By Robert A. Vella
Before getting to today’s editorial which some readers might find disconcerting, let’s examine the results of the important European Union elections within the context of rising populism around the world.
E.U. parliamentary elections
The EU Parliament will be much more fragmented over the next five years with the established centrist bloc set to fall short of securing a majority at this week’s election, early results show.
The current projection from the European parliament is that center-right and center-left blocks will end up with a total of 329 seats out of 751.The lack of a majority for the centrist bloc — the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the center-left Socialist and Democrats (S&D) which has held power in Brussels for several decades — could further complicate decision-making at the European Union.
Pro-EU parties will hold onto two-thirds of the seats at the EU Parliament, but their nationalist opponents have also produced solid results.Italy’s anti-immigration Lega party has reportedly secured 28 seats, essentially doubling its level of national support.
European shares climbed on Monday, as an EU Parliament election showed Europhile parties still performing reasonably well despite a rise in support for nationalists.
SOUTHAMPTON, England, May 26 (Reuters) – Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party stormed to victory in a European election, riding a wave of anger at the failure of Prime Minister Theresa May to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union.
Across England and Wales, voters turned away in anger from May’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn, which had sought a softer version of Brexit.
The Brexit Party came first while explicitly pro-EU parties – the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Change UK – were, combined, a few percentage points behind.
Such a severe election drubbing for the two major parties will stiffen a belief among leading Conservatives vying to replace May that they must go for a more decisive split from the EU.
But it will also increase pressure on Labour’s Corbyn to come out explicitly for a second referendum on EU membership.
Elections in India and the European Union in recent days have resulted in gains for politicians with strident nationalist messages. In some EU countries the out-of-touch elites are savaged. The middle ground is crumbling.
Across the world there has been a consistent shift to the political right, as voters abandon the center-left and centrist parties, which once held power in many democracies, after years of austerity and economic downturn.
While the trend has often been portrayed as the rise of the right, more often than not it is caused by a collapse in support for center-left parties, many of which were the traditional parties of government in their respective countries.
“The rise of the populist right has coincided with a catastrophe for the center-left,” William Galston, a governance expert at the center-right Brookings Institute, wrote last year. He pointed to the decline of France’s Socialists, Labour in the Netherlands, Italy’s Democratic Party and the Czech Social Democrats.
“Even in Scandinavia, long a bulwark of social democracy, the once-dominant center-left parties are in decline, and nationalist parties with nativist tendencies are growing,” Galston noted. “Under pressure, center-right parties have felt compelled to adjust by shifting toward populist policies and rhetoric.”
Democrats’ strategy in the U.S.
Recently, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has pushed back against observations that the Democratic Party which she now leads has become more progressive and populist and that calls for impeaching President Trump are intensifying. Last month in a 60 Minutes interview, she said this about those members of her caucus:
“By and large, whatever orientation they came to Congress with, they know we have to hold the center, that we have to go down the mainstream.”
More recently, Pelosi told The New York Times that Democrats would be more successful against Trump not by impeaching him but by embracing centrism (see: Pelosi Warns Democrats: Stay in the Center or Trump May Contest Election Results).
The message Pelosi is sending warrants close scrutiny. Is she saying that Democrats should just tolerate Trump’s egregious abuses of power, his assaults on constitutional norms and the rule of law, his proven criminal conduct, and his alliances with hostile foreign powers? Is she saying that Trump will accept the 2020 election results as long as Democrats play nice? Is she saying that centrism is a wining electoral strategy when centrists have been losing election after election all across the globe including the 2016 presidential election which put Trump in the White House? What possible reason could she have to send such a defeatist message? Is she really being truthful with us? What is it that she is not telling us?
Obviously, such profound questions trigger a lot of concerned speculation. Here are two notable comments by fellow bloggers the second of which addressed centrist fears of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister in the U.K.:
“Thanks for your expert opening analysis of where we now stand in our continual slide towards becoming a totalitarian state. Both the GOP and Democrats are putting the survival of their parties before that of the entire nation. They are playing a dangerous game with our lives. But then again, to the corporate elite, we the 99 Percent don’t count. Our sheer numbers make us disposable entities.”
“What can we conclude when so-called “moderates” side with the far-right over the center-left?”
“On the face of it the right/far-right don’t represent so much of a threat to the vested interests continued wealth and power accumulation. The vested interests in US/UK have long feared a democratic socialist Gov’t, especially if that Gov’t is successful and begins to really address the issues of inequality, climate etc. They absolutely cannot allow any Gov’t anywhere that doesn’t fit the accepted consensus of how things should be done and they’ve managed to do that quite successfully so far, if the wider public do finally understand that another world is possible the tiny minority that have done very nicely thank you, well their gravy train, fueled by greed & division would be permanently derailed.”
In 2016, centrist Hillary Clinton lost sufficient support among Democratic and independent populists to shift the Electoral College vote towards Trump. Will history repeat in 2020?
In other news
WASHINGTON — Real estate mogul Franklin Haney contributed $1 million to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee and all he’s got to show for the money is the glare of a federal investigation.
The contribution from Haney, a prolific political donor, came as he was seeking regulatory approval and financial support from the government for his long-shot bid to acquire the mothballed Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in northeastern Alabama. More than two years later, he still hasn’t closed the deal.
Haney’s hefty donation to Trump’s inaugural committee is being scrutinized by federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating the committee’s finances. Their probe is focused in part on whether donors received benefits after making contributions.
AUSTIN — Texas lawmakers stripped $100 million in border surge spending from a state budget bill on Sunday, after Democrats balked at the last-minute addition made at Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s request.
There was little debate over the issue. A top House budget writer said the money was redundant, since the state budget already allocates $800 million to border security efforts.
The bill would have taken $100 million from the rainy day fund and given it to Abbott’s office “for surge operations necessary to secure the border.” Abbott’s office would have had to seek reimbursement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.