What the European Election Polls Reveal

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016
The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016 (European Parliament)

Expect to read this headline a lot between now and the European elections in May: “Euroskeptics to take fifth of European Parliament seats.”

It sounds scary, but it’s really not much of a change and what’s happening on the pro-European side is more interesting. Read more “What the European Election Polls Reveal”

Setbacks for Poland’s Ruling Law and Justice Party

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki receives applause, February 6
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki receives applause, February 6 (PiS)

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has suffered a number of setbacks in the last couple of months:

  • It lost local elections in Poland’s big cities and small towns.
  • The European Court of Justice forced it to reinstate 22 Supreme Court justices it had forced into retirement.
  • A bribery scandal at Poland’s financial regulator has thrown doubt on the party’s self-portrayal as “outsiders” who are cleaning up the mess made by corrupt liberal elites. Read more “Setbacks for Poland’s Ruling Law and Justice Party”

Steve King Is Awful, But Austria’s Freedom Party Is Not Neo-Nazi

Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

For the first time in sixteen years, Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa seems vulnerable. The polling gurus at FiveThirtyEight still give him a five-in-six chance of winning reelection, but one recent survey had King tied with his Democratic challenger.

I don’t think it’s unfair to call King a white supremacist. He speaks about the superiority of Western civilization, argues that certain races work harder than others and worries that white women are not having enough babies to preserve the dominant culture of the United States.

Many journalists have become comfortable calling out such bigotry in the age of Trump, but sometimes they go too far. There are stories referring to King meeting with members of a “neo-Nazi party” in Austria. That party is the ruling Freedom Party, and calling it neo-Nazi is inaccurate. Read more “Steve King Is Awful, But Austria’s Freedom Party Is Not Neo-Nazi”

Ignoring Nativists Doesn’t Work in Sweden Either

Stefan Löfven and Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the prime ministers of Sweden and Denmark, attend a press event in Helsinki, Finland, November 1, 2017
Stefan Löfven and Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the prime ministers of Sweden and Denmark, attend a press event in Helsinki, Finland, November 1, 2017 (Finnish Government/Laura Kotila)

The rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats proves that isolating nativists doesn’t work.

Support for the Sweden Democrats has hovered north of 20 percent since 2015, up from the 13 percent they got in the election a year earlier. They could place second in the election this year, behind the ruling Social Democrats but ahead of the center-right Moderate Party.

Sweden’s mainstream parties have deliberately ignored the far right and most of them share pro-immigration views, making the Sweden Democrats the only recourse for voters who feel their country — the most welcoming to refugees in Europe — has done its part.

With 20 percent of the vote, the Sweden Democrats could block a traditional left- or right-wing government. They already forced Prime Minister Stefan Löfven into an awkward pact with the center-right in the outgoing parliament, reinforcing the impression that the entire political establishment has ganged up on the populists. Read more “Ignoring Nativists Doesn’t Work in Sweden Either”

Law and Justice Continues Anti-Judicial Crusade

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

There have been two developments this week in the attempts of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party to subject the judiciary to political control:

  1. The Senate approved legislation that makes it possible for the government to appoint the next Supreme Court chief justice.
  2. The European Court of Justice ruled that other EU countries can refuse extradition requests from Poland if they fear suspects may not receive a fair trial there. Read more “Law and Justice Continues Anti-Judicial Crusade”

Far-Right League Gains Most from Governing in Italy

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 far-right League is benefiting the most from the government deal it struck with the populist Five Star Movement earlier this month.

  • In municipal elections on Sunday, the League captured the former left-wing strongholds of Massa, Pisa and Siena in the region of Tuscany.
  • Nationally, the League is tied with the Five Star Movement in the polls. Both get 27-29 percent support. In the last election, the Five Stars got 33 percent support against 17 percent for the League. Read more “Far-Right League Gains Most from Governing in Italy”

Don’t Call Them Illiberal Democrats

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and Russian president Vladimir Putin answer questions from reporters in Moscow, February 17, 2016
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and Russian president Vladimir Putin answer questions from reporters in Moscow, February 17, 2016 (Facebook/Viktor Orbán)

Michael Meyer-Resende of Democracy Reporting International argues for Carnegie Europe that applying the term “illiberal democracy” or “majoritarianism” to the politics of Hungary and Poland is a misnomer. The ruling parties there are not undermining democracy — by taking control of the (state) media, stacking the courts and rewriting election laws — for the sake of the majority, but rather to maintain their own power. Read more “Don’t Call Them Illiberal Democrats”

Middle-Aged Men More Right-Wing, Iran Hawk Pompeo Sworn In

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

Lyman Stone writes in The American Interest that in both Germany and the United States (and I imagine in other Western democracies too, but I only know for sure about the Netherlands), men are more likely to vote for the far right than women. Middle-aged men in particular.

Stone volunteers various explanations:

  • Changes in the global economy have systematically disfavored historically male-dominated industries.
  • Men are more likely to take a protective or defensive view of nationhood.
  • Men are pulled toward more radical politics of many varieties and just happen to be ticked off at their former political home.

Stone also finds that support for Germany’s Alternative was lower in those parts of the former East Germany that were Prussian before communism and highest in Saxony, a state with a long history of radical politics.

“Radicalism, the appeal of revolutionary protest politics, is less about coherent policy platforms,” he argues, “and more about the appeal of mob, tribe and movement.” Read more “Middle-Aged Men More Right-Wing, Iran Hawk Pompeo Sworn In”

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!”