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Europe Benefits from the Trump Administration

Yes, you read that correctly: I’m saying something good is coming from the Trump presidency. Before you start questioning my sanity though, read a bit further.

For some time Europe has seen a rise in ultra-right-wing nationalist political parties. Now this is Europe so while they often have religious links, they’re largely secular. Therefore, I’m not talking about groups like Family First or C-Fam taking over. The ultra-right-wing nationalist parties in Europe have largely risen in response to the increase in refugees from the Middle East, especially Syria and Libya.

Therefore, Donald Trump’s campaign for toughness on illegal immigration put him in political alignment with Europe’s nationalist parties. His success soon made him their hero. When he won the US presidency, these parties rode the victory wave. Their popularity began increasing too – Trump’s victory increased the likelihood of their own success.

Like the supporters of the European nationalist parties, one of the things President Trump’s supporters like most about him is that he’s not a politician. They see politicians as corrupt and so their perception of anyone not part of the government is automatically better. The thing is though, although there are definitely some issues, corruption is actually not as bad as it appears. Western Europe especially has some of the most transparent governments in the world. The US isn’t quite so good but certainly nowhere near as bad as the conspiracy theorists would have is believe.

Corruption Perceptions Index 2016

Transparency International has been calculating this index since 1995 and I’m proud to say New Zealand has always been at or near the top. In the recent release of the 2016 index we continue this tradition; Denmark and New Zealand are first equal. Further, we are the only two countries that rank in the top echelon scoring 90 or above out of a possible 100. There is still room for both of us to improve though and our governments are largely committed to doing that. (Being the best does not mean you can’t do better, which is a lesson the American exceptionalists need to learn!)

Most European countries regularly score very well in the index – the US not so great but as I said above, they’re not too bad. In 2016 they were 18th out of 176 countries with a score of 74/100. Following are the 2016 table and map (both interactive):

Anyway, I digress. Back to the point of the post.

President Trump’s US Approval Rating

Even the most partisan Trump supporter has to admit his presidency has not begun smoothly. His approval ratings are on a steady downward trajectory. They are so low that it is clear many who voted for him are not happy with how he’s doing so far.

(Click graph to go to source.)

All the polls I use in my posts are from reliable sources. However, in case you’re one of those who think Gallup has a left-wing bias, here’s the most recent Fox News poll on the president’s approval rating. It shows a 5 point drop from February to March. (Note: Fox News polls are also a reliable source.)

(Click graphic to go to source.)

As President Trump’s approval rating has gone down, so has that of the parties in Europe that see him as a hero. The idea of a maverick in political power is a lot better than the reality. There’s an argument we have to give the president a chance. He’s only been in power for a few weeks after all, and has had little time to settle. That’s true and is a fair argument.

However, there have been things President Trump has done, and continues to do, that no one can make any excuses for. In particular, his stream of tweets, and the doubling-down, on the claim that former President Obama wiretapped him. Quite frankly, he’s making a fool of himself in front of the entire world.

Just today, in a joint news conference with Germany’s Angela Merkel, he quoted a lie by Judge Andrew Napolitano that Fox News has gone on record as denying. Another person could perhaps blame the judge for this error, but the president has access to the genuine information.

 

President’s Trump’s International Popularity

Donald Trump was always less popular internationally than he was in the United States. A WIN/Gallup International poll reports the following:

A global poll conducted by a network of leading pollsters reveals that the American Presidential Election is arousing widespread engagement across the world, where a vast majority is keen to tell pollsters their favourite between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The poll carried out among 45 countries, covering nearly 75% of world population shows that Hillary Clinton is ahead of Donald Trump in all but one country,  Russia. She is remarkably popular in Western Europe, Latin America and Africa. Donald Trump is popular in Russia and China. … The poll was carried out during August and September [2016] among a total of 44,194 men and women ….

(Click graph to go to source.)

 

Dutch Election

The strongly anti-Muslim and anti-EU politician Geert Wilders in the Netherlands was one of those whose popularity saw an increase on the back of Trump’s rise. (See here for a New York Times profile of Wilders.) Many thought he may even win the election. When it came time to vote it seems the image of Trump’s White House meant Wilders did nowhere near as well as expected. His party did better than the previous election in 2012 increasing the number of seats won from 15 to 20. But, he will not be able to form a governing coalition.

In the end, people chose the stability of maintaining the current government. The only place where Wilders came close to defeating current prime minister Rutte is Rotterdam, which has the largest Muslim population and a Muslim mayor. Importantly, there was a record turnout of over 82% showing a commitment to stopping Wilders take control of government.

This is possibly also a blow for Russia’s president Putin. He is said to be supporting those political parties that are opposed to the European Union as part of his ongoing efforts to destabilize Europe and undermine Western-style democracy.

As always, I enjoy Trevor Noah’s take on the situation:

 

France

Also enjoying a bump in popularity following Trump’s election was Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front political party in France. There were predictions she will do very well in the upcoming French presidential elections. However, she too appears to be losing support as the Trump train continues to constantly skip on and off the rails.

Germany

The same phenomenon is occurring in Germany. Until recently it was thought Angela Merkel could lose the chancellorship of Germany in the upcoming elections there. Her popularity took a hit due to her welcoming attitude towards refugees and voters were moving to the far-right nationalist party there. However, voters are now moving their support back towards more centrist parties.

The GOP will tell you that the only reason Merkel is kind to refugees is because of lingering national guilt from Nazi-era Germany. However, there is actually a good reason for modern Western countries to welcome young immigrants. We need them because we aren’t giving birth to enough people ourselves to look after retiring baby boomers.

