Why center-left parties are collapsing

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by ajtr, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Why center-left parties are collapsing

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    The setbacks Democrats are poised to suffer in the midterm election have to be viewed in a trans-Atlantic context. The backlash against Barack Obama and the contemporary Democratic Party is part of a global wave of popular disapproval of social democratic parties that abandoned their traditional working-class constituents in order to woo bankers and professionals.

    Parties or coalitions of the left hang on to control in Norway, Spain and Austria. But every major country in Europe -- Britain, France, Germany and Italy -- is now ruled by the center-right. From the Baltic to the Mediterranean, social democratic parties are crumbling.

    For most of the 20th century, Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats were the model for center-left parties elsewhere. In September’s election, the Swedish Social Democrats received only 30.9 percent of the vote, their worst showing since 1914. Earlier in 2009, Germany’s Social Democratic Party suffered its worst electoral defeat since World War II, winning only 23 percent of the vote. In Sweden, Germany and elsewhere, Social Democrats are losing voters to populist parties of the right, Greens and hard-left parties.

    It would be a mistake to believe that the voters, in rejecting social democrats, are rejecting the middle-class welfare state that social democratic parties built in the 20th century. On the contrary, center-right parties like David Cameron’s Conservatives and the ruling Moderate party in Sweden have been forced to limit their libertarianism in order to win office.

    The truth is that voters have not turned against the old-fashioned social democracy of the mid-20th century. In Europe as in the U.S., universal social insurance programs for the middle class, as opposed to means-tested welfare programs for the poor, remain popular among voters on the right as well as the left. Voters in Europe are not voting against public pensions and universal healthcare. Instead, they are tossing out a more recent generation of social democrats who went too far in their embrace of markets.

    The greatest assault on traditional social democracy in the last generation has come from "Third Way" leaders of center-left parties like Tony Blair, and their continental European counterparts. Like the Clinton Democrats, these "modernizing" social democrats embraced free markets with a convert’s zeal, celebrating globalization and deregulating finance, while seeking to privatize or dismantle parts of the older welfare state. The politicians of the Third Way were far more libertarian than the voters in their own parties and their actions helped to make possible the global economic crisis.

    Having given up traditional social democratic economics for a watered-down version of libertarian conservatism, the Third Way social democrats in Europe, like the Clinton and Obama Democrats in the U.S., sought to replace the traditional bread-and-butter concerns of working-class voters with idealistic campaigns about multiculturalism, climate change and obesity that appealed to more affluent, college-educated voters.

    The immigration issue is particularly damaging to the center-left, because it illustrates the growing divide between the populist working class and the professional-class elites who control the machinery of center-left parties. The conflicts associated with Muslim immigration in Europe are different from those associated with Latino immigration in the U.S., but on both sides of the Atlantic parties of the center-left have treated any concern about the effects of high immigration on wages, the welfare state, or national cultural community as deplorable racism. While the mainstream conservative parties of Europe officially denounce far-right nativist parties like the Sweden Democrats, the Dutch Freedom Party and the French National Front, they have moved to the right to co-opt the issue. In France, Nicolas Sarkozy was catapulted to the presidency after he called Muslim rioters "scum" and supervised a crackdown in his previous post as interior minister. Angela Merkel, the conservative chancellor of Germany, recently declared that multiculturalism in Germany had "utterly failed," and Horst Seehofer, leader of a conservative Bavarian party allied with the ruling Christian Democrats, declared: "Multikulti is dead."

    During the recent British electoral campaign, David Cameron’s Tories criticized non-EU immigration, a code word for Muslim immigration. Meanwhile, New Labour prime minister Gordon Brown harmed his chances for reelection in what the tabloids called "bigotgate." Gordon Brown’s demise was accelerated by a similar gaffe during the recent British election campaign. After a 65-year-old widow named Gillian Duffy asked him about "all those eastern Europeans coming in," an open microphone caught Brown telling an aide that "she was just a sort of bigoted woman who said she used to be Labour." Brown’s dismissive attitude was strikingly similar to that of then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008. In the infamous leaked speech to a group of rich donors in San Francisco, Obama attributed the preference of white working-class voters for Hillary Clinton in terms of their alleged pathology: "It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustration." It is hardly surprising that working-class voters in Europe and America should reject center-left politicians who treat them as annoying yokels whom they must humor on the way to their coronations.

    In general the parallels between the U.S. and Europe are striking. In the U.S., as in Europe, the right is divided between a pro-business right promoting policies of austerity and a populist, nativist right energized by opposition to immigration and multiculturalism, particularly where Muslims are involved. In the U.S., as in Europe, the upper-middle-class activists and intellectuals of the center-left devote far less energy to traditional social democratic issues like social insurance and the minimum wage than to non-economic causes like renewable energy, mass transit, the new urbanism, gay marriage, identity politics and promotion of amnesty for illegal immigrants. On both continents, conservatism is becoming more downscale while progressives are increasingly upmarket.

