Macron Fights His Way Back

Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23, 2017
Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23, 2017 (BKA/Andy Wenzel)

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 “Macron Fights His Way Back”

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

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 “The Remarkable Thing About Europe Is Not That It Has Problems”

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 “Rumors of a Democratic Civil War Are (Probably) Exaggerated”

Democrats Wisely Stay the Course

National Mall Washington DC
View of the National Mall from the United States Capitol in Washington DC (Shutterstock)

In primary elections on Tuesday, Democrats in the United States mostly went with the more sensible candidates.

Coming on the heels of Ralph Northam’s victory in Virginia and Doug Jones’ in Alabama, it suggests the party is not losing its mind in the age of Donald Trump and wisely staying the course.

Or, as Jonathan Bernstein puts it:

We’re now six states in and if there’s any sign that Democrats are either plagued by a dysfunctional overreaction to Trump or are having real difficulties handling the surge in new candidates, I’m not really seeing it.

Read more “Democrats Wisely Stay the Course”

Spanish Left Pays Price for Choosing Purists Over Pragmatists

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez wave at photographers before a meeting in Madrid, December 23, 2015
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez wave at photographers before a meeting in Madrid, December 23, 2015 (PSOE)

Spain’s ruling People’s Party continues to fall in the polls. Its support is down from 33 percent in the last election to under 25 percent in most recent surveys. The reasons are corruption scandals and the ongoing Catalan independence crisis.

The liberal Citizens, who support — but are not a part of — Mariano Rajoy’s government, are up. Some polls even have them as the largest party of Spain. Their promise to clean up politics, and the hard line they have taken against the Catalan separatists, is resonating with center-right voters.

The left, El País points out, seems unable to exploit Rajoy’s unpopularity. Support for the mainstream Socialist Party is virtually unchanged at 20-22 percent. The far-left Podemos is down several points. Read more “Spanish Left Pays Price for Choosing Purists Over Pragmatists”

Mainstream Parties Win Dutch Elections, Catalans to Swear In President

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

The far-right Freedom Party and the far-left Socialists underperformed in municipal elections in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

The ruling liberals and Christian Democrats shared first place. Both got 13 percent support.

Local parties took 33 percent of the vote, up from 28 percent four years ago.

The Greens gained at the expense of Labor and the liberal Democrats, especially in the major cities. Although they are still counting the votes in Amsterdam, the Greens are expected to overtake the liberal Democrats as the largest party there.

Cosmopolitan, left-leaning voters probably switched because they are disappointed the liberal Democrats went into government with three right-wing parties.

The outcome is nevertheless unlikely to destabilize Mark Rutte’s coalition, which includes the small Christian Union. Read more “Mainstream Parties Win Dutch Elections, Catalans to Swear In President”

Piñera Back, But Chileans Need Convincing

Sebastián Piñera gives a speech days before the end of his first term as president of Chile, March 3, 2014
Sebastián Piñera gives a speech days before the end of his first term as president of Chile, March 3, 2014 (Gobierno de Chile)

Sebastián Piñera unsurprisingly won back Chile’s presidency last week, defeating the governing party’s Alejandro Guillier in a runoff.

Piñera last ruled the country from 2010 to 2014 but was constitutionally barred from serving a consecutive second term.

What was surprising was the scale of his victory following a weak performance in the first voting round, where left-wing candidates got a combined 55 percent of the votes. Read more “Piñera Back, But Chileans Need Convincing”

Stirrings of Centrism in the United Kingdom

The sun rises over London, England
The sun rises over London, England (Uncoated)

Miranda Green writes in the Financial Times that the polarization of British politics has caused some to wonder if there might be room for a new party or political movement in the center.

  • Conservative lawmaker Anna Soubry recently said “there are millions of people in this country who feel that there is not one political party that represents them.”
  • A group of entrepreneurs with serious money is clustered around Simon Franks, a former Labour donor.
  • Former prime minister Tony Blair is reportedly bringing together rebellious “sensibles” from all established parties with a view to collaborating at some point in the future.
  • Chris Coghlan and Annabel Mullin, two anti-Brexit politicians, have founded centrist new political parties in Battersea and Kensington, respectively.
  • Adam Knight, an angel investor who unsuccessfully ran in Witney — David Cameron’s old district — last year is said to be mulling a new movement. Read more “Stirrings of Centrism in the United Kingdom”