Further, despite an increase in the number of Muslims in Germany from 2011-2016 of around 1.1 million, there have only been a tiny number of isolated incidents related to terrorism. The fearmongering of what could happen is simply not eventuating; most people are integrating reasonably well. Also, the number of Muslims as a percentage of the population is not as high as the fearmongers are telling people. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) released a report in December. It places the number of Muslims at between 5.4% and 5.7%. A survey by a firm called Ipsos shows that prior to the report, the public perception was that Muslims were up to 21% of the population.

The Rest of Europe

In the recent election in Austria it was thought that the far-right candidate, Norbert Hofer, might win too. In the end the Green Party candidate came through there.  You can check out what’s happening in other countries by clicking on the graphic below, which goes to a New York Times article.

 

(Click graphs to go to source.)

 

Not long ago, there were worries that far-right nationalist and anti-EU parties might sweep to power across Europe. Now, the reality of what it’s like to  actually be governed by someone like Donald Trump is frightening a lot of people off. Thank you for your example President Trump. (And those aren’t words you hear every day, even from his fans!)

 


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73 Responses to “Europe Benefits from the Trump Administration”

  1. I’m not sure how ‘true and fair’ the ‘Let’s give him a chance’ argument is. If it is an argument that we should judge the new administration on its actions and policies and less on preconceptions or even its words, or as a reminder that all new administrations have rough starts, that may be fair. But I think some use the ‘Let’s give him a chance’ argument to undermine criticism, to say, drop your opposition, approve his policies and see if they work. That is too dangerous.

    • j.a.m. says:

      Considering the possibility that one’s opposition might be mistaken, and that the alternative might work, seems rational, not dangerous.

      • I think there’s nothing more dangerous than for anyone with the power of the president to be surrounded by “Yes” men. Supporting someone shouldn’t require following them without question. If it does there’s a problem, just like there is with any kind of blind faith.

      • Mark R. says:

        I’m sure you considered that the Republican’s opposition to everything the Obama administration did was mistaken as well, right? You thought that maybe the alternative to Republican policies might work, right? You definitely considered supporting Obama as a rational decision, right?

        Oh, you didn’t? Thanks for the hypocrisy.

      • I Despair Of Unthinking Cretins says:

        Yes, appointing a climate change denier as head of the EPA might just turn out OK! Let’s give him a chance at least!

        Moron.

    • Yes, that’s true Jason. I certainly didn’t mean we shouldn’t criticize! 🙂

  2. j.a.m. says:

    I’ll gladly suffer Trump’s crazy tweets in lieu of this:
    https://mobile.twitter.com/potus44

    And I’ll offer a wager: In four years, USAians and Brexited Brits will be far happier and more prosperous than others who cast their lot with feckless politicos and fussbudgets, “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    • Ken Phelps says:

      Yeah, civility and literacy – eeewwwww.

    • Ken says:

      There’d be some tiny bit of cosmic justice in this disaster if people like you actually became victims of Trump, but I’ll wager you won’t suffer from him at all. Good for you and too bad for so many others.

  3. rickflick says:

    You’ve got a pretty solid thesis, Heather. It certainly would be smart for people in Europe to look agape at Trump and his shenanigans. His recently released budget proposal is frighteningly cruel and foolish. Increasing defense spending as if there’s a need to expand what’s already a bloated military. And paying for it by scrapping the small amounts used to provide the safety net and the arts and foreign aid and the EPA. As some have said about defunding the arts, what, then, are you defending with your military spending? You need a culture to defend if you’re going to defend something.

    What always surprises me in the polls is, how Trumps approval remains as high as it is. About 42% of Americans still think Trump is not mentally ill and a serious, ongoing, danger to the world. What are they weighting for? The men in white coats driving up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to strap him to a gurney and wheel him into an ambulance?

    I find myself wondering how my neighbor down the street who had Trump/Pence signs on his lawn can sleep at night, now that his wish has ended in our collective nightmare.

    But, you’re right. He is a living, breathing, warning to the rest of the world. He’s the, “Warning, Will Robinson!” of world politics. Now if only he could become the warning to America he should be.

    • I loved that show when I was a kid! What a lovely memory you’ve awoken. 🙂 I don’t know if I’m remembering correctly, but I recall the robot also saying, “Danger, Will Robinson.” Perhaps even more apt, whether I’m right or not!

  4. Nicolas says:

    Insightful post. The outcome of the Dutch election is particularly encouraging. As for Marine Le Pen, however, I wonder how you came to the conclusion that support for her is declining. She is suspected of embezzlement, she uses her european legal immunity to avoid being charged by national courts; still, her figures in the polls are at lowest steady, when not rising.

  5. Randall Schenck says:

    Why wouldn’t any country want a pathological liar for a leader? He is now showing further opposite positions with the release of his budget to congress. It throws the people who voted for him under the bus and continues to give more to the rich. Merkel is so much smarter than Trump, it is hard to see how she can stand to be in the same room with him – Especially considering what he already said about her. But she put it to him yesterday saying to his face, it would be so much better if we talk to each other than to talk about each other. I doubt that Trump even got it.

  6. It is often useful for people to experience just how awful extremist governments can be but, unfortunately, the electorate’s memory is short, rarely lasting an entire generation. The lessons of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia lasted a bit longer than usual but those lessons too seem to be forgotten by the present generation of voters who now seem to be turning again to extremists and populist demagogues promising to bring in a ‘new order’ and do away with the old once and for all.