    Michael Lind is Policy Director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation and is the author of "The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution." More Michael Lind
     
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  3. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    As Jihad grows worldwide not just in West, they will fuel the rise of a right wing never seen before. Pakistan and other backers of this nonsensical religious war must realize the doom that awaits them if they keep continuing like this...

    eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
     
  4. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    Wouldn't the likes of pakistan and its terrorists be termed under right-wing aswell ?
     
  5. mayfair

    mayfair Elite Member Elite Member

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    True. It's just a case of "my right wing is better than yours".
     
  6. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    Despite the title, I think this article is connected to the issue as well:


    Political parties have missed the plot in a changing India

    Published: Wednesday, Nov 3, 2010, 2:55 IST
    By Akshaya Mishra | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA



    Can politics, the way it plays out in public, reinvent itself? The basic template of Indian politics remains grooved in the past. The idiom of political expression has hardly made a shift, while everything else around, including the audience it caters to, has moved on.

    If the political class and their posturings are received with disinterest, cynicism, and even some disdain, it has to be about this lag.

    When the Shiv Sena gets worked up over a book, it does not surprise anymore. It could be a desperate effort by a party fighting redundancy, or a deliberate exercise to maintain its recall value among the target population, either imaginary or actual.

    Aditya Thackeray’s arrival on the big stage by ensuring a ban on Rohinton Mistry’s book looks incongruous in a decade preoccupied with upward social and financial mobility.

    To be fair to the Shiv Sena, it is not the only party digging to find issues to connect. All major political parties have lost the plot in post-2000 India. Their pet issues have lost traction from overuse. Rahul Gandhi grabs eyeballs when he turns candid about the flaws in the political system, but his words are yet to translate into concrete deliverables.

    His Congress, which embraces the market economy and the aam aadmi with equal opportunistic agility, continues to survive without any drastic innovation in thinking.

    The BJP, constrained by its ideological limitations, has effectively pruned its own growth expectations. The Left’s obstinate obsession with theory has pushed it to the fringes of national politics.

    New arrivals like the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have not come up with any fresh ideas that have a longer shelf-life. The apparent intellectual bankruptcy across the political spectrum is already threatening the health of the democracy. It may soon raise questions over the legitimacy of the political process.

    In the post-ideology political India, the leaders — despite being more educated, younger, and techno-savvy than their counterparts in an earlier generation — have little to offer in terms of lifting the image of the vocation they are in. Worse, they keep harking back to the modes of political expression which have gone largely
    redundant now.

    Let’s face it. The chasm between politics and people is becoming unbridgeable.

    Why is it so? It could be the inability to read the post-1990s mindset. With the process of individual growth and mobility in the fast forward mode, courtesy the new economy, group identification is getting marginalised. A person is more likely to empathise with another in the same economic and status bracket than his social group in his village.

    The traditional monolithic institutions have come to acquire fluidity and lost their unique strength, unity, to put across a bargaining proposition. No wonder, vote banks are being busted across the country. A decade or two from now, they may be too weak to influence individual choices. The political class is yet to look beyond the traditional groupings and find a blueprint to tap the energy of the individual and groups that are more class-centric.

    The youth constitute more than 60% of our population. Some 41% were below 34 years of age, according to the 2001 census; add to that people in their early 40s, who still come in the youth bracket.

    This is the group driving economic change. Where is the effort to tap this chunk of the population and articulate their problems? Obviously, political disinterest is more pronounced here.

    The concept of leadership, too, has undergone a shift. The day of the undisputed, charismatic mass leader is passé, simply because the mass is fragmented and is no more driven by any singular larger goal, unless it is wartime or a time of great national emergency. It’s the time of the efficient manager, the person who is smooth at managing paradoxes and contradictions. Rahul Gandhi’s appeal lies here.

    It’s interesting to watch the representative of the party that unleashed the forces of capitalism and changed the contours of fringe India, talking the language of the tribals in Niyamgiri in Orissa and the disenfranchised elsewhere.

    Frank admission of weaknesses in the system and promising a more active role for youth is one thing, but the real test is in the delivery. His ability to do so has not been tested yet.

    It does not help that the media, more active now than in any phase of the country’s history, goes on reinforcing the stereotype. The mismatch between the hype generated in the media over the Ayodhya verdict and the reactions of laymen on the ground is a clear pointer that things ought to change.

    The country has moved on. It has been stated enough, but the gravity of the situation is yet to sink in.

