In the span of a couple of weeks, we are seeing three signs that Europe is falling into Yeats’ most well-known phrase (“Things fall apart; the center does not hold”).
The first took place in France, of all places. A recent IFOP poll revealed that Marine Le Pen, daughter of fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen and successor to him as leader of the Front National (FN), would “win” the first-round of the 2017 presidential election. She’d even defeat President Francois Hollande in the second round. To be fair, the poll also shows Hollande would not make the second round in any event; the center-right nominee would beat him to second place, and then go on to defeat Le Pen. However, that Le Pen has the strength reflected in the poll is a sign that her emphasis on getting France out of the eurozone is finding a hearing in what was – and still is – a core nation in the European Union.
Outside the eurozone, the nation that has long been the epitome of European sophistication and socialism – namely, Sweden – pitched out its center-right government (whose eight-year length in office was itself a modern record), yet the incoming left-wing coalition barely won any more votes than four years ago. The center-right government instead lost nearly 7% of the vote to the anti-establishment, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats (Coffee House). How the leftist coalition will survive this parliamentary session (four years) is anybody’s guess right now.
Finally, of course, there is Great Britian, which simply put, seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown (Coffee House). Scotland will vote Thursday on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom and form its own state again, and the polls are close enough that a panicked London is trying out plans to hand a slew of powers to the Scots if “No” wins. Already, pundits outside Scotland are wondering if the Kingdom’s leaders have gone mad (especially the acerbic yet side-splitting Dan Hodges).
Underlying all of the political quakes is a fault line right through the continent: the very battles between the elites and the common folks that run visibly through the Republican Party here (and, under the paper-thin loyalty to the president, through the Democrats as well). In Sweden, the center-right’s assumption that it can be more center than right has led to votes being bled to the Sweden Democrats. In the UK, the Tories are losing votes to UKIP in England, while Labour has bled Scottish voters to the Scottish Nationalist Party for so long that the UK itself might lose Scotland itself.
The lessons in Europe should be crystal clear for us here on our side of the Atlantic. Forty years ago, the idea of a right-wing populist party holding the balance of power in Sweden, the rise of a neo-fascist party on a euroskeptic platform in France, and Scotland leaving the United Kingdom were unthinkable nightmares. Today, two are reality, and the third may hit by the weekend. Who knows what disaster could face us in 2054…
Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon