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

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

German Election Shows Stabilizing Effect of Multiparty Democracy

Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech in the German parliament in Berlin, October 15, 2015
Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech in the German parliament in Berlin, October 15, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

The headline-grapping news from Germany this weekend was the return of the far right, which won back seats in the national parliament for the first time since 1961.

But the bigger — and more reassuring — story of the election was the fragmentation of the German political landscape.

The Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, once faraway the two largest parties, won only 56 percent of the seats combined. A record seven parties (counting the Bavarian Christian Social Union separately) crossed the 5-percent election threshold. Four parties will probably be needed to form a coalition government — another first in postwar German history.

This might look like instability at first, but it actually underscores the resilience of multiparty democracy. 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

Consolidate Congressional Districts to Make Elections Fairer

The 111 Huntington Avenue skyscraper in Boston, Massachusetts, October 22, 2010
The 111 Huntington Avenue skyscraper in Boston, Massachusetts, October 22, 2010 (Thomas Hawk)

Last month, I made two arguments for a more proportional voting system in the United States:

  1. Politics should not be reduced to two options.
  2. Proportional representation discourages regional factionalism.

I recognized at the time that a full switch to proportional representation is unlikely but argued that adding runoffs could allow third parties to flourish without playing spoiler.

Another, easier way to accomplish the same goal would be to combine single-member congressional districts into multi-member districts. Read more

The End of the Working Class and What Comes Next

Detail of a New Deal-era mural in the Coit Tower of San Francisco, California, January 6, 2009
Detail of a New Deal-era mural in the Coit Tower of San Francisco, California, January 6, 2009 (Thomas Hawk)

Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the rising popularity of the National Front in France have all been explained as working-class revolts against urban, liberal elites (including by me.)

The Niskanen Center’s Brink Lindsey argues in The American Interest that this isn’t quite right. These democratic expressions of discontent should rather be understood as the convulsions of a working class that is dying. Read more

Chile Shows Better Way to Neighbors in Crisis

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet attend a multilateral summit in Lima, Peru, November 20, 2016
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet attend a multilateral summit in Lima, Peru, November 20, 2016 (Gobierno de Chile)

Whether change comes swiftly or slowly, a deafness to cries for change can discredit not just politicians or political parties but whole systems of government.

This has already happened in Venezuela. It’s in the process of happening in Brazil. Chile, however slowly, is showing a better way. Read more