Merkel’s Answer to Populist Challenge: Shift to the Left

German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Brussels, March 15, 2016
German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Brussels, March 15, 2016 (Bundesregierung/Guido Bergmann)

Angela Merkel’s answer to the defection of right-wing voters is — counterintuitively — to shift further to the left.

Der Spiegel reports that the German chancellor recently told members of her Christian Democratic party (CDU) they need to do better on pay, pensions and housing.

They were expecting a harder line on immigration, which is the issue that galvanized the Alternative for Germany’s voters.

This new far-right party placed third in last month’s election with nearly 13 percent support.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats still won, but with only 33 percent support — their lowest vote share in over half a century. Read more

Theresa May Repeats Alexis Tsipras’ Mistake

British prime minister Theresa May, European Council president Donald Tusk and German chancellor Angela Merkel are seen during the G7 summit in Taormina, Italy, May 26
British prime minister Theresa May, European Council president Donald Tusk and German chancellor Angela Merkel are seen during the G7 summit in Taormina, Italy, May 26 (European Council)

When Greece resisted demands for spending cuts from its creditors last year, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appealed to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, for talks with the other 27 heads of government.

His hope was that fellow leaders would be more sympathetic than the technocrats of the “troika”: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Tusk rebuffed him and reminded Tsipras that the troika had been delegated by national leaders to monitor Greece’s bailout. The whole point of putting bureaucrats in charge was to avoid the politicians being tempted to cut Greece some slack.

Theresa May clearly hasn’t learned Tsipras’ lesson. Read more

Other Conservatives Should Be Wary of Imitating Kurz

Austrian People's Party leader Sebastian Kurz meets with other conservative party leaders in Brussels, June 22
Austrian People’s Party leader Sebastian Kurz meets with other conservative party leaders in Brussels, June 22 (EPP)

Sebastian Kurz’ success may not be a template for other conservative party leaders.

The young Christian democrat defeated the far right in Austria this weekend by moving his People’s Party to the right on identity issues and immigration.

But Austria is more right-wing than most countries in Europe and its Freedom Party still achieved an almost historic result on Sunday. Read more

To Trump’s Mind, A Good Deal Means Somebody Else Loses

Presidents Michel Temer of Brazil and Donald Trump of the United States meet at the G20 in Hamburg, Germany, July 8
Presidents Michel Temer of Brazil and Donald Trump of the United States meet at the G20 in Hamburg, Germany, July 8 (Bundesregierung)

The reason Donald Trump is unable to govern effectively, argues Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, is that he has a misguided view of negotiation: for him to “win”, somebody else needs to lose.

This cartoonish kind of “dealmaking” is the only thing Trump knows:

His whole business history is one of cutting “deals” in which he gets lots of gain and little risk and the other guy basically gets screwed.

This only worked up to a point. Trump went through numerous bankruptcies and exasperated so many lenders that he was reduced to seeking capital from shady international operators and money launderers in the former Soviet Union.

As Marshall puts it, “You can only screw people over so many times before they refuse to work with you anymore.” Read more

Italian Voting Reforms Could Have Little Impact on Balance Between Parties

The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament in Rome, October 23, 2010
The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament in Rome, October 23, 2010 (Stefano Maffei)

Voting reforms enacted by the Italian parliament this week could do little to make the country more governable, an analysis of Ipsos polling data by Corriere della Sera reveals. The three main political blocs would remain roughly equal in size.

The new law allocates a third of the seats in the lower chamber on a first-past-the-post basis and removes the premium for the largest party.

The expectation was that these changes would hurt the populist Five Star Movement and help the mainstream left and right.

But it turns out the effect could be negligible. Read more

Brexit and Trump as Reactionary Fantasies

Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina, March 9, 2016
Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina, March 9, 2016 (Donald J. Trump for President)

Andrew Sullivan sees similarities between Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump. Both, he writes in New York magazine, are reactionary fantasies:

Brexit and Trump are the history of Thatcher and Reagan repeating as dangerous farce, a confident, intelligent conservatism reduced to nihilist, mindless reactionism.

Trump is the worst of the two. His absurd claims about the economy being a “disaster” before he took over and now posting record growth; his tough talk as substitute for foreign policy; his determination to reverse every one of Barack Obama’s policy accomplishments and his daily Twitter tirades are about as clear an escape from reality as one can imagine.

For the four in ten Americans who still support him, that is the point of Trump’s presidency: to pretend the modern world — with its changing climate and demographics, relaxed gender norms, declining religiosity, global supply chains and devaluation of manual labor — doesn’t exist. Read more

Trump Drives European Allies into Arms of China and Russia

British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27
British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

European allies warned Donald Trump he could drive them into the arms of China and Russia if he decertified the Iran nuclear deal — and that is exactly what’s happening.

In a rare joint statement, the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom reiterate their commitment to the 2015 agreement:

The nuclear deal was the culmination of thirteen years of diplomacy and was a major step toward ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is not diverted for military purposes.

European foreign-policy coordinator Federica Mogherini is even more adamant:

The deal has prevented, continues to prevent and will continue to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Trump nevertheless refuses to confirm Iran’s compliance and has threatened to withdraw from the agreement altogether unless it is somehow improved.

China and Russia, the other two signatories, have made common cause with the Europeans, virtually isolating the United States. Only Israel and the Arab Gulf states support Trump. Read more