Another very good article in the Intercept considers how the U.S. Republican party responded, over time, to the process of impeachment of Richard Nixon. Their ambition, according to this analysis was to ensure that such a move could never happen again, at least so far as a Republican president was concerned. They would of course seek to impeach a Democrat president.
The strategy relies on three pillars: controlling the media narrative (and hence the prevailing media); creating a compliant intelligentsia; lastly, installing a subservient judiciary. There are possibly other things that ought to be included here, not least the widespread gerrymandering of district boundaries on which members of Congress are elected. In this last endeavour the Republicans have been quite successful, although not yet triumphant—after all, the House of Representatives is currently under Democrat control. But they are not stinting their efforts, and it is of course the House that has the constitutional power to start impeachment proceedings. Here, the Tories have tried to change constituency boundaries to their advantage, but without much effect so far.
I wonder to what extent the Tories might seek, not least under the influence of their Svengali wonk Dominic Cummings, to replicate the Republican methodology in the U.K? The Tories can already rely on the press of course, and with our broadcast media, chiefly the BBC so influenced by the press, the Tories have the advantage. As regards developing a new intelligentsia, the picture is much less clear. We don’t seem to have quite the same level of finance for ‘think tanks’ as they do in the States. We don’t appear to have the equivalent of e.g. the Koch brothers, so far as the private sector is concerned, nor do we have the same degree of disdain for science as does the Right in the U.S. It would be hard to imagine, for example, the total defenestration of our governmental environment agencies as is happening now over the pond. I dare say austerity has taken its toll, but here there doesn’t seem to be the science denialism that exists in the States. If Johnson is allowed to reign for much longer than most sane people hope, that may change.
As regards the judiciary, we are thankfully a million miles apart from the U.S., as the recent Supreme Court decision on the unlawful prorogation of parliament demonstrated. But whilst one might applaud that decision, many have suggested that it could open the door to a more politicised judiciary, and were that to be the case, politicians might feel emboldened to intervene in the choice of judges. It couldn’t happen here some may say, but we don’t have to look to the rather alien system of judicial appointments in the U.S. to see how things could develop. One thinks of Poland for example, where the right wing government is taking more control over the judiciary (and not yet being suitably punished for it by the E.U. it has to be said).
Should Brexit go ahead, especially if Johnson’s Brexit goes ahead, I suspect we will enter a prolonged period of constitutional change. This will be like the constitutional equivalent of Naomi Klein’s description of the ‘shock doctrine.’ Brexit has already caused huge turmoil in our complacent system of governance, and presents marvellous opportunities for those with a Republican-style agenda to press ahead with further partisan reforms with which to entrench their power. Do we really believe that the only thing Johnson (or Cummings) has in mind is Brexit ‘do or die?’ Everything has been shaken up so much that post-Brexit, structures that have been lovingly nursed for generations could be consigned to history. A revolution led by the anti-establishment establishment. Hold that thought!