The Sources of Populist Rage — And What To Do About It

Yellow Vests protest in Avignon, France, December 1
Yellow Vests protest in Avignon, France, December 1 (Sébastien Huette)

Add France to populism’s list of victims.

A year ago, Emmanuel Macron’s election victory was hailed as a setback for the transatlantic reactionary movement that began with Brexit and has since led to Donald Trump in America, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and an anti-EU government in Italy.

The outbreak of nationwide anti-tax protests, which quickly morphed into an anti-government movement, makes clear the same forces that gave us Brexit and Trump live in France.

The consequences could be calamitous. Read more

Loss of Control: What Moderates Get Wrong About Migration

Red Cross workers provide first aid to migrants in Hungary, September 4, 2015
Red Cross workers provide first aid to migrants in Hungary, September 4, 2015 (IFRC/Stephen Ryan)

Immigration into Europe and the United States is down, yet the far right continues to monopolize the debate.

The EU faced a one-time surge in asylum applications from Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians in 2015-16 as well as four years of high numbers of mostly African migrants (PDF) trying to reach Italy by boat. The numbers are down, yet the far-right League is the most popular party in Italy.

In the United States, asylum applications from Central American countries plagued by violence are up, but Mexican immigration is down. Donald Trump nevertheless won the 2016 election on a virulently anti-immigrant platform.

Fake news and media echo chambers are part of the problem. It is difficult to expose voters to the facts when they can find “alternative facts” just a click away. But this does not fully explain the appeal of the populist message. The bigger problem is that moderates do not have a coherent migration policy to fix systems that are obviously broken. As a result, they do not have a strong story to tell. Read more

A Futile Leadership Challenge from Brexiteers in Denial

British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American defense secretary James Mattis at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11, 2017
British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American defense secretary James Mattis at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11, 2017 (DoD/Jette Carr)

With Brexit only four months away, its biggest supporters are still in denial about what it must mean.

They have called a confidence vote in Theresa May, believing that a different prime minister could negotiate a better deal from the EU.

They’re wrong. Read more

Shameless Trump Gives Up America’s Power to Shame

American president Donald Trump signs the guestbook at the presidential palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16
American president Donald Trump signs the guestbook at the presidential palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Matti Porre)

I have little to add to the opprobrium that has rightly been heaped on President Donald Trump from the left and the right — including a blistering editorial in the otherwise Trump-friendly Wall Street Journal — for condoning the Saudi killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Except this: It used to be that when the American president shamed other countries, the world listened. Trump has no shame and does not understand soft power. His is a simplistic realpolitik that gives authoritarians license to kill for fear of upsetting their feelings. Read more

Give Superdelegates More, Not Less, Power

Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016
Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016 (DNCC/Chris Frommann)

California, Illinois, New York and Texas have 30 percent of the American population between them. Yet because they are late in the primary calendar, they have almost no say in the selection of presidential candidates.

Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have only 3 percent of the population, yet because they are first in line to vote they have disproportionate power in the process. If a candidate fails to win at least one of the first three primary states, he or she usually drops out.

How is that democratic? Read more

May’s Is the Only Alternative to a No-Deal Brexit

British prime minister Theresa May attends the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017
British prime minister Theresa May attends the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

After Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016, I argued here that the only alternative to a “hard” Brexit was a Norway-style deal under which Britain would stay in the EU customs union and single market.

I got it half-right. The draft agreement that is due to be published later today would — according to British media — see the United Kingdom exit the single market but remain in the customs union until a better solution can be found to prevent the return of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Britain would also respect the rights of the roughly three million EU nationals in the country. The one million Britons who live and work on the continent would be treated similarly. Read more

Four Alternatives for America

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

Political violence is rising in America. A man has been arrested for mailing over a dozen pipe bombs to prominent liberal figures and CNN. Hate crimes are up since 2016. The country is sharply divided between Democrats and Republicans. With the midterm elections likely to produce divided government, tension could continue to mount.

It is starting to look like the political system that has existed in America since 1789 is no longer tenable. American political culture has become too divided, Americans’ priorities are too conflicted, and the system is unable to satisfy anyone or get things done.

What are the alternatives? Read more