Social Democrats in Iberia and Scandinavia Try Opposite Strategies

Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2
Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2 (Governo da República Portuguesa/Clara Azevedo)

What is the future of European social democracy? Your answer may depend on where you live.

If you’re in the Mediterranean, it’s cooperation with the far left. Social democrats in Portugal and Spain have come to power under deals with far-left parties. In both cases, unwieldy coalitions were greeted with skepticism, but now Prime Ministers António Costa and Pedro Sánchez are riding high in the polls.

In Greece, Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party has even supplanted the center-left altogether.

In Scandinavia, by contrast, social democrats are trying to win back working-class voters by taking a harder line on borders, crime and defense.

Both strategies appear to be working. Read more “Social Democrats in Iberia and Scandinavia Try Opposite Strategies”

Why Millennials Are More Sympathetic to Big Government

Voters listen to a speech by Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016
Voters listen to a speech by Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016 (Hillary for America/Alyssa S.)

Polls show that Americans under the age of 35 are more sympathetic to big government than their elders. Democrats have a 48-point advantage among millennial voters, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey.

That is not so surprising when you realize that their generation may be the first in a long time that is worse off than their parents’.

Michael Hobbes’ feature about millennials in The Huffington Post contains some sobering statistics.

On average, he writes, Americans under the age of 35:

  • Have 300 percent more student debt than their parents;
  • Are half as likely to own homes as young people were in the 1970s; and
  • Will probably have to work until they’re 75.

The stereotype of the overqualified liberal arts graduate working as a barista is only half-correct. Many young Americans are struggling to find high-paying jobs despite having spent tens — sometimes hundreds — of thousands of dollars on their education. Less known is that one in five young adults live in poverty. Read more “Why Millennials Are More Sympathetic to Big Government”

European Fellow Travelers Refuse to Criticize Venezuelan Dictator

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela attends a ceremony in Caracas commemorating the 1992 coup by Hugo Chávez, February 4, 2015
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela attends a ceremony in Caracas commemorating the 1992 coup by Hugo Chávez, February 4, 2015 (Prensa Miraflores)

Seventeen Latin American nations, including those run by leftists, agree Venezuela is now a “dictatorship” under Nicolás Maduro.

For most of his presidency, Maduro has ruled by decree. When the opposition won a majority of the seats in parliament, he replaced it with a Constituent Assembly full of cronies. Critical lawmakers have been arrested. A “truth commission” is being established to investigate thoughtcrimes. Instead of seeing high crime and low growth rates as evidence of the failure of Venezuela’s socialist experiment, the crude and homophobic Maduro entertains anti-American and anticapitalist conspiracy theories.

Yet left-wing admirers of Hugo Chávez will not see his heirs for the thugs they have become. Read more “European Fellow Travelers Refuse to Criticize Venezuelan Dictator”

Sánchez Makes Good on Promise to Move Spain’s Socialists to the Left

Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016
Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)

Pedro Sánchez is making good on his promise to move Spain’s Socialist Party to the left.

In the clearest sign yet of a new program, the Socialists refused to vote for a European trade pact with Canada in the national legislature last week.

Their deputies in the European Parliament did endorse the treaty when it came up for a vote there in February.

The ruling conservatives managed to ratify the treaty anyway with support from smaller parties in the center. But the Socialists’ abstention is a sign of things to come. Read more “Sánchez Makes Good on Promise to Move Spain’s Socialists to the Left”

Does the British Election Mean Anything for America?

British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27
British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

As always, yes and no.

Yes, because the ideology of austerity-driven neoliberalism, that which is championed by Theresa May’s suddenly flailing government, is a major component of the ruling Republican Party in the United States. It’s what Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, believes in: cuts to public services to benefit the private market.

Yes, because Brexit, the alt-right-driven anti-immigrant, anti-globalization geopolitical self-harm project is propelled by the same forces that elected the current head of the Republican Party, Donald Trump.

But also no.

No, because the United States has a monotonous two-party system. (Britain essentially does too, but the Liberal Democrats can and have emerged as a powerful enough force to tip the balance, as they did in 2010.)

No, because the United States can’t call snap elections and so the mood today is certainly not going to be the mood of fall 2018.

