Last year’s Austrian presidential election looked like a turning point for the European Union. Alexander Van der Bellen, a soft left Eurofederalist (narrowly) defeated Eurosceptic Norbert Hofer, of the hard right Austrian Freedom Party, and Continental Europhiles went into 2017 with fresh hope that they might halt the tidal wave of Brexit, before it engulfed the EU.
Sure enough, this year France and Holland have both returned Europhile candidates, and Germany looks set to follow suit. The tide had turned, the pundits said. 2016 had been the high water mark of Populism. 2017 would be the year the EU fought back.
However, the tide in Europe may now be about to turn again, and once again the latest sea change is in Austria
The pundits and the pollsters might have pronounced Marine Le Pen dead, but I never did. I was feeling too tentative after the shocks of Brexit and Donald Trump, and as round two of France’s presidential election began a couple of weeks ago, events suddenly seemed to justify my caution. Le Pen’s opponent, European Union action figure Emmanuel Macron, visited a Whirlpool dryer plant only to be booed, and then had to watch as Le Pen showed up unexpectedly and mugged for selfies with admiring workers. It was precisely the contrast she wanted to strike—the awkward Davos suit versus the tricolor-cockaded woman of the people—and for a brief moment observers wondered whether another Trump-like figure was about to arrive.
The European establishment is celebrating the victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election. The developing narrative to explain his win is that the European voter has rejected the nationalist populism of Marine Le Pen and come back to support more traditional, establishment policitians and policies.
But as Richard Fernandez points out, the elites are whistling past the graveyard. He writes of both the French election and the probable victory of a South Korean liberal, Moon Jae-in, in tomorrow’s presidential contest as evidence that the populist wave isn’t going away.
Spiked’s Mike Hume’s analysis converges closely with traditionalist/conservative streams of thought, especially in criticising claims that fake news determined election outcomes such as Brexit and Trump. The underlying assumption of many pundits is that the public cannot be trusted to make reasonable judgments in the face of fake news, and that a government/corporate crackdown is therefore in order. …
Hume thinks that their distaste is the driving force. As a Brit, he reflects mostly on Brexit but his analysis would apply across the channel as well. More.
If you want to know how detached, even otherworldly, Europe’s political and media classes have become, look no further than their response to the Dutch elections. That Geert Wilders, the stiff-haired leader of the Islam-panic outfit the Party for Freedom, didn’t do as well as expected is being celebrated as a ‘blow to [Europe’s] populist surge’. The Dutch people have stood up for decency, the anti-populist set claims, and said ‘Halt!’ to the post-Brexit era of weirdness. This is delusional. Let’s call it the Dutch delusion: the idea that politics as it once was has been defended in Holland, and might be brought back to life across Europe.
“It underscores the need for tighter border controls in Europe,” was the predictable response of Martine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front (FN) and presidential candidate to the brutal Islamic terrorist attack on March 22, 2017 near the British Parliament in London that killed four and injured more than 30. The attack, by the new form of low-cost terrorism by rented vehicles and kitchen knives, was a reminder of terrorist attacks in France that since 2015 have killed 86 people in Nice, and more than 230 people altogether. France knows, as President Francois Hollande remarked, the pain the British people are enduring.
Central to that pain is anguish that immigration has brought too many problems for British society and that multiculturalism has failed. The London attack is likely to have an impact on France, that has experienced even more problems, in the French presidential election, the first round of which is on April 23, 2017, and the second on May 7.
BUCH, Germany — Buch, a small community on the outskirts of Berlin, seems at first glance to be the kind of place Goldilocks would declare “just right.” It is not too rich or too poor, not too expensive or too scruffy, not too close to the crowded city center but not so far that its tree-lined streets of tidy apartments are beyond a daily commute.
It is probably not the sort of place people picture when they think about the tide of far-right populism overwhelming Europe. But beneath the surface, this cozy, safe neighborhood is starkly different from the depressed postindustrial zones often portrayed as the populist wellspring, and is emblematic of the forces threatening to upend Western politics as we know it.
Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian engineer, philosopher, economist, sociologist and political scientist, famous, among other things, for his theories about “the elites”.
In his theory of the “circulation of the elites” he argues that social mobility is fundamental for the peaceful continuity of social order: as long as the elite is open to the influx of capable elements from the lower classes, the system is able to rise up to the challenges it faces. When the elites shut themselves off and do not assimilate exceptional individuals from the lower social strata, an imbalance is created that can result in a violent overthrow of the ruling class by a new one capable of governing.
Drawing on that theory we argue that democratic systems have evolved in a way that an overthrow of the elite can happen without violence, but by democratic vote. Lack of social mobility, says Pareto, results in an elite detached from the daily challenges of the common man and a sense of disenfranchisement of the voters.
Pope Francis recently told Germany’s leading liberal newspaper Die Zeit that ‘Populism is evil and ends badly, as the past century shows.’ Except he doesn’t think that.
I suspect I wasn’t the only person taken aback when Pope Francis recently stated in an interview with Germany’s leading liberal newspaper Die Zeit that “Populism is evil and ends badly, as the past century shows.”
The pope didn’t specify who he had in mind. Plenty assumed he was obliquely referring to Donald Trump and European politicians like Marine Le Pen. I’m sure, however, that others thought that the pope’s words verged on the kettle calling the pot black. For whether it’s his rhetorical style or the type of political movement to which he appears to lend his support, Pope Francis seems quite sympathetic to some forms of populism.
The presidential election in France officially got underway on March 18, when the Constitutional Council announced that a total of eleven candidates will be facing off for the country’s top political job.
The election is being closely followed in France and elsewhere as an indicator of popular discontent with traditional parties and the European Union, as well as with multiculturalism and continued mass migration from the Muslim world.
The first round of voting will be held on April 23. If no single candidate wins an absolute majority, the top two winners in the first round will compete in a run-off on May 7.
If the election were held today, independent “progressive” candidate Emmanuel Macron, who has never held elected office, would become the next president of France, according to several opinion polls.
The rise of Geert Wilders and his party, despite their election-day loss, shows how influential populism has become in Europe. As a political force, populism is here to stay.
Last week, national elections in the Netherlands drew international attention as the world waited to see if the country’s far-right Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, would mark the first major populist win in Europe. It did not. Somewhat unexpectedly, Wilder’s party lost to current Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.
There’s a change happening in the Western political landscape. And the Canadian establishment needs to stop misleading themselves about what it means for this country.
Last month data confirmed what many of us suspected: that Canada is actually ripe for some version of a populist uprising.
An authoritative report by Edelman revealed that “80% of [Canadians] think the elites who run institutions are out of touch with regular people” and “69% say we need to prioritize Canadian interests over the rest of the world.”
I suppose no one will challenge the observation that the best account of populism was given by the most eloquent of presidents. Lincoln’s famous elegy at Gettysburg, which every high school student should learn by heart, contains in its concluding sentence the unforgettable prepositional triplet of “government of the people, for the people, by the people.”
We haven’t seen much of former U.S. president Barack Obama since he departed the job on Jan. 20th. He was spotted in New York City on Friday looking relaxed as he caught a Broadway show with his daughter. Before that, the ex-president was photographed cavorting with Richard Branson on the billionaire’s private Caribbean luxury resort island. If Obama’s conscience troubles him over whatever responsibility he bears for ushering in the turbulent, truculent Trump phenomenon, it doesn’t show.
The “rise of populism” has become an absorbing subject for political commentators in the West, yet as the Cato Institute scholar, Alberto Mingardi, helpfully observes, the term is “as slippery as it is popular.”
Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of this current political trend is why we are struck by it. The nations of the West are, after all, democracies: systems of government designed to translate popular concerns into legislative instruments.
An answer to this dysfunction might lie in the layers of transnational governance, which proliferated after the Second World War, superseding national, and by implication democratically-accountable, decision making.