It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!

A Donald Trump yard sign in Taylorville, Illinois, June 18, 2016
A Donald Trump yard sign in Taylorville, Illinois, June 18, 2016 (Jason Matthews)

The votes for Brexit, European populism and Donald Trump weren’t working-class revolts.

Ta-Nehisi Coates and Adam Serwer have argued that mostly-white elites are drawn to the “economic anxiety” thesis because it absolves them of responsibility for more intractable problems, like racism, xenophobia and self-delusions about both.

If nativists are motivated by stagnating wages, then there are policy solutions for bringing them back into the mainstream.

But what if their grievances aren’t so concrete? Read more

How Law and Justice Stays Popular in Poland

Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015
Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015 (PiS)

Remi Adekoya explains in Foreign Affairs how Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has been able to remain popular despite truncating democratic norms and institutions and antagonizing the EU:

  • It has raised social spending, specifically for poor rural families with children.
  • It portrays its domestic opponents as corrupt elites fighting to preserve their influence.
  • It portrays its European critics as fanatical multiculturalists and militant secularists who are so obsessed with political correctness they have lost all sense of self-preservation. Read more

Salvini Would Pick Populists Over Center-Left for Coalition

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015 (European Parliament)

Italy’s Northern League would rather go into coalition with the populist Five Star Movement than the mainstream center-left, its leader, Matteo Salvini, has said.

Speaking in Palermo on Monday, the conservative lamented that the Five Stars are “showing their incompetence where they govern.”

But, he added, “if I were to call someone, I wouldn’t call Renzi or Alfano” — referring to Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi and Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, the leader of the small center-right Popular Alternative.

Renzi’s Democrats are polling neck and neck with the Five Star Movement. Salvini’s Northern League is vying with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia to become the largest party on the right. Support for the Popular Alternative is in the single digits. Read more

Why Marine Le Pen Turned on Her Right-Hand Man

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015 (European Parliament)

Florian Philippot’s ouster from the National Front makes political sense.

Philippot was for years Marine Le Pen’s right-hand man. Together they transformed the reactionary party, which has deep roots in the French Algerian exile community, into a broad Euroskeptic and nativist force that could appeal to rust-belt voters.

They de-demonized the National Front. Le Pen won 34 percent support in this year’s presidential election, doubling her father’s record from fifteen years ago.

But it still wasn’t enough. Read more

Duda Hasn’t Stopped Law and Justice from Subjugating Poland’s Courts

Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016
Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016 (NATO)

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has surprised observers by vetoing legislation from his own Law and Justice party that would have defanged the judiciary.

Closer scrutiny suggests Duda’s opposition is less meaningful than it is made out to be, though.

The president has said he will sign the bills if they are amended and Leonid Bershidsky argues at Bloomberg View that his proposed changes don’t deviate from the legislation’s objective: “to put the judiciary, which the party argues has turned into an elitist caste, under more political control.” Read more

Poland’s Ruling Nationalist Party Steps Up Assault on Judiciary

Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland listens to a reporter's question in Warsaw, June 28
Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland listens to a reporter’s question in Warsaw, June 28 (KPRM)

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party pushed through more changes to the court system on Wednesday:

  • One bill takes power to appoint members to the National Judicial Council, which is responsible for appointing lower-level judges, away from the judiciary itself and gives it to parliament, where Law and Justice has a majority.
  • The same law removes fifteen of the 25 judges currently serving on the National Judicial Council.
  • A second bill gives the justice minister the power to unilaterally replace court presidents. Read more

National Front Has Most to Gain from Becoming Conservative

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

France’s National Front will have to reinvent itself after a disappointing election result on Sunday.

The nationalists were hoping to get 40 percent support or more in the presidential runoff, but Marine Le Pen got stuck at 34 percent. Still double her father’s performance when he qualified for the second voting round in 2002, but a letdown nonetheless.

In her concession speech, Le Pen promised voters “profound reform” of her party in order to create “a new political force” for all French “patriots” who oppose the globalism of Emmanuel Macron, the incoming president.

Whether this means starting a new party or rebranding the National Front remains to be seen, but change is in the air. With it could come a struggle for the movement’s identity. Read more