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

Democrats’ Invisible Primary Underway

Former American housing secretary Julián Castro speaks with a voter in Phoenix, Arizona, October 10
Former American housing secretary Julián Castro speaks with a voter in Phoenix, Arizona, October 10 (Gage Skidmore)

The “invisible primary” in America’s Democratic Party is underway.

In this phase — between the most recent congressional elections and the first official announcements — presidential hopefuls quietly court donors, party bosses, friendly journalists and affiliated interest groups.

Here are some of the latest developments: Read more

AMLO and Trump: Useful Scapegoats or Unlikely Allies?

Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador gives a news conference, October 31
Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador gives a news conference, October 31 (Sitio Oficial de Andrés Manuel López Obrador)

Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), looks like the perfect adversary for Donald Trump. The American represents the financial elites and inequality AMLO has railed against his entire career whereas he himself embodies the hopes of Mexico’s poorest, many of whom have sought a better life in the United States — and who have been disparaged by Trump as criminals and rapists.

But the two leaders also share traits: a populist style, policy light on detail and nostalgia for a bygone era.

The two have avoided a confrontation on trade. Immigration and security provide more opportunities for compromise — but could just as easily cause the relationship to come unstuck. Read more

Bush’s Ambivalent Yugoslavia Policy Shaped Transatlantic Relations for Decade

American president George H.W. Bush, Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, French president François Mitterand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl attend the G7 summit in Munich, July 6, 1992
American president George H.W. Bush, Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, French president François Mitterand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl attend the G7 summit in Munich, July 6, 1992 (Institut François Mitterand)

Reflections on George H.W. Bush’s legacy have generally emphasized his commitment to the transatlantic alliance and its benign consequences for Europe’s post-Cold War transition. Lost in the narrative is the former president’s ambivalence toward the restive movements on the outer edges the Soviet empire.

The result was a full-blown civil conflict in Yugoslavia that undermined America’s confidence in its European allies and fueled a unilateralist streak that would animate a decade of American-led interventions. Read more

One Term for Posterity: George H.W. Bush

German chancellor Helmut Kohl, American president George H.W. Bush and their wives meet at Camp David, Maryland, February 24, 1990
German chancellor Helmut Kohl, American president George H.W. Bush and their wives meet at Camp David, Maryland, February 24, 1990 (Bundesregierung)

The history of America is not unlike that of any other nation: its most revered leaders are usually founders and war statesmen.

Historical figures emerging in a time of crisis are always important, but they remain men of their time. It is easy to be revered when the population rallies to the flag and there is no internal opposition. More difficult is to achieve a record of governing efficiency in a time of peace, yet this was exactly the triumph of George Herbert Walker Bush. Read more

Revelations in Trump-Russia Scandal

Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia deliver a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, July 16
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia deliver a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, July 16 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

When Russiagate skeptic John Podhoretz and Russiagate alarmist John R. Schindler agree there is big news, it’s time for an update. Read more