Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 17, 2019
With Theresa May’s hairbreadth survival as Prime Minister amid the gridlock over Brexit that marks the current state of the House of Commons, it doesn’t take much of a leap to wonder whether President Trump, in office in our different, American political system, would survive such a vote.
May’s “no confidence” vote allowed MPs to cross party lines, of course, and is aimed at asking a different question than party popularity, or best fund-raiser or president-who-can-hurt-me with a primary challenge. It is aimed at a fundamental statement that the current government is so at odds with acceptable policy standards as to lack support to stay in office.
One advantage of the ministerial system is that such no-confidence votes generally mean new elections right now — within something like eight weeks in Britain. Our system of collecting billions of dollars to spend on bloviating television advertising over two years or more, encouraging hot air on positions and policies that often have no chance at all of passing any kind of mixed Congress.
Curiously, the concerns over the Brexit campaign to separate a Britain First from the entanglements of the European Union line up remarkably well with our own current stare-down over building a coast-to-coast Wall on the Southern border in the name of national security — and, well, America First.
Britons, like many Americans, don’t want the regional government to tell them how immigration rules should work, and, in general, how many other governmental policies are compromises reached in Strasberg rather than in London. The “populist” politicians who raised the issue to narrow victory two years ago align in many ways with Donald Trump loyalists, tending towards an older, more rural, less educated audience of voters.
The rebellion over May trying to take seriously the Brexit “mandate” and on threading the needle on reaching an acceptable agreement on withdrawing from Europe’s grasp has met with both conservative and liberal criticism. What remains as alternatives now either are a vote to reconsider the Brexit win altogether or a set of really chaotic conditions that will affect British citizenship, trade, health, travel, the status of Britons in European countries — a wide swath of British life.
Likewise, while we have leaders who want to sit on their political positions to gain ultimate reelection advantage, hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers or those forced to work without pay are suffering and there are now daily, widening calculations that the national economy already has lost a half percentage of growth, and the effects of furloughs are being seen broadly among small businesses in the communities with heavy federal employee or contractor residency.
Yes, the polling is blaming President Trump more than Democratic leaders — results are skewed among those with strong political identification — but there is no question that people are recognizing that the major crisis facing the country is simply that we have a shutdown crisis. Moreover, there is a vast chasm in the United States over the specific need for a Wall, particularly when separated from a more comprehensive resolution of the myriad issues that make immigration complex.
Throw in an administration rife with ethics violations, non-stop misstatement of fact, policy so bent on growth that environmental rules, labor regulations, financial deregulation all are running beyond normal levels, where the White House finds itself under a spate of criminal investigations, including the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into whether the president was working to advance Russian interests.
This is exactly what parliamentary systems seem to be addressing better than our own. If there is this much dysfunction at the top, we have a more fundamental problem at issue than the whether a wall is a fence or whether concrete is better than steel, or whether a fence is needed on top of a river. We shouldn’t be arguing about the narrowest issues of whether a wheel is older than a wall. We should be using actual data to bring the most appropriate solution to the applicable problems, which start with putting government employees back to work.
What we have exactly are the conditions for a no-confidence vote in presidential leadership. We just had the vote for congressional leadership, and that outcome was for a change in party dominance.
I don’t doubt that the Britons will continue flailing. The only thing worse than losing a no-confidence vote without sufficient support for what the government has put forth as acceptable policy is to win without a path forward.
In the United States, the only thing worse that deep rifts over immigration thinking is to have to hang around for two years while a hundred candidates yell past one another until the electoral college actually weighs in to stomp on whatever tallies appear in the popular vote.
How about Make America Confident?.