Americans always struggle understanding the politics of continental Europe. For starters, the European Right has usually sounded like the American Left, while the Euro Left has sounded like the faculty lounge at Oberlin College. For my European readers, Oberlin is an insane asylum in Ohio. Buckley Conservatives may not have been sincere in their goals, but they put a lot of effort into sounding like small government, Classical Liberals.
Of course, there’s also been this weird phrasing that Americans are just now adopting. That’s the phrase “extreme far right” that is always center stage, ironically, in European political discussions. The “far left” never gets mentioned. Stalin is never described as “far left” but Hitler is “far right” even though he was a socialist. This has always been confusing to Americans, but we are catching up. Donald Trump is now far-right.
Then there are the political figures. In America, we hold veterans in very high regard, maybe too high, so military service is a good thing for politicians. In Europe, military men command little respect compared to other vocations. In America, we like it when someone goes from rags to riches. Therefore, we like politicians with humble origins. Europeans prefer men and women from the aristocratic and academic backgrounds.
As a result, unsophisticated Americans, like myself, have found European politics a bit murky. Well, that used to true. Americans can now relate to what our brothers and sisters across the Atlantic are experiencing in their politics. The evil Donald Trump is smashing up the political class with his extreme right-wing populism. Across the pond, extreme right-wing parties across Europe are smashing up their respective political classes. It’s spring time for Hitlers and they are blossoming across the West.
The most stunning development, the one that has good thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic in a panic, is the sudden rise of Alternative für Deutschland, an extreme right-wing extremist party of the most extreme right-wing kind. Led by the elfin Frauke Petry, this new party rang up surprisingly large vote totals, exclusively on the issue of immigration, particularly opposition to the Merkel policy of Islamification of Germany.
In addition to the ruling class Hitler fantasies, Americans and Germans now appear to have two things in common. One is that the political classes in both countries have displayed a staggering disregard for public welfare in their pursuit of personal salvation. Merkel out posing for selfies with refugees is as tone deaf as Republicans demanding open borders and amnesty for tens of millions of illegals. Cui bono?
The responsibility of the people put in charge, their chief responsibility, is to maintain public order. You cannot have a civilized and prosperous society with civil unrest. Deliberately inviting in these problems, as we see with Merkel in German and the open borders lobbies in America, is a betrayal of the public trust. In another age, the elites would not have to fear these populist parties as the people would have hung the elites before it got to this point.
The other overlap and the most important to consider is the source of support for these extreme right-wing far right extremist movements. Alternative für Deutschland is decidedly middle-class. It has the nickname “the professors party” because its founders were mostly academics. It’s vote is coming from middle-class Germans who work in professions. It’s support is also overwhelmingly male at this time, with some estimates at 85% male. This is a point that will become central to our future political debates.
Smart people have figured out who is voting for Donald Trump and the thing that jumps out is that Trump has broad-based support across the American middle-class. In fact, he is the candidate of middle America right now. Despite all the hooting and hollering about his angry voters, his rallies look like the crowd at Little League baseball games in a typical American suburb. His issues are also directly aimed at the middle.
Like AfD, Trump is drawing in male voters who have dropped out of the process, but also males who have thrown in the towel on the main parties. Current estimates suggest a 2-to-1 ratio male-to-female for Trump. This is not an accident. German culture has seen the same war on men we have seen in America. German men were literally told they had to urinate sitting down. When you have to get permission from a judge to take a whiz, you’re going to begin to think the people in charge are against you.
One last thing, related to the middle-class nature of these movements, is how the elites are responding. Instead of co-opting the issues, they are trying to link these movements to bogeymen like Pegida and the KKK. That’s a telling response and suggests the ruling classes have become decidedly anti-middle class. It’s also legitimizing the taboos against xenophobia, racism and ethnocentrism. You can only call decent people Nazis so many times before it loses its power to shame.
What’s happening across the West is the people are awakening to the fact that their rulers have a very different vision for their societies than they disclose in public. In many cases, it feels like the rulers have plans for the future that don’t include their voters. Those plans may be great ideas, but in stable societies, they must be debated in public. Otherwise, society becomes unstable. That’s what’s happening in Germany and America. The system is becoming unstable.