French Presidential Election Reveals a Divided Nation

Paris France
Night falls on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in downtown Paris, France, March 13, 2011 (Flickr/Aeror)

The first round of the French presidential election on Sunday laid bare many of the same cleavages that have opened up in other Western democracies recently.

Emmanuel Macron, the centrist former economy minister and the favorite to prevail in the second voting round in May, drew most of his support from the big cities and the prosperous west of the country.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the nativist National Front, came in second overall but placed first across the economically depressed north of France and in the socially conservative southeast. Read more “French Presidential Election Reveals a Divided Nation”

French Parties Collapse as Voters Flock to Blue and Red Extremes

The facade of the French National Assembly building in Paris, June 21, 2011
The facade of the French National Assembly building in Paris, June 21, 2011 (cactusbeetroot)

Three of the top four contenders in the French presidential election on Sunday come from outside the country’s two major political parties. The Socialists’ Benoît Hamon isn’t even in contention anymore while the Republicans’ François Fillon may not qualify for the runoff in May.

The frontrunner, Emmanuel Macron, left the Socialist Party last year to start his own progressive movement.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen lead the far left and the far right, respectively, which have so far played a minor role in French politics.

Their popularity says more about voters’ disillusionment in the two-party system than it does about their own appeal. Read more “French Parties Collapse as Voters Flock to Blue and Red Extremes”

Election Reveals Educational Divide in Netherlands

Amsterdam Netherlands
Aerial view of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, October 9, 2008 (Sebastiaan ter Burg)

Liberal Democrat and Green party voters in the Netherlands are more educated than supporters of the nationalist Freedom Party and far-left Socialists.

An Ipsos exit poll found that 58 and 55 percent of liberal Democrats and Greens, respectively, have graduated from college. Only 15 and 18 percent of Freedom and Socialist Party voters have.

The findings, while not surprising, underline that these four parties represent extremes in the Netherlands’ . Read more “Election Reveals Educational Divide in Netherlands”

Netherlands’ Wilders Bleeds Support to Christian Democrats, Socialists

Geert Wilders
Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders attends a memorial ceremony in Almelo, March 2, 2015 (RTV Oost/Rogier van den Berg)

I reported here the other day that Geert Wilders’ nationalist Freedom Party is losing support in the Netherlands.

Now we know where his voters are going.

The national broadcaster NOS reports that the nationalists are bleeding support to the Christian Democrats on the one hand and the far-left Socialists on the other.

That might seem odd, given that those parties are opposites in many ways.

But it makes sense when we look at these movements through the prism of the Netherlands’ “blue-red” culture war. Read more “Netherlands’ Wilders Bleeds Support to Christian Democrats, Socialists”

Parties Take Sides in Netherlands’ Culture War

A debate on Sunday between the top female candidates of the five biggest political parties in the Netherlands revealed that the old left-right divide is giving way to something new.

The center-right liberals and the far-left Socialists are polar opposites in terms of foreign and security policy. Yet they found themselves on the same side when the Christian Democrats proposed to criminalize the glorification of violence.

The liberal party’s number two and incumbent defense minister, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, cautioned that such a step — targeted at jihadist propaganda — could lead a thought police.

The Socialists don’t have much in common either with the nationalist Freedom Party, except their candidates both rejected as “fearmongering” warnings from the other parties that an exit from the European Union would surely destroy Dutch jobs.

The Socialists’ economic program has little in common with the liberal Democrats’, yet the two parties chastised the Christian Democrats, Freedom Party and liberals for suggesting that immigrants who refuse to accept Dutch values, like gay and women’s rights, ought to go back to where they came from. Read more “Parties Take Sides in Netherlands’ Culture War”

Renzi Picks Side in Italy’s Blue-Red Culture War

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers a reporter's question in Mexico City, Mexico, April 20, 2016
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers a reporter’s question in Mexico City, Mexico, April 20, 2016 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s Democratic Party leader, Matteo Renzi, launched his candidacy for reelection this week by presenting himself as the alternative to nationalist leaders in his own country as well as America and France.

“Some people wanted a party congress to find an alternative to Renzi-ism. It needs to be done as an alternative to Trumpism, Le Penism and even Grilloism,” the former prime minister said, referring to the new president of the United States, the leader of France’s National Front and the founder of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Read more “Renzi Picks Side in Italy’s Blue-Red Culture War”

Clinton-Trump Redux in France

After Britain voted to exit the European Union and America elected Donald Trump, the French ambassador to Washington DC, Gerard Araud, tweeted in despair: “A world is collapsing before our eyes.”

Now his home country has a chance to breathe new life into the liberal world order the English-speaking powers have turned their backs on.

After decades of statism, and five years of ineffectual Socialist Party rule, there is finally a critical mass for reform in France.

Brexit has also revived French enthusiasm for the European project. French support for the EU has shot up 10 points to 67 percent, according to an Ifop poll.

And Trump’s crude nationalism is showing the French the ugly reality of hysterical patriotism and anti-Muslim bigotry, both of which have been creeping up on them in recent years.

These three threads come together in the presidential candidacy of Emmanuel Macron. Read more “Clinton-Trump Redux in France”

Rural Areas and Small Towns Feel Left Behind as Cities Grow

London, England at night, February 14, 2012
London, England at night, February 14, 2012 (Warren Chrismas)

Last month, I argued here that the election of Donald Trump in America and the vote to leave the EU in Britain could be understood as rural revolts against “the city”. This is a subplot in the story of the that is shaping up to be the defining political divide of our time.

I focused on the electoral politics of city versus countryside at the time and sort of skipped the question of why exactly there is so much discontent in the former.

Jonn Elledge answers that question in Britain’s New Statesman.

Put crudely, he argues the reason is that cities have won. Read more “Rural Areas and Small Towns Feel Left Behind as Cities Grow”

Revenge Against the City: Populists Revolt in America and Europe

The skyline of Los Angeles, California, November 15, 2009
The skyline of Los Angeles, California, November 15, 2009 (Keith Skelton)

There has probably been a tension between the rural and urban since the first cities. With a little imagination, you could write the entire political history of humanity around it.

In that story, it looks like the chapter about our time will need to describe a shift in power back to the countryside. Read more “Revenge Against the City: Populists Revolt in America and Europe”

Blue-Red Culture War in the Alps

Hohenwerfen Castle in Werfen, Austria, near the German border, August 14, 2015
Hohenwerfen Castle in Werfen, Austria, near the German border, August 14, 2015 (Daniel Parks)

Die Presse, Austria’s center-right newspaper, reports that many of the cleavages of what the Atlantic Sentinel calls appeared in the Alpine nation’s presidential election on Sunday.

Norbert Hofer, the nationalist Freedom Party candidate, was more popular with men and workers without a college education. Alexander Van der Bellen, a former Green party leader who rallied the Austrian mainstream behind his candidacy, received more votes from women and college graduates.

Similar divides came to light in the American presidential election last month, although there the outcome was reversed: Donald Trump, Norbert’s Republican counterpart, defeated Hillary Clinton, a center-left pragmatists not unlike Van der Bellen.

How do we heal these divisions? Read more “Blue-Red Culture War in the Alps”