The 2008-09 financial crisis. Climate change. The coronavirus pandemic. Rising inequality in the United States. Stagnant middle wages.
It shouldn’t be difficult for left-wing parties to make the case for bigger government, and yet they are out of power in most Western countries.
Ruy Teixeira, who argued in 2002 that demographic changes would give Democrats in the United States an “emerging majority”, and who later criticized those same Democrats for forgetting about working-class white voters, believes there are five reasons the left has been unable to build durable mass support.
Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) are increasingly forced into coalitions with the far left. Such pacts haven’t hurt their counterparts in Portugal and Spain, but Germany is a more conservative country with a politics of consensus and arguably less need for redistributive policies.
The victory of Denmark’s Social Democrats in the election on Wednesday would some seem to vindicate leader Mette Frederiksen’s lurch to the right. She hardened her party’s policy on immigration and supported such far-right proposals as a ban on prayer rooms in schools and universities.
Spain’s are among few social democrats in Europe who have figured out how to thrive in a new political reality.
Although the 30 percent support Pedro Sánchez is projected to win Sunday night is a far cry from the 48 percent support the Socialists won at the peak of their popularity in the 1980s, it is a significant improvement on the last two election results (22 percent in both 2015 and 2016) and almost double what the conservative People’s Party, for decades the dominant party on the right, has managed. Read more “Spain’s Social Democrats Buck European Trend”
California may be the future of the Democratic Party, but the left doesn’t have everything figured out in the Golden State.
Michael Greenberg reports for The New York Review of Books that California likes to think of itself as a liberal bastion against the far-right policies of Donald Trump.
It is refusing to cooperate with the president’s anti-immigrant policies. It has enacted its own environmental and net-neutrality laws which, given the size and influence of California’s economy, could have a nationwide effect.
Democrats in the United States have the same dilemma as social democrats in Europe: should they deemphasize progressive social policies in order to win back working-class voters or side with the socially progressive middle class?
The parable isn’t perfect. The big cultural issue in Europe is immigration. In the United States, it’s race relations more broadly and changing social norms.
But that makes a strategy of accommodation with blue-collar voters who switched from Barack Obama to Donald Trump in 2016 even less attractive to the American left. It would mean repudiating causes like Black Lives Matter and transgender rights because they offend Trump voters’ desire for social order. Read more “Democrats’ Dilemma Is Familiar to Europe’s Center-Left”
What is the future of European social democracy? Your answer to that question 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.
Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) recognize they should have picked a side.
In a damning analysis of the party’s dismal 2017 election performance — support fell to a postwar low of 20.5 percent — outside experts argue that the campaign lacked “substantive profile”.
The SPD has failed for years to find answers to fundamental questions and to position itself clearly and unequivocally. Whether on the issue of refugees, globalization, internal security or the diesel scandal: the party leadership always tries to please everyone.
Up with the new coalition: Accept that the old working class has moved to the right. Focus on minorities, women, college-educated professionals and the lower-educated service worker “precariat”.
Down with inequality: It holds down growth, it holds down living standards, it holds down upward mobility among the young, it leaves entire regions behind and it destroys healthy politics.
Unite the left: The era when one tendency, like social democracy, could dominate the left and didn’t need allies is over.
Forward to an open world: There is no going back to a closed, tradition-bound world.
Ride the long wave: The economic potential of our time, with its monumental technological changes, is vast, albeit held back by a lack of societal investment in the future and retrograde policies pushed by the right. The left should be all about untapping that potential and riding the long wave. Read more “Five Imperatives for the Left”