    Hopefully, you are right Heather and America’s sometimes hilarious, sometimes depressing and all times more than a little bit frightening experience will hold lessons for those who needs their collective memories jogging.

    In the longer term, the big question is whether American democracy can ever recover, now it has been shown to be susceptible to populist extremism and what amounts to subversion by the political right in an unholy alliance with conservative Christianity.

    • You’re right of course about how short the electorate’s memory usually is. In this case though Trump still has most of his four years left to govern. He’ll probably get one or two things right in that time, but his plans aren’t encouraging.

      Rickflick mentioned the budget. From an international pov there are two things that stand out. First is stopping all spending on Climate Change issues. The rest of the world, especially Europe accepts the reality of Climate Change whatever their politics and denying that makes people look down on him.

      The stupidest of all is cutting foreign aid. The inability to recognize the value of soft diplomacy, especially when Russia and China will be in with a grin to take up the space left by the US, highlights Trump’s lack of depth in thinking and inability to think strategically. It’s a fair bet he’s never had the patience for a game like chess.

  7. Derek Freyberg says:

    “However, there is actually a good reason for modern Western countries to welcome young immigrants. We need them because we aren’t giving birth to enough people ourselves to look after retiring baby boomers.”
    All too true. If you look at graphs of population by age in various countries you see dangerous trends in many.
    Japan is the classic example: instead of a pyramid (many more children than elderly), they now have an increasingly aging population – something they, and the world, are well aware of.
    The US is benefited hugely by immigration, including illegal/undocumented/word-of-your-choice immigration: immigrants are young, and they have families, pay taxes (including Social Security), and are to some extent making up for lower birthrates in the non-immigrant population.
    But there is a concern that immigrants do not necessarily share the cultural values of the societies they move into; and I’m not sure how best to deal with that.

    • Katherine says:

      It’s rather interesting to see you positively refer to social democracy funding through immigration as a “pyramid” since pyramid schemes are a classic form of finacial fraud.

      Western immigration policy and its wider driver, neoliberal economic policy, are at odds with ecological reality. For all the “climate change” talk on the left, real engagement of sustainability is virtually absent.

      Japan (and South Korea) may have the last laugh, using automatic and robotics to fill labor gaps, thus continuing to enjoy a low-crime, low-corruption, high-trust society that values education, the environment, and artisanship.

      There’s also no acknowledgement of the ethics of the developed world taking some of the smartest and most motivated people from the developing world, already in serious trouble due to the burdens of rapid population growth.

    • nicky says:

      Yes, they should welcome immigrants, but that does not nescessarily mean they should welcome reactionary, misogynist, Wahabist, ‘West’-loathing Islam.

  8. Yakaru says:

    It’s certainly worth noting a positive, even if it can only be done with a good dose of irony.

    Putin is probably a greater threat in terms of propaganda and Realpolitik. Trump’s methods only work for him in situations where he gets to write the rules and declare which perceptions are real.

    Actually, Trump already helped the demented right by normalizing the public out-blurting of stupid bigoted drivel — otherwise the far right in Germany, for example would have had dared to complain about kids’ chocolate bars having pictures of brown skinned football stars, etc.

    Sadly, Neo-nazis are getting stronger. Where I live near the center of Berlin is safe, but the next districts out are already seeing Neo-nazis routinely target Jewish-owned businesses, and anyone at all who speaks out against them: cars torched, windows smashed, etc. The police often do nothing, or even tell residents not to “provoke” trouble (by speaking out or by being visibly socialist). These radicals haven’t (I think) felt encouraged by Trump directly, so much, as using the general climate in which bigotry and ignorance no longer seem unusual.

    • Alexandra says:

      However bleak a picture this article paints, in a sense it is a tiny ray of hope.If the real bottom line for Arabs is personal or tribal power rather than ideology, it may be possible to manipulate them in one way or another if we are just not total fools (as the leaders of the West are to.ta)dBotyom line still is that we non-Muslims may be able to buy some time, but we have to have some intrinsic goal that we are buying the time for.

  9. j.a.m. says:

    Alternative Take #1: There is no monolithic “far right”.

    “If there’s a ‘theme’ in Europe today, it’s a feeling of exhaustion with the old, technocratic elite, and a desire for a different politics…[T]he Brexit spirit, as we might call it, exists as much in parts of Holland as it does in Norfolk or Stoke or ‘the Brexit states’ in the US…” This spirit takes “different shapes in different places” (some more liberal than others). Trump is not Wilders.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/the-dutch-delusion/19575#.WM1zI4gtHh0

    • j.a.m. says:

      Alternative Take #2: A string of close results is due to splintering more than anything else.

      “The inconclusive results suggest that the most significant trend in Western democracies at the moment might not be the rise and fall of populist nationalism [but] the disintegration of political parties.”

      https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/dutch-election-wilders-populism/519813/?google_editors_picks=true

      • Yakaru says:

        I assume you see no irony in the fact that a Trump fan like yourself has a far better grasp of international politics, provides a more coherent and considered analysis, and goes to immeasurably greater lengths to provide sources for his arguments than does the current US president.

      • I haven’t read the article yet, but I’d suggest this take has a lot to do with USians not understanding how more representative democracies work. Also that you think your system is the world’s greatest democracy because that’s what you’re taught to believe. In the US you basically have two choices who to vote for, and in most states one party has such a stranglehold your vote barely matters. Parties are quite open and unapologetic about the extent to which they gerrymander too, which countries like NZ, Australia, and Western Europe consider a disgrace.

