One of our favorite columnists, Bret Stephens of the Jerusalem Post, suggests that three great political parties are in danger of dying. The three are the Democratic party of the U.S., the Conservative party of Great Britain, and the Labor party of Israel. Stephens does not predict the demise of any of the parties, although he sees Labor’s as a real possibility. But he does insist that to remain competitive, they “will either have to change radically, as Britian’s Labour Party did under Tony Blair’s leadership, effectively becoming a new party, or circumstances will [have to] change radically in their favor.”
In my view, these parties may be in less danger than Stephens supposes. Out-of-power parties mostly just need to wait for the in-power party to stumble. However, the one thing no party can afford is to be on the wrong side of a seminal issue for very long. Of Stephens’ three parties, Labor in Israel is in the greatest danger because it inflicted “Oslo” on Israel and has remained on the wrong side of the issue for the decade since. Here in the U.S., the issue of how to respond to September 11 could be the Democrats’ downfall, but there is still time for the Democrats to get this issue right (though probably not in 2004) or for the issue to recede in importance if President Bush is highly successful over the next few years. In England, I see no issue that is likely to sink the Conservatives in the long-term. For them, I suspect, it’s mostly a matter of finding an effective leader and waiting for their turn.
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