Rutte Claims Center in Dutch Midterm Elections

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte joins a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20, 2016
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte joins a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20, 2016 (European Parliament)

Two years ago, the Netherlands’ center-right prime minister, Mark Rutte, defeated the far right by adopting some of its policies on immigration while rejecting its divisive rhetoric.

In the run-up to this year’s provincial and Senate elections, he is claiming the center ground instead. Read more

Macron Doesn’t Need to Appease the Far Right

French president Emmanuel Macron chats with a guard at the Elysée Palace in Paris, December 19, 2017
French president Emmanuel Macron chats with a guard at the Elysée Palace in Paris, December 19, 2017 (Elysée/Ghislain Mariette)

The worst argument against French president Emmanuel Macron’s latest EU reform push — made, among others, by the Russian-born Leonid Bershidsky, who writes for Bloomberg View from Germany, and the Dutch political commentator Peter van Nuijsenburg — is that it only provides ammunition for rival parties opposed to more European integration.

There are fair criticism to be made. Bershidsky also argues that Macron’s call for a European “renaissance” largely consists of adding more EU agencies and that what the bloc really needs is a shared Franco-German vision.

But the idea that less ambitious proposals, or no proposals at all, would appease the Euroskeptics is wrong. Read more

Macron Fights His Way Back

French president Emmanuel Macron gives a speech at the Elysée Palace in Paris, January 22
French president Emmanuel Macron gives a speech at the Elysée Palace in Paris, January 22 (Elysée/Soazig de la Moissonniere)

Commentators outside France have been predicting Emmanuel Macron’s downfall from the beginning of his presidency.

My own view throughout has been that unpopularity is unlikely to keep Macron up at night. He has been reforming France so thoroughly and at such a fast pace that he was bound to make enemies everywhere. He has a long-enough mandate (five years) to see his reforms bear fruit. And because both the center-left and center-right are in disarray, there is no strong opposition against him.

That threatened to change this winter, when opponents of a fuel-tax increase donned fluorescent yellow vests and took to the streets. Suddenly reactionary France had a movement. Polls showed massive support. Macron hastily canceled the tax hike, the first time he had bowed to public pressure. His political obituaries were being rewritten again. Read more

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

The Remarkable Thing About Europe Is Not That It Has Problems

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

I’m used to American and British commentators dismissing the EU, but when even a Harvard professor misses the point it warrants a rebuttal.

Imagining a post-American world, Stephen M. Walt doesn’t see Europe playing much of a role. He argues in Foreign Policy that the EU project is deeply troubled.

  • The outcome of the Brexit process is uncertain.
  • Economic growth on the continent is uneven.
  • Extremist parties are flourishing in several countries.
  • The refugee issue, which has convulsed domestic politics throughout Europe, is not going away.

His bottom line:

The EU has become too large and heterogeneous to make rapid and bold decisions, and it faces opposition from illiberal and xenophobic elements within.

Read more

Rumors of a Democratic Civil War Are (Probably) Exaggerated

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic candidate for Congress, appears on MSNBC's Morning Joe, June 27
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic candidate for Congress, appears on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, June 27 (Anthony Scutro)

Axios warns that Democrats in the United States risk throwing away their advantage in November’s congressional elections if they nominate more left-wing candidates.

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leftist endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, defeated incumbent congressman Joe Crowley in New York last week.
  • Membership of the Democratic Socialists of America has ballooned from 7,000 to 37,000 since the 2016 election.
  • 37 Democratic state legislators have been defeated by primary challengers so far.

It’s a little early to panic, but there is clearly a trend — and the fear is it will doom Democrats in the midterms, when, due to built-in disadvantages for their demographics and geographies, they need to defeat Republicans nationwide by around 7 percent to take back Congress. Read more

Merkel Survives Yet Another Overhyped Crisis

German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, November 9, 2016
German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, November 9, 2016 (Bundesregierung)

“The worst crisis in Angela Merkel’s twelve-year chancellorship” has ended with a whimper. Read more