blair’s pitch in The Guardian is quite interesting by what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t reference either of the key events that have led to a revolt against New Labour. Needless to say, the Iraq War and Blair’s postwar career of helping dictatorial regimes improve their image are similarly not addressed. Blair smartly acknowledges his controversial status in the actual headline, which is a solid hook, but the article offers little new data or argumentation. It does, however, contain this bizarre threat:

If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader it won’t be a defeat like 1983 or 2015 at the next election. It will mean rout, possibly annihilation. If he wins the leadership, the public will at first be amused, bemused and even intrigued. But as the years roll on, as Tory policies bite and the need for an effective opposition mounts – and oppositions are only effective if they stand a hope of winning – the public mood will turn to anger. They will seek to punish us. They will see themselves as victims not only of the Tory government but of our self-indulgence.

This is actually quite audacious: Blair is claiming a negative-sum theory of politics, in which Tory policies make their party less popular, which winds up making the Labour Party even less popular because its leader is unelectable and therefore incapable of effective opposition. Some might argue that a leader that actually opposes the policies of the other side might be a more effective opposition leader, but whatever. Woo hoo, Daschle and Gephardt forever! Never disagreeing with the other side can see your party go from running the Senate to having a ten seat deficit in four short years, and simultaneously multiplying its House deficit by a factor of ten. Traditionally, in two party systems, one party becoming less popular gives the other party another hearing, and in spite of what the pundits predicted, the UK outside of Scotland is just as much a two-party state as it ever was, given the flattening of the Liberal Democrats and the failure of UKIP to win more than a single seat. Given this, though, Blair argues that the Labour Party will suffer a logic-defying voter apocalypse for the crime of not picking a leader that Tony Blair deems electable. It may well be that Corbyn is unelectable at the present (though so was Barry Goldwater in 1964, and from his supporters’ perspective they were not wrong to back him), but Blair fails to offer an affirmative case for New Labour on substance. He merely tries to scare people into continuing to support them, a cycle that continues to play out to Corbyn’s advantage, as the latter has gotten great mileage out of his hopeful message. All Blair has to offer them are the eternal history lessons and dubious predictions of doom. Perhaps it is time he took a page from his good buddy George and retired from the political arena, and who knows? In a few years, perhaps he too can stop being hated, and instead merely become a subject of ironic fascination.

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