Democrats’ Dilemma Is Familiar to European Center-Left

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)

Democrats in the United States have the same dilemma as social democrats in Europe: should they deemphasize progressive social policies in order to win back working-class voters or side with the socially progressive middle class?

The parable isn’t perfect. The big cultural issue in Europe is immigration. In the United States, it’s race relations more broadly and changing social norms.

But that makes a strategy of accommodation with blue-collar voters who switched from Barack Obama to Donald Trump in 2016 even less attractive to the American left. It would mean repudiating causes like Black Lives Matter and transgender rights because they offend Trump voters’ desire for social order. Read more

Three Reasons Liberals Need to Look Left, Not Right, for Allies

A couple cycles past the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington DC, December 25, 2016
A couple cycles past the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington DC, December 25, 2016 (Kian McKellar)

Leonardo Carella, an expert on Italian politics, argues that, strategically and policy-wise, pro-market liberals now have more in common with social democrats than they do with conservatives.

I think he is right, for three reasons: Read more

Social Democrats in Iberia and Scandinavia Try Opposite Strategies

Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2
Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2 (Governo da República Portuguesa/Clara Azevedo)

What is the future of European social democracy? Your answer to that question may depend on where you live.

If you’re in the Mediterranean, it’s cooperation with the far left. Social democrats in Portugal and Spain have come to power under deals with far-left parties. In both cases, unwieldy coalitions were greeted with skepticism, but now Prime Ministers António Costa and Pedro Sánchez are riding high in the polls.

In Greece, Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party has even supplanted the center-left altogether.

In Scandinavia, by contrast, social democrats are trying to win back working-class voters by taking a harder line on borders, crime and defense.

Both strategies appear to be working. Read more

Germany’s Social Democrats Understand They Need to Pick Side

German Social Democratic Party leader Andrea Nahles makes a speech, September 24, 2014
German Social Democratic Party leader Andrea Nahles makes a speech, September 24, 2014 (SPD/Andreas Amann)

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) recognize they should have picked a side.

In a damning analysis of the party’s dismal 2017 election performance — support fell to a postwar low of 20.5 percent — outside experts argue that the campaign lacked “substantive profile”.

The SPD has failed for years to find answers to fundamental questions and to position itself clearly and unequivocally. Whether on the issue of refugees, globalization, internal security or the diesel scandal: the party leadership always tries to please everyone.

The trouble with trying to please everyone, as I’ve argued before, is that you likely end up pleasing no one. Read more

Five Imperatives for the Left

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. Read more

Trump’s Son-in-Law Loses Access, Macron Takes on Rail Unions

Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend, the American commander in Iraq, speaks with President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, in Baghdad, April 3, 2017
Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend, the American commander in Iraq, speaks with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, in Baghdad, April 3, 2017 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

The Washington Post reports that officials in at least four countries — China, Israel, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates — have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, “by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign-policy experience.”

Officials in the White House were reportedly concerned that Kushner was “naive and being tricked” in conversations with foreign officials, some of whom said they wanted to deal only with Kushner and not with more experienced personnel.

Despite having no political or policy experience, Kushner was put in charge of everything from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to American relations with Mexico.

Politico reports that he has now lost his access to top-secret intelligence along with other officials in the White House who did not clear background checks.

The question: Will Trump accept this decision? Or will he once again put his family’s interests before his country’s? Read more

For the Future of the Democratic Party, Look to California

Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010
Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010 (Jerome Vial)

Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira argue that California’s Democrats are leading the way in developing a progressive vision for the twenty-first century:

The New California Democrats understand that a healthy society needs a strong government that’s well funded, and they don’t shy from raising public funds through progressive taxation. But the New California Democrats appreciate the market and the capabilities of entrepreneurial business. They are tech-savvy and understand the transformative power of new technologies and the vibrancy of an economy built around them. They understand that to solve our many twenty-first-century challenges, we need business to come up with solutions that scale and that grow the economy for all.

If the twentieth-century progressive model was the welfare state, the twenty-first century’s could be what Leyden and Teixeira call the “opportunity state.” Read more