If you’ve been paying attention, you could see this coming a mile away. Although I’ve forecast huge political shifts in the West for years now, I made my strongest prediction on European changes late last year following the Paris terror attacks.
In the post, A Message to Europe – Prepare for Nationalism I wrote:
Actions have consequences, and people can only be pushed so far before they snap. I believe the Paris terror attacks will be a major catalyst that will ultimately usher in nationalist type governments in many parts of Europe, culminating in an end of the EU as we know it and a return to true nation-states. Although I think a return to regional government and democracy is what Europeans need and deserve, the way in which it will come about, and the types of governments we could see emerge, are unlikely to be particularly enlightened or democratic after the dust has settled.
A few months later, Brexit shocked the world when the British public voted to leave the European Union. While this event represents a moment of huge historical significance, Brexit is just the start of a much, much bigger trend.
As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week in a very important article:
BERLIN—Growing populist forces shook Europe’s pillar of stability this weekend, as an unprecedented defeat for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in Germany signaled more political tumult across the continent.
For the first time in postwar history, Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats finished behind a populist challenger to their political right in a state election. Riding a wave of discontent with her migration policy, the Alternative for Germany—a three-year-old anti-immigrant party—beat the chancellor’s party in her home state, spurring her allies to debate Monday whether she should change course.
Beyond Germany, more political crossroads are approaching that could jolt Europe—as the migrant influx, terrorism fears, and antiestablishment sentiment complicate the recovery from years of economic problems.
A week from Sunday, an election in the city-state of Berlin is likely to deliver Ms. Merkel another setback, according to opinion polls. Two weeks after that, polls show voters in Austria’s second-round presidential election could crown postwar Western Europe’s first right-wing, populist head of state.
Later in the fall, Italy faces a constitutional referendum seen as an up-or-down vote on Premier Matteo Renzi’s pro-European government. And in December, Spain could face its third parliamentary elections in a year if its troubles in forming a government persist—a symptom of the same political fragmentation and antiestablishment sentiment dogging much of Europe.
Every populist success in one European country appears to be emboldening the populists in the next. “That which was impossible yesterday has become possible,” French nationalist leader Marine Le Penwrote in a Twitter post late Sunday after the initial results of the populist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, came in. “The patriots of the AfD have swept away the party of Ms. Merkel. All my congratulations!” Polls show Ms. Le Pen is likely to make it into the second round when France votes for a president in the spring.
The precise contours of the political debate differ across Europe, but the mounting disaffection with the establishment—often in favor of immigration, greater EU integration, and free trade—echoes from country to country.
With slogans such as “Politics for our own people!” the AfD finished with 20.8% of the vote, ahead of the 19% won by Ms. Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats, traditionally the big-tent home for conservatives in a country long wary of nationalist populism. The AfD will now hold seats in nine of Germany’s 16 powerful state parliaments, building momentum ahead of the Berlin election later this month and the national election in September 2017.
Sound familiar? Yep, this is exactly the type of language Trump is using. The backlash we are witnessing represents a worldwide revolt against globalism and the disconnected and hopelessly corrupt status quo.
“People have a diffuse feeling that the state no longer has this challenge under control,” said Mike Mohring, the Christian Democrats’ party chairman in the state of Thuringia. “More than anything, it’s a question of emotions and of rhetoric.”
“One cannot act in politics against the people, against the will of the people,” lawmaker Hans Michelbach, a conservative ally of Ms. Merkel, said Monday, urging her to be more responsive to public criticism of her refugee policy. “One must of course also take the concerns and fears of the people seriously.”
Of course, this is sound advice. Advice that Ms. Merkel and none of the other leaders in the EU will pay any attention to.
A tumultuous political season is in store for the rest of Europe as well: Austria’s October runoff election for president, a largely symbolic post, could be won for the first time by a right-wing populist, Norbert Hofer, according to polls.
In November, Italy is expected to hold a plebiscite on a constitutional reform aimed at creating more stable governments that has emerged as a referendum on Mr. Renzi, who has tried to rally support for the EU. The likely beneficiary if the referendum fails and Mr. Renzi resigns: the populist 5 Star Movement, founded by comic Beppe Grillo, which has surged to about 30% in the polls and whose left-right politics reflect the breadth of anger among Italians at their political class.
For more on Grillo, see: Incredible Video: Beppe Grillo Dissects the Financial System…in 1998
Meanwhile, Spain is struggling to form a government, despite two parliamentary elections since last December. The problem: two upstarts, including left-wing populists Podemos, have fragmented the political landscape and blocked efforts by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to negotiate a governing coalition. If the quagmire drags on, Spain faces yet another election this December.
Did you get all that? Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Austria. These aren’t small countries. This is the core of what’s left of the EU.
It’s about to get interesting.