Macron, Salvini Represent Opposite Sides in Europe’s Culture War

Politico has a good story about how France’s Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Matteo Salvini represent opposite sides in what I — per Andrew Sullivan — call .

Macron is a former investment banker who styles himself as a liberal champion of the European Union. Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right League party, has emerged as Europe’s leading nationalist — one who has pledged to bring the European project to a crashing halt.

Both are building transnational coalitions to contest the 2019 European Parliament elections. Read more “Macron, Salvini Represent Opposite Sides in Europe’s Culture War”

Gun and Immigration Debates Entrench Tribal Divisions in United States

The sun sets on Washington DC
The sun sets on Washington DC (Shutterstock)

Ronald Brownstein writes in The Atlantic that Republicans in his country have become a “coalition of restoration”: older, blue-collar, evangelical and non-urban whites most uneasy about the tectonic cultural and economic forces reshaping American life. Republican lawmakers represent those areas with the most guns and the fewest immigrants.

Democrats, by contrast, rely on a heavily urbanized “coalition of transformation”: minorities, millennials and college-educated and secular white voters, especially women. Democratic voters have fewer guns and live in places with more immigrants.

We can see a similar divide in Europe. On the one hand, inward-looking, typically lower-educated voters living in small towns and the countryside; on the other, cosmopolitan college graduates living in the big cities. Read more “Gun and Immigration Debates Entrench Tribal Divisions in United States”

Europe’s Blue-Red Culture War Comes to Czech Republic

Prague Czech Republic
View of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, from the Charles Bridge (Unsplash/Jay Dantinne)

Europe’s blue-red culture war has come to the Czech Republic, writes Jan Rovny at the London School of Economics’ EUROPP blog.

This weekend’s presidential election pitted the incumbent Miloš Zeman, “a self-styled representative of the common folk,” against the centrist, pro-European Jiří Drahoš.

The outcome — Zeman prevailed with 51 percent support — suggests that Czech politics have taken another step closer to Hungary and Poland.

This will revolve around a deepening, identity-infused contest between traditionalists touting their newfound patriotism and cosmopolitans seeking to maintain the country’s westward orientation.

Read more “Europe’s Blue-Red Culture War Comes to Czech Republic”

Nationalist Right and Identitarian Left Feed Off Each Other

Germans demonstrate against Chancellor Angela Merkel's immigration policy in Kaiserslautern, January 30, 2016
Germans demonstrate against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policy in Kaiserslautern, January 30, 2016 (Franz Ferdinand Photography)

Dalibor Rohac of the American Enterprise Institute argues in The American Interest that two intolerant communities have emerged in Western democracies:

  1. A nationalist right, whose overarching ambition is to return ethnic homogeneity and reverse the decline of status enjoyed by whites.
  2. An identitarian left, whose goal is to rectify the injustices caused by the historic domination of white heterosexual men.

We don’t have to accept a moral equivalence between the two to see that they have things in common.

Nor does either side need to be in the majority (neither is) to pose a danger to our democracy. Read more “Nationalist Right and Identitarian Left Feed Off Each Other”

Brexit Has Divided Generations in United Kingdom

A woman looks out over the skyline of London, England, May 13, 2014
A woman looks out over the skyline of London, England, May 13, 2014 (Ray Wewerka)

George Eaton argues in Britain’s New Statesman that age has replaced class as the nation’s best predictor of voting intentions.

Middle-class support for Labour and working-class support for the Conservatives rose in the last election. At the same time, the left attracted almost two-thirds of the youth vote and the right the support of almost two in three pensioners.

Young people have long been more progressive than their elders, but this wide an age gap is unusual. Read more “Brexit Has Divided Generations in United Kingdom”

New Social Compact: Deregulation and Universal Basic Income

Manhattan New York
View of Madison Square Park in Manhattan, New York (Unsplash/Daryan Shamkhali)

I believe that to shrink the culture gap in Western democracies — between generally well-educated “globalists” and those who feel left behind — we need a new social compact.

The twentieth century’s was built on strong trade unions, lifetime employment and health and pension benefits tied to salaried jobs. The economy, and people’s expectations, have changed in such a way that this is no longer sustainable. But we haven’t come up with a replacement yet.

The American Enterprise Institute’s Dalibor Rohac may be onto something. He calls for a “grand bargain”: serious deregulation coupled with the introduction of a universal basic income. Read more “New Social Compact: Deregulation and Universal Basic Income”

Brexit Has Become the Totem of Britain’s Culture War

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011 (Ben Sutherland)

Why have not more British people changed their minds about leaving the EU now that it turns out the promises of the “leave” campaign are not being met?

Sebastian Payne argues in the Financial Times that it’s because Brexit has become the totem of the island’s culture war. Read more “Brexit Has Become the Totem of Britain’s Culture War”

An Old Conflict in New Form

Opening of the French Estates General at Versailles, May 5, 1789
Opening of the French Estates General at Versailles, May 5, 1789 (Auguste Couder)

I used to think that the rise of far-right populism, the crisis of social democracy and growing divides along class and educational lines were creating a new political reality in the West.

In a 2016 report for the consultancy Wikistrat, I argued that the political spectrum was shifting from left-right to cosmopolitan-nationalist.

Others made similar observations:

  • Andrew Sullivan observed in 2014 that America’s blue-red culture war had come to Europe: “Blue Europe is internationalist, globalized, metrosexual, secular, modern, multicultural. Red Europe is noninterventionist, patriotic, more traditional, more sympathetic to faith, more comfortable in a homogeneous society.”
  • Stephan Shakespeare, a British pollsters, argued a year later that people were either “drawbridge up” or “drawbridge down”.
  • The Economist characterized the divide as between open and closed: “Welcome immigrants or keep them out? Open up to foreign trade or protect domestic industries? Embrace cultural change or resist it?”
  • David Goodhart divided people into “anywheres” — mobile and open-minded — and “somewheres” — attached to country, community and family.

I still think this is broadly correct, but now I wonder how new this split really is. Read more “An Old Conflict in New Form”

Europeans Can Be Sorted Into Six Tribes

A couple and the stars of a European Union flag are reflected in a window in Paris, France
A couple and the stars of a European Union flag are reflected in a window in Paris, France (Mark Notari)

Europeans can be sorted into six “tribes”, argues Chatham House based on a survey of public opinion in ten different countries:

  1. Hesitant Europeans: The largest group (36 percent), they sit in the middle on many issues but tend to vote center-right. They are ambivalent about the EU and worry about high immigration.
  2. Contented Europeans: Often young, socially liberal and unperturbed about immigration, this group (23 percent) is happy with the way things are. They want neither a federal Europe nor disintegration. Many young Central Europeans fall in this category.
  3. EU Rejecters: Feel the EU is undemocratic and are angry that politicians aren’t doing enough to stop immigration. This group (14 percent) is disproportionately rural and overrepresented in Austria and the United Kingdom.
  4. Frustrated Pro-Europeans: Want closer EU integration driven by “progressive values” but don’t themselves feel the benefits of membership. Relatively many Belgians, French and Italians are in this group (9 percent).
  5. Austerity Rebels: Want a looser, “more democratic” EU, but — unlike EU Rejecters — do believe wealthy member states should help out the poor. This group (9 percent) is generally middle-aged, possibly unemployed and likely to live in Greece or Italy.
  6. Federalists: Highly educated, wealthier and more likely to be urban than the other tribes, this group (8 percent) dreams of a United States of Europe. Read more “Europeans Can Be Sorted Into Six Tribes”

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

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 “It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!”