Politics being what it is, when politicians get what they truly deserve, it usually is a drubbing, rather than an office. Nowhere can this reality be seen more clearly than in London, where the Tory Zac Goldsmith has just been defeated by Labour’s Sadiq Khan. After running a vicious, dishonest, and increasingly pathetic campaign against Khan, Goldsmith saw his strategy backfire; following Conservative Boris Johnson’s eight years as mayor, the city will now be in control of the Labour Party. It will also be governed, for the first time, by a Muslim.
This last bit is important because it is a victory over certain reactive forces. Goldsmith, the son of the billionaire James Goldsmith, was someone who, it might have been hoped, would run a campaign fit for a man who wanted to govern a multicultural and multiethnic city. Instead, he claimed time and again that Khan was a friend to extremists. An outrageous op-ed Goldsmith wrote before the vote, in which he smeared Khan, was even illustrated with a photo of London’s 7/7 attacks. Goldsmith’s campaign reached another level of absurdity when Imran Khan, the Pakistani politician and former brother-in-law of Goldsmith, offered his support, which was warmly accepted. The irony, no doubt lost on Goldsmith, is that this particular Khan—no relation to Sadiq—is an apologist for the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan!
Sadiq Khan is a former human rights lawyer; it’s hard to know what sort of mayor he will be. But he will enter office following not only eight years of the ridiculous Johnson (who recently hinted that Obama’s actions may have something to do with his “part-Kenyan” origins), but the equally ludicrous Ken Livingstone, who has gotten into trouble recently for calling Hitler a Zionist, and essentially blaming Israel for ISIS attacks. In other words, Khan will not be following in illustrious footsteps. His win is a sign that bigoted attacks don’t always work, even in fraught atmospheres. Americans have reason to hope they won’t work here, either.