Theresa May’s leadership of Great Britian is, currently, a day-to-day affair. Since announcing a successful negotiation of a deal which is likely to win EU approval, she has faced severe backlash from within the United Kingdom.
In the days since the announcement of the deal, May has seen many high-profile political resignations over it, including Cabinet Ministers. She has also been subjected to a campaign for Conservative Party MPs to submit Letters of No Confidence, attempting to forcibly remove her from her position as Prime Minister.
A successful authorization of the Brexit deal by Britain’s Parliament – never a strong likelihood – has taken a back seat to whether May’s political career can survive her proposed Brexit route.
The stakes seem high for Britain. The stakes are equally high, if not as immediately obvious, for Nationalist movements throughout the world.
May’s approach to Brexit is simple: she proposes that it happens, but it happens in a coordinated, methodical way what most benefits all parties. Britain resumes its independence, but it does so in steps that will minimize further economic damage; the EU retains some of its influence over British trade policy, and both are temporary positions providing a few years to make more comprehensive arrangements.
This is nothing new; Great Britain has engaged in comprehensive negotiations about sovereignity before. Hong Kong, Canada, India, Australia… the UK has a long history with measured approaches.
To the worldwide Nationalist movement, however, such an effort runs directly counter to two of their driving mechanisms for recruitment: “Us vs. Them” and “The Old Ways Don’t Work”.
Us vs. Them tells everyone that the other sides are not merely wrong, but they are the enemy. Negotiation is impossible. The benefit of this philosophy for Nationalist leaders is that it presents a scenario where almost any violation of principle or propriety must be accepted and explained away; after all, to do otherwise is to empower The Enemy. This philosophical structure works equally well in two-party and multi-party systems, although it is slightly harder to implement in multi-party systems because alternatives with similar stated principles are often available.
That’s where “The Old Ways Don’t Work” becomes particularly useful. Its main use in a two-party system is to hijack an existing movement and redefine it, typically with new leadership. In multi-party systems, though, the longest-lasting parties are typically ones with a history of successful governance, and successful governance over the long term requires negotiating skills. In these scenarios, the Nationalist movements need to promote the notion that a party with a history of success and general views similar to the Nationalists is not a viable option. The attack becomes a simple, reflexive denial of reality: The Old Ways Don’t Work. Never mind the history of success; a few instances of failure are extrapolated to represent all of the efforts of the party.
Most people do not want to look at themselves as bad people. Most also recognize that racism is not a positive trait, that being unmoored from any moral guideline is not a positive trait; and that hate is not a positive emotion. Nationalism embraces all of these, and for that reason it is seen as a position of last resort for many of its adherents. They don’t want to support the bigots and the corrupt, but it’s the only way left to “win”.
If Theresa May survives the threat of a No Confidence vote, and then somehow manages to pass her Brexit plan through Parliament, it will be a ringing worldwide success for established procedures and respectful negotiation. This is why the Nationalist movements throughout the world are condemning May’s actions. They may yet provide a successful way forward without the taint of bigotry, and if they do they will undermine the continued growth of Nationalism in countries throughout the world.