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The rise of populism, mostly right-leaning, is the most important European political development of the 21st century. It has eaten into support for traditional center-right parties while dealing a knock-out blow to the center-left. The result is the end of the center-left/center-right duopoly that has dominated European politics since the end of World War II. Party systems throughout Europe have fragmented, and most have shifted toward the right. And the rise of populism has opened the door to increased Russian influence throughout Europe. [source]

In looking at global geopolitics over the last five years, it appears that the world has moved in a significant way to the right. This adds to what I have previously said on this subject. Let’s look at some examples of this:

  • Russia has moved from a state communist nation to a fascistic one that has embraced right-wing orthodox religion in order to garner and maintain a social and moral stranglehold on the population.
  • Hungary, under Viktor Orban (securing a third term in office by a landslide victory), in answer to being on the edge of Europe and having to deal with migration issues, has embraced a right-wing government and politik, also embracing conservative Christian ideals.
  • Poland has elected a right-wing government (Law and Justice Party) that has stayed on the3 wrong side of liberal values.
  • Latvia appears to be favouring the pro-Russian party in their polls and election. There is some interesting discussion, in these areas, about what defines left and right.
  • The rise of AfD in Germany, as well as groups like Pegida.
  • A far-right party in neighbouring Austria has enjoyed even greater success than the AfD. Last year saw the Freedom Party (FPÖ) become junior partner in a coalition with the government of Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
  • The rise of UKIP in the UK, including groups like Britain First and the English Defence League (EDL).
  • Sweden swung to the right in their recent elections.
  • France has continually increased support for Le Pen’s Front National.
  • Italy has shifted considerably to the right in their elections and appointments.
  • In Slovenia,  the anti-immigrant Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) was the largest party in this year’s general election.
  • Immigration rules in Denmark are among Europe’s toughest, reflecting the power of the right-wing Danish People’s Party, who are the second largest party in parliament.
  • “Populist governments in Hungary and Poland have intensified their efforts to weaken core liberal institutions such as a free press, independent civil society, and constitutional courts.” [source]
  • In last year’s election in the Netherlands, the anti-immigration Freedom Party of Geert Wilders saw a big increase in their number of seats.
  • And then there’s the States. Trump and his nationalistic drive to “make America great again” has seen the country dismantle all the vaguely left-leaning policies (Obama centrist politics!) And institute a whole raft of right-leaning ideals and ideologies. The two-party system seems to have polarised even further (although, this started some decades back with the advent of the Neocon movement).
  • Brazil seems to be copying Trump and his nationalistic agenda, with rightwinger 15 points ahead as he rallies supporters with ‘make Brazil great again’ slogan.
  • And on and on. [Some sourcing from here]

The Economist has shown this shift in another way:

An essay in Foreign Affairs states:

Our findings were startling: traditional parties of both the left and the right have become much more authoritarian since 1980 (see Figure 1). In fact, on liberal-authoritarian issues the average center-left party today is about as authoritarian as the average radical-right party was in the early 1980s. On these issues, 40 of the 53 mainstream parties in the study moved to the right over the period in question….

The shift of the center toward the right, however, does not mean that the mainstream and the radical right have converged or that the radical right has moderated its stance to any appreciable degree. Instead, radical-right parties have moved even further to the right, increasing their distance from the mainstream over time. The radical right has thus become more distinctive, while the party system as a whole has shifted to the right.

What is interesting is that the rise in some of these groups includes from the working classes that would, at another time, have been left-wing unionists. Where workers’ rights and working conditions would once have been the defining factor in old-school identity politics, this has now been trumped by cultural identity and immigration. This is a crucial shift. I don’t think people are very good at having nuanced politics that say something like, “Look, my views are multi-faceted and cover a massive range of areas, and this party here best covers my needs, but it is not perfect and there are many areas that affect my life and politics that this party I am going to vote for fails at.”

I think we live in an all-or-nothing period of letting one prominent political or moral issue define who we are politically so that we ignore or bury all other issues that may contradict, or sit on opposite political sides to, that initial position.

The States is a classic example of this at present. You only have to look at the SCOTUS nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to see this. The Republican/Democrat divide exemplifies the single issue politics that is rife. Abortion appears to most commonly be that single issue that has massively distracted people from policies and politics that actually negatively affect them. This means that, through cognitive dissonance, the average Republican voter forgets all of Donald Trump’s moral misdemeanours (his affairs, his lying, his own views on abortion and so on), ignores the fact that repealing Medicaid might well negatively affect them, ignores the fact that massive tax cuts appear to mainly benefit the top 1% and not them, so on and so forth.

After all, a survey now shows that “White Christians More Likely to Consider Supporting Candidates Accused of Sexual Harassment“…

Under mounting pressure from a more extreme threat further to the right, centre-right parties have felt compelled to adjust by shifting toward populist policies and rhetoric.

Hopefully, this short piece will have set the scene for my next one that will look at why this rise has taken place, in more detail.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...