When former FBI Director James Comey testified in the Senate, it was as if the grown-ups had finally arrived. It wasn’t just the air of authority that this straight talking man projects, either. It was the respectful lack of grandstanding demonstrated by actual US Senators which truly enshrined the moment. Whatever comes of this it’s not going to be childish and stupid.
As I write this, there is another sign that the world may be returning to normal. The results of the UK election are still coming in and they are telling. It’s not that the Conservatives have lost their majority which counts here. It’s the fact that polling in these elections is actually predictive once again. It was absolutely reliable before the last election and the Brexit vote, perfectly predicting the results. Polling is back this time and it appears that the world is actually returning to something like normal.
Not that there isn’t chaos in the hung parliament. But it’s bounded, orderly chaos. Small victory.
It’s not as though we learned anything new when Comey testified. The main points were made very clear, but that is about it. He didn’t trust Trump at all and felt he was being pressured to take a public, political stand at best and drop an investigation at worst. It’s hard to say that there is enough for impeachment here, especially given a Republican congress.
That wasn’t what was important, however.
There wasn’t any “victory” in this testimony. It was raw and sober. It wound up being an genuine search for the facts, at least to the extent that everyone takes Comey at his word. Given that oozing authority which drips out of every picture of him that is nearly everyone. Yes, there was a partisan angle on display as the White House went into damage control. But it doesn’t seem like anyone actually cares. Trump haters and Trump lovers alike focused heavily on Comey in the aftermath.
It may seem strange to compare that to UK election results even as they come in, but there is a strange symmetry to the news. The exit poll shows the Tories losing 17 seats, and the outright majority needed to govern. Theresa May will probably have to quit. There is little doubt that there will be turmoil as it is all sorted out, and the prospect of Boris Johnson becoming PM has to scare absolutely everyone.
Yet this is a chaos which is built into their system, and the sort of thing they are used to. It’s very different than Brexit inspired chaos, which is terribly confusing and extremely destructive. It almost feels as though the system has woken up cold sober after a smashing party. There’s still a hangover, yes, but all of this is predictable. All of this is starting to make sense.
This comes after the success of Emmanuel Macron, the centrist who bested the entire French establishment. It is likely to be followed by a victory by Angela Merkel, or at the very least no considerable gains by the far-right AFD or any other “alternative”.
What has changed? In the US, it’s little more than the reality of a truly unhinged man in the White House. In the rest of the world it seems to be the arrival at the polls of many people who had given up.
The reason polls and other systems for managing the ebb and flow of a free society failed was that a lot of people simply haven’t been showing up. The system seemed broken, for sure, and no one has been proposing what seemed like sensible solutions to what are clearly new problems. This hasn’t been as much a rise of populism as it has been a failure to engage reasonable people who want solid answers to a world which appears to be falling apart.
When in doubt, mix it up. What’s the worst that can happen?
In the US, the worst is Trump. In the UK, it’s the very real pain caused by the financial center of Europe crossing back over the channel for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. Both a very bad. But it seems as though people are eager to deal with both of these problems in very real ways.
Where is it all going? We still can’t say for sure. But everything seems a bit less likely to simply run off into the weeds and rot. That’s not a lot of progress, but it’s a hopeful sign. Consider it a good start.
But I still like Theresa May. Shame she had such a bad hand with this Brexit nonsense.