        Those of us in more representative democracies have real choice, and who we vote for makes a difference. In New Zealand for example, the Greens rarely win electorate seats but they consistently get around 10% of the vote. Therefore, they are allocated 10% of seats in parliament. Parties are required to cooperate in order to pass legislation. The extreme partisanship seen in the US is thankfully lacking in ours and other more representative systems and government is far more effective and popular.

        You think it’s normal for a politician to say whatever it takes to get elected, then do completely different stuff once in office. People holding Trump to campaign rhetoric are openly mocked! Under our system, politicians are expected to do what they said they’d do and they’re unlikely to be reelected if they break their promises.

        • j.a.m. says:

          Respectfully, if you get a chance to read the article I think you’ll agree this comment isn’t really germane. In any event, I would challenge your description of our system and its supposed ills, let alone the proposed remedies.

          • The article makes some good points j.a.m., and shows up some of the weaknesses in some more representative systems. As it states, and I agree, it’s too easy in Holland for parties to come and go and for just about anyone to get into parliament. I happen to think the US system which forces everyone into two parties that are constantly at each other’s throats is also a problem – it’s too far in the other direction. In our system a party has to get at least 5% of the vote (or one electorate seat) to get into parliament. I think 5% is perhaps slightly too high and the Electoral Commission has unsuccessfully recommended it be reduced to 4%. I wouldn’t want it to be as easy as Holland though I know some people here would prefer that. Allies of the currently ruling centre right National party want the %age increased to 10%, which would (naturally) be good for them.

            I don’t think any country has found the perfect system yet. When it was first instituted the US system was a brilliant innovation. However, it’s been resistant to change and seems to be viewed rather like a religious institution – unable to be criticized. Anyone who does criticize it is deemed un-American when the truth is (whether their ideas are good or not) they usually only want what is best for their country.

  10. rickflick says:

    A corollary to your thesis is that if Brexit was happening today, it wouldn’t pass. 😎

    • I agree. In fact, it’s only a matter of timing and a bad anti-Brexit campaign that got it through the first time imo. The opinion polls were constantly back and forth and it also became partly a referendum on the government.

  11. Katherine says:

    Given your forthright engagement of religious apologists like Reza Aslan, I was shocked by this claim:

    “Further, despite an increase in the number of Muslims in Germany from 2011-2016 of around 1.1 million, there have only been a tiny number of isolated incidents related to terrorism. The fearmongering of what could happen is simply not eventuating; most people are integrating reasonably well.”

    I’ll start by noting the conspciuous lack of evidence for the final claim. For example, what percentage of the new wave of migrants are working at any skill level? That’s just the tip of iceberg regarding the disconnect between neoliberal claims about immigration and the ecological, economic, and social reality.

    What troubles me in particular though is the reduction of Islam’s problematic aspects to “terrorism.” It is particularly shocking given your superb past examination of FGM and its link to Islam. To frame it is as a matter of “terrorism” sweeps culturally and religiously-linked violence and repression against women, Jews, LGBT people, etc. under the rug in my view. And we know how far some countries like Sweden go to prevent race or immigrant-status crime data from being made public.

    You go on to cite the disparity between public perception of the share of the populace that is Muslim and actual census numbers. An alternative take on that broad phenomenon is that it shows how Islam is so unusually disruptive to societies that it has a disproportionately negative impact and is disproportionately pandered to by the Regressive Left.

    • I agree that Islam is disproportionately pandered to by the regressive left, and I acknowledge that I haven’t provided any figures regarding my claims. My opinion is that like the US, things simply aren’t as bad as they’re portrayed to be. That’s not to say there aren’t problems, because there clearly are. Yakaru has outlined some of them in her comment, and as someone who currently lives in Germany she would have a better handle on it than I would. I am completely opposed to the attempted cover-up of sexual assault of women on new Year’s Eve by Muslim men in Germany for example. I firmly believe the way to stop such behaviour is to expose it. At the same time, some of those who complain about the appalling incident talk as if German men never sexually assault women. They do, and they don’t even have the (admittedly bad) excuse of being brought up in a culture that routinely treats women poorly.

      I agree that part of the problem may be that there appear to be more Muslims because of the trouble caused. However, trouble caused by Muslims is also more likely to be reported in the media which makes the problem appear greater than it is. It’s the same in the US where even many of those mot opposed to Mexican/Central American illegal immigration believe they commit crime in much greater numbers than the US population. That is not true. Another perception problem is that the average US citizen believes that 25% of the US budget is spent on foreign aid. It’s more like 1%. Perception is easily manipulated by politicians and the media. There’s a study somewhere about common perceptions all over the world which I’ll dig up and provide the link for later.

      • Yakaru says:

        There have indeed been serious problems for German women of all ages caused by the influx of tens of thousands of sexually inexperienced and deranged men. Friends of mine who I would say are very broadly experienced are suddenly reporting that they are being harassed merely for walking down the street, and must avoid certain areas. They now fear for the safety of their daughters.

        However, the rise of far right is a far greater threat. Friends of mine who live in the outer suburbs of Berlin have been followed and had their car windows smashed. Jewish businesses as well as leftist political organizations are regularly vandalized and the owners personally threatened. (The police tend to ignore it or instruct the victim to stop provoking them.) This is just among my small circle friends.

        This is quite different to the occasional random terror attack.

        (I’m a man, BTW — the handle is gender neutral, but I’m glad my writing is too!)

        • Sorry about getting your gender wrong! I did indeed make an assumption based on the way you write. My bad.

