Five Imperatives for the Left

Up with the new coalition. Down with inequality. Unite the left. Forward to an open world. Ride the long wave.

Spanish, Austrian and Portuguese social democratic party leaders Pedro Sánchez, Christian Kern and António Costa attend a meeting in Lisbon, December 2, 2017
Spanish, Austrian and Portuguese social democratic party leaders Pedro Sánchez, Christian Kern and António Costa attend a meeting in Lisbon, December 2, 2017 (PES)

Ruy Teixeira sees five imperatives for the left in Europe and the United States:

  1. Up with the new coalition: Accept that the old working class has moved to the right. Focus on minorities, women, college-educated professionals and the lower-educated service worker “precariat”.
  2. Down with inequality: It holds down growth, it holds down living standards, it holds down upward mobility among the young, it leaves entire regions behind and it destroys healthy politics.
  3. Unite the left: The era when one tendency, like social democracy, could dominate the left and didn’t need allies is over.
  4. Forward to an open world: There is no going back to a closed, tradition-bound world.
  5. Ride the long wave: The economic potential of our time, with its monumental technological changes, is vast, albeit held back by a lack of societal investment in the future and retrograde policies pushed by the right. The left should be all about untapping that potential and riding the long wave.

My thoughts:

  1. I agree and I’ve made this case for Democrats in the United States and Social Democrats in Germany.
  2. I agree — and I’ve argued the right needs to care more about inequality as well. This is not a universal rallying cry, though. In the Netherlands and Scandinavia, where wealth is spread far more evenly, American-inspired laments about inequality ring hollow.
  3. Again, in America, yes, but keep in mind that in Europe the left includes communists and radicals. If moderate leftists ally with them, they risk scaring away centrist voters. Although that hasn’t happened in Portugal. More on that here.
  4. I agree, but progress isn’t linear. Push too hard and you provoke a backlash.
  5. Yes, although ideally that includes borrowing ideas from the liberal right. Teixeira has previously argued, together with Peter Leyden, that California should be the left’s role model. Denmark’s “flexicurity” is another inspiration. It’s not just the right that pushes retrograde ideas; old-school, anti-business leftists can stand in the way of progress as well.