No as well, because America does not face a credible secessionist threat, as the United Kingdom does in Scotland, nor is the United States able to do anything close to the self-harm of Brexit.

With that said, there’s a few lessons worth looking into. Read more “Does the British Election Mean Anything for America?”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Is Not the French Bernie Sanders

France's Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 2015
France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 2015 (European Parliament)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s late surge in the French presidential election has invited comparison with the unexpected success of Bernie Sanders in last year’s Democratic primary in the United States.

The comparison is not altogether off in the sense that Mélenchon’s rise is largely due to the unpopularity of technocratic socialism under the incumbent president, François Hollande. Sanders’ candidacy similarly reflected a disillusionment in the centrist incrementalism of Hillary Clinton.

But there is no comparing the policies of the French candidate, who is backed by the Communist Party, to those of the senator from Vermont, whose views would be mainstream in France. Read more “Jean-Luc Mélenchon Is Not the French Bernie Sanders”

Another Anti-EU and Anti-NATO Candidate Rises in France

France's Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 2015
France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 2015 (European Parliament)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, France’s far-left presidential candidate, has pulled within striking distance of qualifying for the second voting round in May.

Mélenchon shares third place with the center-right Republican candidate, François Fillon, in recent polls.

But whereas Fillon’s support has been stable for months, Mélenchon’s has surged from a low of 12 percent a few weeks ago to just under 20 percent today. Read more “Another Anti-EU and Anti-NATO Candidate Rises in France”

The Future of the Middle East is Turkey, Iran and Islamic Socialism

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders is shown a map of Turkey in Ankara, January 6, 2015
Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders is shown a map of Turkey in Ankara, January 6, 2015 (BZ/Aad Meijer)

It may not seem it, what with the Islamic State’s suicide bombers lashing out, Israeli soldiers shooting wounded Palestinians and the war in Yemen grinding on, but the Middle East’s broad new outlines are starting to show.

They appear in front of the Turkish tanks on their way to Raqqa; in the brightly-lit press conferences of the White House; in the ballot printing factories of Tehran and in the banks of Dubai.

They are both a return to history and step further into it. Nation states founded on the borders of great empires are reasserting themselves and the assault on neoliberal economics will give way to Islamist socialism. Read more “The Future of the Middle East is Turkey, Iran and Islamic Socialism”

Purists Hurt Left’s Chances in France, Could Do Same in Italy

Benoît Hamon
French Socialist Party lawmaker Benoît Hamon (Alchetron)

It doesn’t look like the two left-wing contenders for the French presidency will be able to do a deal.

I wrote here a few days ago that Benoît Hamon, the mainstream Socialist Party candidate, and the far left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon could have bested the French center. A left-wing unity ticket would qualify for the second voting round in May, according to the latest polls. Marine Le Pen of the National Front is expected to qualify as well. Forced to choose between a leftist and a nativist, a majority of French voters would likely opt for the former.

But neither Hamon nor Mélenchon is willing to play second fiddle, as a result of which the left won’t stand a chance. Read more “Purists Hurt Left’s Chances in France, Could Do Same in Italy”

Spanish Left Needs to Decide Between Power and Principle

Pablo Iglesias
Pablo Iglesias and other members of Spain’s Podemos party listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Brussels, July 9, 2014 (GUE/NGL)

Spain’s two left-wing parties need to decide if they want to stick to their principles and keep their hands clean — or if they’re willing to make compromises in order to get into power.

At a party conference this weekend, members of the anti-establishment Podemos movement are asked to endorse one of two visions: either stay the hard-left course under Pablo Iglesias, the current leader, or switch to the more pragmatic policy of his deputy, Iñigo Errejón.

The mainstream Socialists face a similar choice in their leadership election. Patxi López and Pedro Sánchez advocate opposition to the minority right-wing government of Mariano Rajoy. Susana Díaz, the president of Andalusia, represents the moderate wing of the party, which argues against blowing up an accord that has kept Spain governable since October.

The outcome of the struggle in Podemos could have an effect on the Socialist Party contest later this year.

Sánchez in particular, who was the party leader until October — when he was forced out by regional bosses like Díaz — believes the Socialists must take the fight to the right in order to consolidate their left flank. Read more “Spanish Left Needs to Decide Between Power and Principle”