          It’s a problem that the police aren’t doing more. I don’t know what the police are like in Germany, but assuming they’re pretty good and generally have a positive image they can be leaders in helping to integrate immigrants and refugees. You can’t expect people to behave properly if no one tells them what the cultural norms for behaviour are. Things that are obvious to us may not be for people coming in from outside. It seems obvious to us that you don’t hassle people walking down the street, but it may not be in some cultures.

          Also, gangs of young men, whatever culture they come from, tend to behave badly when they get together. The police, while being culturally aware, shouldn’t treat this behaviour differently depending on who’s doing it. That’s the mistake the British police made that lead to Rotherham.

          • Yakaru says:

            I took it as a compliment! I only mentioned it because it seemed relevant to discussing women’s issues.

            The German police are generally excellent and minimal corruption — quite a surprise for me, coming from Australia! But the corruption that is there is deep and ideological.

            I find they they treat immigrants and members of various minorities extremely well. If anything they are too cautious, and far too burdened with bureaucracy — hence the guy who did the terrorist attack in Berlin should have been deported a dozen times or more for various crimes, but slipped through the system.

            I also understand that the Nazi movement was also secretly kept afloat by the East German Government, in case they would ever need a bunch of armed hoodlums to quell problems on the streets. This kind of corruption is of course very difficult to root out from a system.

            Muslims who have lived in Germany a while seem ok with the very free and sensible attitude to sexuality here. Recent arrivals from countries where women are veiled or badly treated are shocked to find women sunbathing naked in the parks in the middle of the city, etc, etc. (To be fair, the English tend to get heart failure over it too, though…)

      • Sorry it took me so long to do this. Here is a link the latest annual Index of Ignorance study. NZ wasn’t included in the latest one. The US came 5th (1st is the most ignorant) though there are probably many countries that weren’t studied that are more ignorant because their reality is warped by lack of access to information.

        https://www.slideshare.net/IpsosMORI/the-perils-of-perception-in-2016-ipsos-mori?ref=https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3817/Perceptions-are-not-reality-what-the-world-gets-wrong.aspx

  12. nicky says:

    Very clever and probably true.
    There is a very strong anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe, but the parties catering to that sentiment come with a lot of ‘unwanted baggage’. It is possible indeed that the Trump presidency disaster helped to bring that message home and makes/made people think twice.
    If the ‘left’ would only stop to smooch up to the Islamist fascistoids these extremist right wing parties would shrink to the fringe where they belong, I’d think.

  13. MNb says:

    “In the end, people chose the stability of maintaining the current government.”
    Not quite, given the loss of PvdA. And you have not noticed what the real problem is.

    http://www.frontaalnaakt.nl/archives/racist-populism-has-now-taken-on-the-guise-of-respectability-in-holland.html

    • You’re right that there has been a move to the right in Holland and I agree it’s a problem. It’s also a concern that Rutte started saying some pretty troubling things to appeal to Wilders supporters. However, I maintain that it’s a whole lot better to have him in charge than Wilders. It’s a matter of degree. I think that if Trump wasn’t messing up so badly, we would have Wilders with the most seats and in a position to form a governing coalition. That would be disastrous not just for Holland, but for Europe.

      The situation does need to be watched though – Wilders does have a stronger political position than before.

      • FH says:

        Honestly, I think this view, that “racist populism” is becoming mainstream is misguided and part of the problem.

        For the longest time, the political mainstream in Europe chose one tactic to deal with the issue of immigration. Keep silent about it. The general agreement was and is that Europe needs immigration for demographic and economic reasons and that immigration is also a humanitarian issue, but there also are problems with integration, social tensions, crime and burdens on the welfare state. But to speak about this in an open and candid manner was a political minefield. Any signal you sent on this issue, was seized upon by the political right as a denial of the problems of immigration (that people actually do observe in their daily lives) or by the political left (and by the predominantly left-wing cultural and media establishment) as a dog whistle to racists.

        The result is, that only two positions were openly and forcefully put forward: a naive multiculturalism that at it’s heart is relativist, denies all problems (or blames racism for them), and never allows criticism of another culture; and a xenophobic anti-immigration stance that’s often openly racist.

        Both positions are extremes that not many people actually hold. The mainstream parties always tried to maneuver between those two with actual policy but never clearly stated what they were doing and why. This went well as long as immigration was a side issue that didn’t concern that many voters. But now that, whether we like it or not, this actually has become an important issue, and the naive, relativist version of multiculturalism looks increasingly discredited, this isn’t a viable strategy anymore.

        Mainstream politicians, or those who want to become mainstream, now have to make clear what their own stances are on these issues are and some of their positions will naturally sound a bit like those we’ve only heard coming from the far-right up to now. That doesn’t signify a swing to the right but just a more honest and open way to deal with this. What will hopefully come of this is a more open and useful public debate about these issues that takes all the different aspects, economic, demographic, humanitarian, security, and so on into account, lead to a better balancing of competing interests and a lessening appeal of the right.

        The insinuations made by that article in the link above that even accused the leader of the Green Left of racism because his party kicked out an Erdogan supporter are completely wrongheaded and absurd. Erdogan is despised in Europe across all political lines for good reasons! He’s an authoritarian Islamist who clearly is trying to establish a dictatorship in Turkey. Jailing journalists, abolish an independent judiciary, re-instating the death penalty, centralizing power by diminishing the role of the parliament and creating a presidential system, with him as president of course, he has openly done or is working on all of these. At the same time he’s insulting Europe and Europeans, and openly tries to meddle in internal affairs to create social unrest. A democratic European party is absolutely right not to want his supporters among their ranks. I’m glad that the left in Europe is taking a principled stand on this and to accuse them of racism for it is the worst kind of regressive dishonesty.