    Is it possible to devise a new political template for the 21st century? Ideology may no more be a potent instrument to mobilise masses in a society driven by self-interest and individualism. But ideas can be a strong binding force for the like-minded and a tool for positive intervention. Can the political class find them?


    http://www.dnaindia.com/opinion/rep...ave-missed-the-plot-in-changing-india_1461394
     
  7. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    In the episode "A Scandal in Bohemia" Sherlock Holmes reveals how he discovered where Irene Adler had hidden the scandalous photograph,by observing Irene try to rescue the 'only personal belonging' when a fire alarm is raised in her house.Holmes' ever sharp mind had deduced that when an individuals life/world is in peril,what he/she tries to take with her must be the most precious of all possessions.

    Sherlock Holmes deduction of Irene Adler's desperation may hold true to understanding a larger society.When a society faces an existential threat it tries to rescue that which the society holds in most esteem as a collective.When India,after having barricaded itself from the rest of the world for decades,began her fledgling steps to become integrated into a new globalized world,the nation elected an avowed right-wing/cultural nationalist party to power.Europe is showing the same desperation in a world of economic and communal uncertainty,by reaching out to the right wing.

    What liberal socialist have failed to read into is the fact that these 'bigoted,religion loving, immigrant hating' average voter has always been there,when the world is less perilous and the risks very trivial,they like Irene Adler hide their natural instinct behind the veneer of liberalism and laissez-faire.However when his society is subjected near dissolution the decision maker will reach out to what he holds most precious.

    As sociologist and political scientists try to burn the midnight oil figuring out the truth behind the resurgence of the nationalists(right wing if you may) and the impending demise of the center-left socialist,Sherlock Homes observation again is ominous "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth ?"
     
  8. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    They don't form any part of political structure. Right wing is associated with culturo-religio-nationalism in Asian case and race-language-nationalism in European case. It doesn't entail any formation to engage in multiple bomb blasts halfway through the world. Political correctness and censorship attitude apart, Pakistan and Co. cannot be considered any form of "right wing" at all as they're a threat to every religion, every culture and every country in the region be it Afghanistan, Central Asia (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is an Uzbek offshoot of Pakistan-admired Taliban), India or any other sane country.
     
  9. pankaj nema

    pankaj nema Senior Member Senior Member

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    In any country at the SLIGHTEST trouble whether economic trouble or security challenge the right wing parties come to the forefront to defend the national interest

    This is true in every country .Basically centre left parties are for normal times only
     
  10. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    ^^Left is only good for raising voice on price rise and Center is only good at fooling people and hoarding money. Right wing is where nation's interests are taken seriously.
     
  11. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    what about lefist nationalists then ?
     
  12. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    'Leftist nationalist' believed in nation states but where thoroughly set against the natural evolution of modern nations states from the coalescing of common cultural units.Left ideology did not consider such modern nation states any better than former feudal states and hence where a complete antithesis to a revolutionary socialist nation state.Ironically a communist nation state was not constrained by a natural boundary demarcated by a common culture &civilization,thus violating one of the fundamental principles of a modern 'nation state' and encouraged imperial and totalitarian super states like the USSR.........I'm compelled to think 'leftist nationalist' is an oxymoron
     
  13. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    I don't think I agree with that analogy. The USSR did in-fact demarcate republics based on nationalities in the entire territory that the USSR inherited from the then collapsed Russian Empire circa. 1917.

    Over time, they split the Trans-caucasian SFSR into Georgian, Armenian and Azeri SSRs. They also created the Tajik SSR out of the Uzbek SSR. The Russian SFSR was also divided into semi-Autonomous regions based on nationalities. One needs to keep in mind that the participation of the individual SSRs in the Union of SSRs was voluntary and each participating SSR had the right the secede that is exactly was enabled a peaceful disintegration of the USSR.

    Notes:
    SSR: Soviet Socialist Republic
    SFSR: Socialist Federative Soviet Republic
     
  14. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    Internal reorganization of USSR was necessitated by the fact that the superstate was never established upon popular mandate and Communist political elite had to contend with popular discontent among the various nationalities,who were unable to stomach this new nation state and still clung to the old notions of culture and community as the basis for a national framework.Soviet elites recognized ethnic nationalities whenever and wherever such feelings were strong,but were always categorized as strategic retreats and where meant as temporary measures to forestall any surge in the anti-revolutionary forces(esp the nationalist forces).That Soviet leadership did not recognize such nationalities or their national basis is clearly illustrated by the massive population transfer of ethnic nationalities resorted to by the soviet leadership at various point in time and the resulting genocide and ethnic cleansing.

    Leftist ideology did not recognize 'culture' as the basis of nation state,rather it was 'class'.while culture has a natural contiguous-geographical limit,Left's ideological nation state does not subject itself to any limitation other than the 'class' which it claims to represent and hence an expanding Leftist sate is corollary to the presence of such a class anywhere.Leftist nation state is a quasi imperial enterprise and USSR's disintegration was the consequence of the rejection of such a basis for a nation state.
     

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