Why Johnson fell but Trump remains his party’s de facto leader … for now

By | July 8, 2022

Stephen Collinson writes:

Britain’s Conservatives just did what America’s Republicans never dared to do.

They toppled a wrecking ball right-wing populist leader who reeled from one self-created scandal to another and who was accused of flagrantly breaking the law, abusing power and building his political career on an edifice of lies.

After weeks of clinging desperately to office, Boris Johnson finally resigned as the ruling Conservative Party’s leader Thursday after a rebellion by his own lawmakers. The party will elect a new leader, who, according to the customs of Britain’s parliamentary system, will become prime minister.

America’s Republican Party, however, never turned on Donald Trump in the same way — despite his far more ruinous offenses against democracy than Johnson’s. It’s not that Republicans didn’t have the chance. The ex-President was impeached twice, but most GOP senators chose not to vote to convict him of high crimes and misdemeanors last year — a step that could have barred him from future federal office.

The contrasting fates of Johnson and Trump come down to personal factors, electoral politics and the idiosyncrasies in the political systems of two nations.

Johnson was long seen as a vote-winning machine. He was the talismanic figure who won a referendum in 2016 that led to Britain’s exit from the European Union. Then, in a general election in late 2019, he delivered an extraordinary victory for the Conservatives — capturing post-industrial working-class heartlands in England and Wales that had long been the left-wing Labour Party’s power base.

But Johnson was the author of his own demise. His appeal ruptured over revelations that he had attended parties in 10 Downing Street after ordering his country into Covid-19 lockdowns.

That’s why the Conservatives — who have a long record of mutinying against leaders seen as an electoral liability — finally pounced. A similar fate befell the party’s most successful modern leader, Margaret Thatcher, in 1990 and her successor, John Major, went on to win a general election. [Continue reading…]

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