  14. nicky says:

    As an aside, I note that of the dozen ‘most corrupted’ countries, eight are Islamic. That is a two-third majority in that distinguished group 😕.
    Not a single Islamic country is in the top 20. Only 3 (United Emirates, Qatar and Brunei), make it to the top 50.

  15. Steven Carr says:

    ‘However, there is actually a good reason for modern Western countries to welcome young immigrants. We need them because we aren’t giving birth to enough people ourselves to look after retiring baby boomers.’

    Roughly how many of the million plus people who came to Germany now have jobs?

    Is it higher than the number who now have a criminal record?

  16. Mike says:

    Hopefully the resurgence of the left will see the end of this far right Government we suffer under in the UK

    • I personally believe that Labour can’t win the next election as long as Jeremy Corbyn is the leader. I don’t know enough about her to be sure, but Harriet Harman seemed much better to me. The Lib Dems need to get their act together too. And it would help if there was some reform to make parliament more representative – the Conservatives dominate there much more than they should according to how much of the vote they got.

  17. FH says:

    I generally agree with the premise that Trump (and Brexit!) have changed public opinion in Europe somewhat, but there are a few things I’d like to note.

    First, fears that Wilders would become PM in the Netherlands, Le Pen would become the French president and the AfD would unseat Merkel always were overblown. It was never going to happen. People got anxious about this possibility purely because the Brexit vote and the Trump vote went against the conventional wisdom and in favor of the hard right. So the fear was that this would be happening in (continental) Europe as well. But they ignored that for the worst case scenarios to come true in Europe, the electorate wouldn’t have to change their mind in favor of the hard right a bit. They would have had to have massive, never before seen mood swing!

    In the Netherlands, the Parliament has 150 seats. A majority of those, so 76, are needed to form a government. No party in the history of Dutch democracy ever achieved anything close to that. Even the wildest predictions didn’t have Wilders’ PVV at more than 40 or so seats. That means he’d have to find partners he could govern with and he’s pretty isolated in the Dutch political landscape. The probability of him getting into government was always slim, the probability of him becoming PM next to nothing, the probability of him being able to push through some of his more outlandish policy ideas about immigration and Muslims absolutely nil. In the end Wilders still won substantially, as expected but maybe, probably due to the Trump and Brexit shock, didn’t confirm the worst fears. Personally I think another factor that decisively influenced this outcome was the current Premier’s uncompromising stance towards Erdogan. That probably made a lot of potential Wilders voters think twice and give him another chance.

    The situation in France is a bit more dangerous than in the Netherlands but also quite safe. Le Pen might win in the first round of the presidential elections, which means she would have to get somewhat more than a quarter of the vote. That looked likely to happen until recently and still is a distinct possibility, but that’s no more than a symbolic victory. In the second round she has to convince more than 50% of the electorate and France has a tested tradition of left and moderate right standing together in such cases to make sure the hard right doesn’t get into power. One more danger was that if the only credible challenger would have been Fillon, himself an ultra-conservative, a lot on the left would have had a hard time choosing between his neo-liberal, traditionalist Catholic attitudes but somewhat (not much) more tolerant attitude towards immigrants, and Le Pen’s more “socialist” welfare-state policies and her xenophobia. But now that Macron, an eminently reasonable liberal leftist who not only the vast majority on the left will be ok with but who can also make appeals to the liberal right, has emerged as the real challenger and Fillon is collapsing, my personal bet is that Le Pen will lose in the first round already.

    In Germany the situation is altogether different. Those who feared that the AfD could mount a credible challenge to Merkel have always been deluded. The AfD, in contrast to Wilders, Le Pen and the Austrian Freedom Party, is very new on the political scene and still in the process of consolidating itself and presenting a clear front to the public. The fact that they are there at all in the static German political landscape and are polling well over 10% is absolutely significant but there never was any danger whatsoever that they could take on Merkel in this election. One of the main reasons why they aren’t rising in the polls anymore is, apart from Trump and Brexit, also that with Martin Schulz, a credible leader of the left has emerged who makes the race between the two major parties interesting again. Media attention has mostly shifted from the AfD to the unexpected rise of the Social Democrats.

    Lastly Austria, the only Western European country where the far right candidate actually had a credible shot to win an important election (Nothing like the other’s though because the Austrian president is mainly a figurehead with little power to change day-to-day politics). A few things should be said about that as well. The first round of the Austrian elections came within the most tumultuous part of the refugee crisis when the electorate basically was unanimously of the opinion that the establishment parties were incompetent. When those establishment parties then put forward to extremely establishment (not to mention boring) candidates, they were punished for it and both their candidates collapsed in the first round in the presidential elections. That’s how we (I’m Austrian, btw) ended up with two candidates from completely opposite ends of the political spectrum. Both candidates were pretty much the most reasonable people with the most mass appeal those parties have to offer, however. The right wing candidate seemed to do much better in the first round because the Green candidate also had to share his part of the vote with a very respected former Supreme Court justice who ran as an independent. After she dropped out after the first round and supported the Green candidate, those votes went to him. Still, it looked much to close for comfort but even without the Trump shock, the right winger couldn’t beat the green candidate in the (annulled) first second round. After the first round there was a repositioning of the mainstream parties who now put people in charge who are respected and seem competent. Both of them (openly in the case of the Social Democrat, tacitly in the case of the conservative) supported the Green candidate. In the final election then, the Green party candidate won handily.

