Donald Trump’s Insult to History

Europe’s dismay could only have deepened when Congress seemed to cheer Mr. Trump on. Republicans, who once prided themselves as stewards of national security, have shown little concern about the way Mr. Trump treated NATO members or the links between Mr. Trump’s aides and Russia. In a statement, Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gushed over Mr. Trump’s trip to Europe and the Middle East, saying it was “executed to near perfection.”

.. These new stresses in the alliance come at a bad time.

  • Europe has been battered by the Greek financial crisis;
  • the rise of authoritarianism in Turkey, Hungary and Poland;
  • Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union;
  • and the flow of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.

Mr. Putin, always eager to expand Russian influence, has exploited every weakness and crisis, along with instigating a few of his own.

  • Russia invaded Ukraine and has
  • interfered in electoral campaigns in the United States, France and Germany.
  • Mr. Putin has meddled in the Baltic States,
  • cultivated far-right-wing allies in Hungary and
  • wooed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on NATO’s eastern flank.
  • He is now courting Italy with a savvy ambassador to Rome and financing for anti-establishment parties.

There are some bright spots.

  • One is that Ms. Merkel seems committed to playing a lead role as the United States pulls back; another is
  • France’s election of President Emmanuel Macron, who has demonstrated a willingness to work in partnership with Ms. Merkel. The two won’t always see eye-to-eye, but
  • Germany needs France and Mr. Macron is a good fit.

.. Mr. Macron gave Mr. Putin full honors but did not mince words on Russia’s destructive role in the Syrian conflict, in Ukraine and in its dissemination of fake news.

No easy answers: why left-wing economics is not the answer to right-wing populism

Democrats, in other words, would only be able to defeat Trump and others like him if they adopted an anti-corporate, unabashedly left-wing policy agenda. The answer to Trump’s right-wing populism, Sanders argued, was for the left to develop a populism of its own.

.. center-left parties must shift further to the left in order to fight off right-wing populists such as Trump and France’s Marine Le Pen. Supporters of these leaders, they argue, are motivated by a sense of economic insecurity in an increasingly unequal world; promise them a stronger welfare state, one better equipped to address their fundamental needs, and they will flock to the left.

 .. countries with more robust welfare states tend to have stronger far-right movements. Providing white voters with higher levels of economic security does not tamp down their anxieties about race and immigration
.. “Illegal immigrant households receive far more in federal welfare benefits than native American households,” Trump wrote in a 2016 Facebook post. “I will fix it.”
.. The 10 countries with the lowest poverty rates in the world are all in Europe (the US ranks 34 out of 35 total countries in the OECD, an organization of wealthy countries). Researchers have also found clear correlations between the size of a country’s welfare state and social mobility, indicating that countries that provide citizens with extensive benefits, like Norway and Denmark, can help them better provide for themselves down the road.
.. the European left is the victim of its own success
.. economic issues receded in importance at the same time as Europe was experiencing a massive, unprecedented wave of nonwhite, non-Christian immigration.
.. the Front National (FN). It was a populist party, one that argued that ordinary people were being exploited by a corrupt class of cosmopolitan elites. They were also authoritarian, constantly warning of the dangers of crime and the need for a harsh state response.
.. In 1984, the FN had an electoral breakthrough, winning about 11 percent of the French national vote in the European Parliament elections. It had done so through a pioneering strategy of attacking nonwhite immigration without overtly making arguments for white Christian superiority — a kind of racism-without-racism — that appealed to voters’ fears about cultural change (and, later, terrorism) without making the kind of nakedly racist arguments that had been delegitimized by the Nazis.
.. This was the birth of the modern far right — a continent-wide political movement that reinvented white identity politics for the post-Hitler age.
.. These parties had no unified economic message. Some, like the FN, developed something called “welfare chauvinism” — an economic platform fairly similar to that of social democrats, but paired with an idea that immigrants should be excluded from receiving these benefits.
.. the stronger the welfare state, the bigger the gains for far-right parties among the working class.
.. Right-wing populists typically have gotten their best results in wealthier areas of countries — that is, with voters who experience the least amounts of economic insecurity.
.. The far right has pulled in some working-class voters, butmost of its supporters are petty bourgeoisie (like shopkeepers) or low-educated, fairly high-income people (like successful plumbers). Swaying these voters through economic proposals will be difficult.
.. a significant part of that electorate is deeply nativist
.. Helle Thorning-Schmidt promised to deny benefits to asylum seekers if they were unemployed. The right-wing bloc won the election, and went on to pass a law that allowed Danish police to seize assets worth more than $1,450 from asylum seekers who enter the country.
.. which included, among other things, renationalizing Britain’s railroads, abolishing tuition for British universities, and imposing rent controls to deal with Britain’s affordable housing problem. He’s even suggested reopening the coal mines that used to be a big part of Britain’s economy.
.. Corbyn’s year-plus of Labour leadership has been something of a test case for this theory. So far, it has failed utterly.
.. what Brexit voters said were the “most important” issues facing the UK. More than 40 percent said immigration; a scant 5 percent said “poverty and inequality.”.. The kind of voter who’s attracted to the far right just doesn’t care a whole lot about inequality and redistribution, Corbyn’s signature issues. Tacking left to win them over, as Corbyn has, is “a bad idea,”

.. “The working class of this country is being decimated. That’s why Donald Trump won,” Bernie Sanders said in his Boston speech. “We need all of those candidates and public officials to have the guts to stand up to the oligarchy. That is the fight of today.”

.. In two Midwestern states, Wisconsin and Ohio, Democrats ran Sanders-esque populists — former Sen. Russ Feingold and Gov. Ted Strickland, respectively. Both lost by a wider margin than Hillary Clinton did in their state. By contrast, the Democratic candidates who most outperformed Clinton’s statewide results — Missouri’s Jason Kander and Indiana’s Evan Bayh — ran as economic centrists.

.. the higher the percentage of black residents in a state, the less its government spent on welfare payments.

.. Poverty, in the minds of many white Americans, is associated with blackness. Redistribution is seen through a racial lens as a result. The debate over welfare and taxes isn’t just about money, for these voters, but rather whether white money should be spent on nonwhites.

.. a significant shift to the left on economic policy issues might fail to attract white Trump supporters, even in the working class. It could even plausibly hurt the Democrats politically by reminding whites just how little they want their dollars to go to “those people.”

.. this kind of politics — not-so-subtly manipulating racial grievances to undercut support for social spending — has been practiced by Republicans and conservative Democrats for decades. Ronald Reagan, for example, famously used the specter of the “welfare queen” — an (implied) black woman who lived lavishly by manipulating the welfare system — as a rationale for his budget cuts.

.. tacking to the left on economics won’t give Democrats a silver bullet to use against the racial resentment powering Trump’s success. It could actually wind up giving Trump an even bigger gun. If Democrats really want to stop right-wing populists like Trump, they need a strategy that blunts the true drivers of their appeal — and that means focusing on more than economics.