A decentralized federal government and a consensual culture have kept the lid on social tensions—so far.
Much has been written and said about the antiestablishment, antiglobalization populist surge sweeping the West over the last several years. The most prominent manifestation of this phenomenon, of course, came in November 2016, when Donald Trump won the presidency, the most stunning electoral feat in American history; earlier in 2016, Trump’s victory was foreshadowed by Britain’s “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union, an outcome pushed for years by the country’s nationalist U.K. Independence Party (UKIP). But the United States and Britain are far from alone. Seemingly every major Western nation now has a populist movement and an anointed leader: Marine Le Pen and the Front National in France; Geert Wilders and the Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands, which has become the main opposition party in parliament; Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ), founded by nostalgic ex-Nazi officers, which missed electing the country’s president by a whisker; and Italy’s Five Star Movement, led, literally, by a clown, Beppe Grillo, suitably called the clown prince. Even in Denmark, the model of a tolerant liberal democracy, the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party is now the second party in parliament. Farther east, Hungary and Poland are today governed by openly nationalist governments.