    Basically, my conclusion from all this that, yes, Trump’s election and manifest incompetence matter for the fortunes of the right in Europe but not as much as some people think. They are still going pretty strong but there is and was a clear majority of people standing against them. The main reason why they don’t seem to be on the winning track so much anymore is more due to credible challenges within the various countries (Ruppe in the Netherlands, Macron in France, Schulz in Germany, Van der Bellen and Kern in Austria) than due to the Trump effect. Brexit seems to me to be more of a factor than Trump (at least in Austria) because it has lead to a rallying of pro-EU forces from various political camps who constitute a clear majority. Anti-EU sentiment and especially the wish to hold our own EU-exit referendum is at an almost historical low, depriving the right of one of their most important talking points.

    • Excellent and interesting summary of the full situation. Thank you. I should add that I never meant to imply that Trump was the only factor turning voters in Europe away from the far right – there is never one thing in these situations. It’s always more complex than that. He is though, I think, a big factor in making people uneasy about voting for similar politicians.

      • FH says:

        I hope that I didn’t give the impression that I thought you meant to say that Trump was the only reason and, as I said, I agree that his election and performance are important factors.. I just wanted to add what – in my view – has had just as much or even more of an impact.

    • Yakaru says:

      As a footnote, people in the US might want to notice that Martin Schulz has just been calmly and quietly confirmed as leader of the SPD by a calm and sensible party vote — not a year and a half of theatrical campaigning and public humiliation of a competing colleague!

      • Yes. I understand the reasons and history behind the way they choose a candidate in the US, but to me it seems an expensive waste of time and money. Imo the focus should be on the actual presidential election. I think the current process means good candidates on both sides are put off running and a candidate’s ability to raise money is too high on the list of priorities. I think the raising money part should be up to the party. Because she’s so good at raising money is why Nancy Pelosi is still leader of the House. She certainly isn’t the best voice of the party anymore.

      • j.a.m. says:

        Getting 100% of the vote certainly makes for a “calm and sensible” election! (Though it seems to miss the point of having an election in the first place.) German engineering is better applied to cars than democracy.

        While we in the USA do need to find a better system for selecting a president (a point that gets lost in all the anti-Trump hate), going back to the old days when party establishments annointed nominees with no popular input is untenable in a digital, post-institutional age. We never cared much for parties anyway. As 2016 showed for those who needed a lesson, parties are on the way out, and the genie’s not going back in the bottle.

        Which brings us back to the theme of the original post. If hysterical hatred of Trump serves to tighten the establishment’s grip on power, that will be a shame.

        • There are some whose reaction to Trump is hysterical. Otoh, I also think it’s dangerous to normalize someone like him.

          He was elected legally, though I do think Comey’s announcement just before the election about “new evidence” which actually didn’t exist kept Democrats at home on election day.

          I’ve always said that the problem with getting rid of Trump is that USians would have the extreme conservatism of Pence to deal with. It’s always been true though that Pence is better internationally as he’s more stable and you can mostly trust his word (even if you REALLY don’t like those words).

          However, the extremists are in control even without Pence in charge so getting rid of Trump wouldn’t mean a lurch to the right. That’s already in train. DeVos, Pruitt, Carson, Mnuchin, Mulvaney etc. It’s not looking good.

          There’s a UN conference about women’s rights going on at the moment and Trump has appointed the Heritage Foundation and C-Fam to be part of the US delegation. I don’t like Heritage’s social policy and don’t agree with some other things, but at least they’re a valid organisation. But C-Fam! Talk about extremists. US women should be horrified to be represented by them. It’s another example that Trump is no better than Pence when it comes to social policy.

          • j.a.m. says:

            It seems a bit churlish to get all sanctimonious about Mr. Trump’s idiosyncrasies in a day and age when *everything* has been “normalized”, and declared a “right” and an “identity”.

            You’ve captured the Democrats’ dilemma: Whether to demonize Trump as uniquely evil, or to demonize him as merely a Republican. Any other Republican would (and does) get 80-to-90 percent of the same flak. After two terms of Obama’s extremist appointments and policies, a sharp contrast was inevitable.

          • This chap is so enamoured of Trump he thinks he will change the divorce laws in his favour. I don’t think it’s going too far to describe that as delusional.

          • j.a.m. says:

            You’re dead right on that score–he’s delusional and flunked civics. The president and Congress have no say on divorce laws, and federal courts would only hear some kind of Constitutional claim.

  18. nicky says:

    Have been trying to read up a bit on Wilders’ PVV. The party does not strike one as really extremist right wing, in the sense that there is no trace of anti-semitism, no clear misogynistic narrative, nor a promotion of religious values. Could not find clear stances on things like abortion, health care and press freedom. It is very much an anti-Islamic immigration party, but Wilders is careful to point out he is anti-Islamic, but not anti-muslim. He is known to be opposed to eg. France’s ‘Front National’.
    They are also very much opposed to incorporating Turkey in the EU, and are quite anti-EU in general, but have no proposal to leave the EU. (no “NEXIT’).
    I don’t say the PVV is unjustly maligned as extremist, like eg Ayaan or Maajid are, but it is not your house and garden type of fascist party either. Some even consider it’s economic policies left wing, but I could not find details on actual proposed policies.
    Must say I don’t really know what to think of that party.

    • One of their policies is to close all mosques. That’s simply stupid, no matter how anti-Islam anyone is. It labels all Muslims as extremists and is therefore not just anti-Islam, it’s anti-Muslim. There is a growing number of moderate Muslims and they aren’t helped by the Geert Wilders of this world. It also makes people dig their toes in and be more likely to engage in violence – it encorages both extremes.

