6.10.2009

Nativism, socialism, and Europe

Matt Steinglass has an interesting explanation of what the recent wins by conservative parties in Europe:
What happened in the elections was two things. First, support shifted away from the social democrats, and towards the Christian democrats. And second, a small right-wing party that’s descended from the 1950s-era agrarian/farmers party, whose main platform is anti-immigrant and anti-Europe, picked up a lot of votes, and in fact that party’s charismatic leader was the single largest vote-getter in the elections, pulling about 130,000 votes (which is huge in 5-million-strong Finland). But that party still isn’t actually in the government, and it has no positive governing agenda. And even if it did, that governing agenda would almost certainly have nothing to do with free-market economics.

It is a historical accident that in the US, the populist nativist rural/exurb party is also the party that embraces free-market economics. It’s actually quite weird that the GOP combines these two elements, since in most countries they’re generally opposed to each other. And it leads American commentators to interpret victories for nativist parties like the French Front National or anti-Muslim “charismatic” politicians like the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders as victories “for capitalism” and “against socialism”. They have nothing to do with each other.

A helpful understanding, and one conservatives in this country would do well to consider. Of course, anyone tuning in to Fox News (or MSNBC, but that's not quite the point here) for nuanced coverage of events is more than a tad misguided.