Scots Largely Overlook Ruling Party’s Failures

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland gives a speech in Tweedbank, September 9, 2015 (Scottish Government)

The Scottish National Party took a small beating in local elections on Thursday but still came out way ahead of the other parties in the region, winning 63 out of 129 seats in the legislature.

That is down six from the last election and means the SNP no longer has a majority of its own. But it is still more than the Conservatives and Labour won combined.

The result comes despite low oil prices throwing serious doubts on the party’s plans for independence and an unimpressive record in education, health care and policing. Read more “Scots Largely Overlook Ruling Party’s Failures”

Far-Right Voters Won’t Be Duped by Social Policies

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

The Washington Post has published a surprisingly alarmist piece by Andrea Mammone, an historian at the University of London, that argues austerity policies in Europe have given rise to a new “fascism”.

We won’t quibble too much here with Mammone’s definition of fascism, although lumping together all of Europe’s right-wing nationalist movements under this term is problematic. He is hardly the first one to make this mistake and probably won’t be the last.

It’s his claim that austerity is contributing to the success of these groups that concerns us here. This is an original argument and it needs to be refuted before anyone else starts to believe it might be true. Read more “Far-Right Voters Won’t Be Duped by Social Policies”

The Dangers of (Insert Your Country’s Name) First Policies

The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, New York, November 5, 2013
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, New York, November 5, 2013 (Kostas Kokkinos)

They go by different names: Britain First, Party for Freedom, America First. They range from right-wing nationalists to left-wing communists. And as far as it is possible to nail down proper policy from him, America’s leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump, seems to be one of them.

Years ago I wrote a two-part series positing what might happen if the United States suddenly withdrew its power from the world. The results were hardly pretty: regional powers that were used to either being protected or checked by American power rearmed and went to war to establish new geopolitical balances. Poverty skyrocketed as resources were dumped into vast new militaries while the threat of nuclear war grew as countries that once lived under the American nuclear umbrella felt the need to arm themselves with atomic bombs.

Now the idea of refortifying borders is gaining traction in virtually every developed democracy. Now, as then, it’s still a terrible idea.

Here’s why. Read more “The Dangers of (Insert Your Country’s Name) First Policies”

Developing a New American Nationalism Is Tricky

Flags of the United States in Washington DC, February 17, 2015
Flags of the United States in Washington DC, February 17, 2015 (Matt Popovich)

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry argues at The Week that one of the things conservatives must do in response to Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy is develop a new American nationalism that can appeal to his supporters.

“Trump has made it impossible to continue to ignore the power of racism on the right, but we also shouldn’t overstate its influence,” Gobry argues.

The New Yorker decisively won the Republican Party’s presidential primary in South Carolina, for example — the same state where a Republican governor of Indian descent removed the Confederate flag from government grounds and enjoys stellar approval ratings. Read more “Developing a New American Nationalism Is Tricky”

Allies Perplexed and Inspired by Trump’s Rise

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Some of America’s closest allies have been perplexed by Donald Trump’s candidacy for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination and publicly voiced their concern, something foreign leaders usually shy away from.

British prime minister David Cameron, whose Conservative Party shares Republicans’ support for free markets and trade, called Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States “divisive” and “stupid” last year.

Cameron later added that comments like Trump’s only help fanatics “want to create a clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West.

Canada’s Justin Trudeau, a Liberal, has similarly said, “I stand firmly against the politics of division, the politics of fear, the politics of intolerance or hateful rhetoric.”

In an interview with CBS News this weekend, the Canadian leader argued, without referring to Trump by name, that openness and respect will do more to diffuse anger than “big walls and oppressive policies.” Read more “Allies Perplexed and Inspired by Trump’s Rise”

No Contradiction in Denmark

Copenhagen Denmark
Cyclists in Copenhagen, Denmark (iStock/Leo Patrizi)

Hugh Eakin finds a contradiction in the Danish character. He writes in The New York Review of Books that this egalitarian and open-minded people in the north of Europe have reached a consensus that large-scale Muslim immigration is incompatible with their social democracy.

Although Eakin recognizes in the end that the Danes have nevertheless been able to maintain a “more stable, united and open society than any of their neighbors,” he avoids drawing the logical conclusion: that they are prospering because, not in spite, of their shared sense of belonging and refusal to compromise with foreign values. Read more “No Contradiction in Denmark”

Why European Nationalism Is Back

The German flag is lowered in Berlin, March 25, 2015
The German flag is lowered in Berlin, March 25, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

The continent that gave us two world wars is rousing.

The litany of nationalist events is long: a near-miss Scottish secession, a looming Catalonian one, the rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party, the relative success of France’s National Front and now, following the mass attacks on women in Cologne and other German cities on New Year’s Eve, a sudden public shift against migration in Germany. A continent that once embarked upon the transnational European Union aiming to end nationalism is now turned rightwards.

There is a tale to tell here. Let’s begin. Read more “Why European Nationalism Is Back”

Tone-Deaf German Leaders Risk Immigration Backlash

Cologne Germany
Skyline of Cologne, Germany (Unsplash/Eric Weber)

If German officials worry more about a potential backlash against immigrants than the victims of sexual assault, they shouldn’t be surprised if they become the targets of a backlash themselves.

There is now little doubt that many — if not all — of the perpetrators of a mass sexual assault in Cologne on New Year’s Eve were refugees.

“During identity checks, the vast majority could only provide their asylum-seeker registration papers,” Die Welt reports.

Police leaders earlier said they couldn’t confirm the national origins of the suspects, despite claims from dozens of women and girls that they had been sexually intimidated and in some cases raped by hundreds of men of Middle Eastern and North African appearance.

Die Welt cites one police officer saying some eighty individuals were checked and most were Syrian.

Express, a Cologne-based newspaper, also reports that most of the attackers were immigrants.

The head of Germany’s federal police union admitted as much in a television interview on Thursday. Read more “Tone-Deaf German Leaders Risk Immigration Backlash”

How to Have a Geopolitical Conversation with a Nativist

Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19
Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19 (Michael Vadon)

It’s not such a big deal that Donald Trump has called to ban all Muslims from entering the United States: it’s a big deal that there are people who support him.

This anti-refugee nativism is found worldwide, but is, right now, especially powerful — and dangerous — in the West. It manifests itself as Trump and his wing in the Republican Party in the United States, as the English Defense League and the and UKIP in the United Kingdom and as the National Front in France. To varying degrees, each seeks to wall off their nations from the outside world — and each is dead wrong for seeking that.

Thankfully, each of these nation states is democratic and these views can be fought with conversation and facts. Here now is how to have a geopolitical conversation with a nativist. Read more “How to Have a Geopolitical Conversation with a Nativist”