      One of the things that really pi$$es me off about those on the far right is when they use policies in places like Saudi Arabia to justify suggesting something similar in a Western-style democracy. e.g. “It’s illegal to be atheist in Saudi Arabia and they give all religions except Islam a hard time, so why shouldn’t we ban mosques?” “DAESH tortures prisoners and kills non-combatants so we should be able to torture them and not have to follow rules of engagement.” Such comments disgust me and we hear them too often from the far right. They’re the corollary of the far-left excusing every bit of violence etc by Palestine, including teaching kindergarten kids to hate and kill Jews. We have to maintain the moral high ground. Someone else’s bad behaviour is never an excuse for us to behave badly.

      • nicky says:

        Yes, that argument is on the level of: you are a thief, rapist , murderer, so now I can be too. Disgusting and stupid indeed.
        And yes, words and actions of politicians: proposing to close all mosques is stupid, probably counter-productive and does absolutely nothing for ex-Muslims, a group that needs all our support.

    • Dick Veldkamp says:

      The main thing for the PVV is “the imminent islamisation of the Netherlands” *)

      Wilders is originally from the conservative party (VVD), so he has the usual views: there is not really a climate or environmental problem, taxes are theft (especially the road tax), refugees should be kept out, not a cent for development aid, more money for police and defense. He mentions a few “leftist” things: pension age back to 65, more money for health care.

      However the party’s program is only 1 page A4 in total, so it is rather unclear how serious this all is.

      For what it’s worth, over the past government period the PVV tended to vote right wing.

      *)This is total nonsense of course, considering that only 5% or so of the population is muslim, and muslims are in no position of power at all – personally I think that there is larger “danger” that muslims in the Netherlands will be de-islamised, especially since integration is proceeding reasonably well.

      • rickflick says:

        ” integration is proceeding reasonably well.”

        I think that’s the critical issue. After a generation or two, they will become more Dutch than the Dutch will become Islamicized.

      • I also think that far more Muslims will be Europeanized long-term, especially if Muslims are treated with normal respect for fellow human beings.

        Western-style open representative democracy and personal freedom are actually the best systems of government and society the world currently has. Living like that it is only natural that a majority will soon appreciate it.

        • Ken says:

          Surely that’s a bit optimistic for people steeped in religious dogma. I think we Westerners find it difficult to believe most wouldn’t prefer our freedoms if only they experienced them for a while, but that appears not to be the case.

      • nicky says:

        I disagree it is total nonsense. After all, Muslims is the fastest growing group (‘demographic’?) in Western Europe. For countries like the Netherlands, Belgium and France it is close to 6% at present.
        One of the many problems -as mentioned earlier- is that the majority are not refugees, but came to Western Europe as ‘cheap labour’ in the 60’s and 70’s. They have not a pre-existing tendency to embrace ‘Western’ values, like -one would think- many refugees do.
        The ideology of ‘multiculturalism’ also did not help integration. Self imposed ‘ghetto-isation’ is another one. The spread of Saudi subsidized Salafism, with concomitant contempt and even hatred of ‘western’ society, only added and still adds.
        And then the leftist stand to hold Muslims to lower standards regarding women and human rights, freedom of expression, etc. only worsens the situation.
        I think it was Sam Harris who first pointed out that the latter is in fact the true bigotry.
        So, no, I’m not very optimistic the Muslim population of Western Europe is close to ‘de-Islamise’ and subscribe to democratic enlightenment values any time soon

        • Dick Veldkamp says:

          I stand by my post for the Netherlands. Although the situation is not perfect and full integration will probably take a generation, we see that immigrants are catching up in education and the labour market. Also in politics (e.g. the chairperson of parliament is of Moroccan descent, as is the mayor of Rotterdam), sports and entertainment.

          Yes, muslims are 5% of the population in the Netherlands. However it is likely to stay that way, because the number of children per woman has fallen quite quickly to the national average level (you can look up these statistics).

          So no, there is no danger of the Netherlands being islamised in the foreseeable future.

          • nicky says:

            Swallows and summers, these mayors. If even half of the Dutch Muslims would integrate nicely, we still have a 2.5-3% of the population that despises and hates the society they are living in. That is not negligible. I wonder why they would integrate after a generation now, when so few have done after 2 to 3 generations.
            Nevertheless, how do the Dutch say? Ek help jou hoop!

  19. Dick Veldkamp says:

    Dear Heather,

    Much though I would like your hypothesis to be true, and credit the voter with that kind of intelligence, I am afraid I have to disagree (respectfully of course).

    At least for the Netherlands I think there is no evidence that there is a relation with Trump. The average voter here has hardly any idea that the lunatics have taken over the asylum in the US, not least because reporting on US politics is still very much “Democrats and Republicans disagree’, rather than ‘Trump is stark raving mad and his administration is a bunch of lying idiots’.

    Also there are simpler explanations for the Dutch election result (Wilders not winning big):
    – there is some general evidence that fringe parties like that never get more than 15% of the vote because most people do not like extremists;
    – people are getting tired of Wilders. When you hear his extreme views so many times, it gets boring;
    – people see that Wilders gets nothing done in Parliament and almost all other parties have ruled out cooperation with him;
    – The Conservatives (VVD) and the Christian Democrats (CDA) have by and large taken over Wilders’s views, so you can now vote for a ‘respectable party’ with the same bad ideas.

    So applying Occam’s Razor, I have to provisionally reject your explanation (sorry!).

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