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

From:  Centrist bloc loses majority in EU vote as Greens and euroskeptics gain, early results show

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.

Euroskeptic groups in France and the U.K. look to have held the gains they saw in 2014 but that said, the results on Monday morning suggested a strong showing for Liberal and Green parties.

From:  Europe stocks close higher in the wake of EU elections; Renault jumps 12% on Fiat merger talks

European shares climbed on Monday, as an EU Parliament election showed Europhile parties still performing reasonably well despite a rise in support for nationalists.

From:  UK ever more polarized as Brexit Party storms to EU vote win

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.

From:  Elections in EU and India tilt world’s largest democracies towards populism

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.:

Rosaliene Bacchus on May 25, 2019 at 1:23 pm said:

“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.”

Robert A. Vella on May 26, 2019 at 5:37 pm asked:

“What can we conclude when so-called “moderates” side with the far-right over the center-left?”

Mark Catlin on May 26, 2019 at 6:29 pm replied:

“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

From:  A hefty donation to Trump’s inaugural comes under scrutiny

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.

From:  $100 million in border surge funding stripped from state budget

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.

7 thoughts on “The Center holds on for dear life: The E.U. parliamentary elections, and Democrats’ strategy in the U.S.

  1. I am beginning to absolutely hate the word “nationalist”. I do not, and never will understand the ideology that says the lighter one’s skin is, the more valuable he is. Most of the ‘populist’ movement is based on bigotry, pure and simple. To call it ‘nationalism’ is simply sugar-coating an ugly word: racism. And it is not just in the U.S., but as you point out, is happening throughout Europe as well. Why? Refugees, immigrants .. cannot let them bring their culture, their religion into our nations now, can we? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sigh… I’m afraid we won’t extricate ourselves from this existential predicament because we have difficulty seeing the entire picture. Nationalism, racism, xenophobia… these things have always been with us. The question is why and how it has moved into the political “mainstream” as Angela Merkel noted yesterday.

      To answer those questions, which this blog has focused on intensely in recent years, we must look broadly at what’s been happening in western democracies. From one of the articles cited in this post:

      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.

      Masses of middle class workers have lost the prosperity they once enjoyed due to decades of neoliberal economic policies embraced by the centrist, corporate establishment. Understandably, they got very angry. Anger leads to hate, and hate leads to fear – to paraphrase a pop culture icon. Amidst this negative sentiment, such people also watched outsiders move into their communities as globalization increased. Resentment was a natural consequence.

      The prevailing establishment first ignored and then dismissed their plight, saying that people must adapt to social change by themselves. The stage had been set for assertive leaders who disingenuously told these people exactly what they wanted to hear. Brexit came, then Trump came, and then more far-right authoritarians came. Who is to blame?

      There’s much more to this disturbing story too which I can’t cover in a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I mostly agree with you, but I think those masses of middle class workers actually lost their conscience … their sense of responsibility for the greater good, as they seek more, more, and more for themselves. Perhaps I am only a cynic, but I see greed and arrogance (white supremacy) at the core of it all. Who is to blame? All of us, I suppose, for one reason or another. Who will ‘fix this’? Well, time has nearly run out, if the scientists are correct, and I believe they are, so my best guess is that mankind is going to self-extinct and take the rest of the world with him in his supreme arrogance.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Yes, time is quickly running out. If humankind does end up destroying itself, then this debate is utterly futile. In the meantime, this debate is not only crucial but also imperative if we are to have any chance of stopping the world’s descent into fascism and other authoritarian forms.

          This isn’t about differing opinions. My subjective opinions are valueless here. This is about our collective inability to see the reality around us objectively. Why do we struggle so? Because facts often contradict our personal worldviews, those beliefs we cling to for emotional security. Reality can be brutally painful, and many people simply cannot accept it. Regardless, we must try.

          If the masses of middle class workers disaffected by the centrist political establishment “lost their conscience” and became greedy racists over the last decade or so, then please explain how this happened. What societal mechanisms could achieve such a broad effect to change the political ideology of hundreds of millions of culturally and ethnically diverse people across the U.S., Europe, India, Australia, and elsewhere? Obviously, something did. I’m not religious, so the notion that Satan waved his mighty hand and turned all these people to evil seems absurd to me.

          In your own state, please explain how an ideological progressive and populist like Senator Sherrod Brown could have easily won reelection (as he did in 2018) in a state that has been trending Republican for several years. Did he pander to Ohioans’ greed and racism? Certainly not. Brown himself attributed his victory to honestly addressing the economic concerns of working class citizens. Did centrist presidential candidate Hillary Clinton address those concerns in 2016? No, and she lost to Trump. Her percentage of the vote in Ohio was about 10 points less than what Brown garnered two years later. That is a remarkable statistic.

          If it is true that the masses of middle class workers lost their moral conscience intrinsically on their own accord, then how can we make them rediscover it? Do we just appeal to their better instincts and hope for the best? How effective can an altruistic message be in a political environment based on anger and self-interest? Or, do we continue to demonize these people in the vain hope of shaming them into moral consciousness?

          Liked by 2 people

        • You make excellent points and have given me much food for thought. At the moment, I have no answers to your questions … I wish I did. But you are right in what you say, especially that continuing to simply hope that if we point out the fallacy of their way of thinking, they will be shamed into more consciousness is about as likely to happen as me sprouting wings tomorrow. Thanks for your thoughts on this, and I now have some thinking to do.

          Liked by 1 person

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