“Sizzle, Yes, but Beef, Too,” by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 22 April 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/22/opinion/22friedman.html.
Earlier, I wrote why the British should vote against the Conservative Party. Tom Friedman explains why the British should vote for Blair.
New York Times columnists are not allowed to endorse U.S. presidential candidates. Only the editorial page does that. But in checking the columnist rule book, I couldn’t find any ban on endorsing a candidate for prime minister of Britain. So I’m officially rooting for Tony Blair.
I’ve never met Mr. Blair. But reading the British press, it strikes me that he’s not much loved by Fleet Street. He’s not much loved by the left wing of his own Labor Party either, and he certainly doesn’t have any supporters on the Conservative benches. Yet he seems to be heading for re-election to a third term on May 5.
Indeed, I believe that history will rank Mr. Blair as one of the most important British prime ministers ever – both for what he has accomplished at home and for what he has dared to do abroad. There is much the U.S. Democratic Party could learn from Mr. Blair.
- Because of Blair’s political bravery in supporting the Iraq War
In deciding to throw in Britain’s lot with President Bush on the Iraq war, Mr. Blair not only defied the overwhelming antiwar sentiment of his own party, but public opinion in Britain generally. “Blair risked complete self-immolation on a principle,” noted Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a pro-Democratic U.S. think tank.
Remember, in the darkest hours of the Iraq drama, when things were looking disastrous (and there have been many such hours), Mr. Bush could always count on the embrace of his own party and the U.S. conservative media machine and think tanks.
Tony Blair, by contrast, dined alone. He had no real support group to fall back on. I’m not even sure his wife supported him on the Iraq war. (I know the feeling!) Nevertheless, Mr. Blair took a principled position to depose Saddam and keep Britain tightly aligned with America. He did so, among other reasons, because he believed that the advance of freedom and the defeat of fascism – whether Islamo-fascism or Nazi fascism – were quintessential and indispensable “liberal” foreign policy goals.
- Because of Blair’s expansion of globalization
The other very real thing Mr. Blair has done is to get the Labor Party in Britain to firmly embrace the free market and globalization – sometimes kicking and screaming. He has reconfigured Labor politics around a set of policies designed to get the most out of globalization and privatization for British workers, while cushioning the harshest side effects, rather than trying to hold onto bankrupt Socialist ideas or wallowing in the knee-jerk antiglobalism of the reactionary left.
- Because of Blair’s conservative fiscal policies
And these improvements, which still have a way to go, have all been accomplished so far with few tax increases. The vibrant British economy and welfare-to-work programs have, in turn, resulted in the lowest unemployment in Britain in 30 years. This has led to higher tax receipts and helped the government pay down its national debt. This, in turn, has saved money on both interest and welfare benefits – money that has been plowed back into services, The Financial Times explained.
- Because Blair will be a good lesson for the American
Along the way, he has deftly eviscerated the Conservatives, leaving them with only their most fringe policies – another reason American Democrats could learn a lot from him. Their own ambivalence toward globalization and the new New Deal our country needs to make more Americans educated and employable in a world without walls, and their own ambivalence toward muscular diplomacy, cost Democrats just enough votes in the American center to allow a mistake-prone Bush team to squeak by in 2004. So if Mr. Blair does win in the U.K., I sure hope that Democrats in the U.S. are taking notes.
As Tom Friedman says, vote Labour.