Reading Jonathan Last’s weekly email newsletter note to Weekly Standard readers yesterday (subscription is free; subscribe here), I recalled that we had posted the memorable video of Nigel Farage disparaging the president of the European Union on the floor of the European Parliament under the heading (pulled from his speech) “Who the hell do you think you are?” In his email Jonathan recalled that 2010 video and linked to two recent videos of Farage debating Deputy Prime Minister/Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg in the run-up to the recent elections for the European Parliament.
In the event, Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party humbled its major-party opposition while the Lib-Dems faded to fourth place. Prime Minister David Cameron and Labor Party leader Ed Milliband had the sagacity to send their regrets to the invitation to debate.
At NRO John O’Sullivan performed a close examination of the electoral results; I recommend it highly. O’Sullivan also noted in passing: “Not only did Clegg decide that the Lib-Dems would fight as unabashed devotees of the European Union, but he debated the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, in two televised debates, and Farage soundly beat him on both occasions. Clegg wagged his face in Farage’s fist and got a bloody nose.” The first of the two debates is posted below; the second is accessible here.
Watching Farage pummel Clegg, I thought there is a tremendous lesson for Republicans to be gleaned here. Farage’s populist assault on the EU applies in spades to the depredations of the administrative state and the Obama administration’s use of it. Some GOP candidate with people skills could make good use of Farage’s argument if he were willing to make the necessary transpositions and think through the case to be made to the American people.
Seth Lipsky isn’t exactly tracing out my train of thought, but he’s closing in on it in the New York Post column “A chance for an ally: Conservative rising in Britain.” The task of understanding and mounting an opposition to the administrative state on behalf of the American people is more important and less risky than any affiliation with Farage. Republicans have their hands full without having to answer for Farage and his party. I wouldn’t hitch my wagon to Farage. Nevertheless, the case against the administrative state in the United States would sound like Farage’s case against the EU and someone inside the GOP needs to make it while we still can.
STEVE adds: Our pal Angelo Codevilla has been arguing for months now that the GOP campaign slogan for this year and 2016 should be exactly this: “Who do they think they are?”