May 27, 2019

Anti-establishment mood grips globe


Election results from across Europe yesterday show that the world's old guard remains on the defensive in the Trump era, with both right and left abandoning mainstream parties for more emotionally exciting alternatives.

What's new: European Parliament elections (28 nations, 200 million voters) ended the domination of the center-right and center-left parties. Now, far-right, pro-business groups and environmentalists will be bigger forces, the AP reports.

  • On the right, nationalist groups saw strong gains, though not as decisive as some had forecast. Steve Bannon emailed me from Paris: "Earthquake!" Italy hard-liner Matteo Salvini bragged: "[T]he rules are changing in Europe."
  • On the left, a "Green wave" swept in environmentalist candidates in Germany, France and Ireland. Axios Science Editor Andrew Freedman tells me this was tied in large part to frustrations with climate policies that don't go far enough.
  • The twist is that the center held: Pro-EU parties retain control, but with new pressures and a changed landscape. Eurosceptic and far-right parties secured roughly a quarter of all seats in Parliament, per the Financial Times.

Why it matters: The democratic world is continuing to see pushback against insiders and traditional pols, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass told me:

  • "My sense is this mood and movement has not crested."
  • And it's not just Europe and America: "In Turkey and China and Russia, we are seeing some pushback against their authoritarian leaders," said Haass, author of "A World in Disarray."
  • Haass called last night's results "very sad and worrying": "The European project, which began as an historic innovation, one that has been an important foundation of post-WW2 stability and prosperity, is now seen as the establishment and is widely rejected by the left and right alike in Europe."

The big picture ... Ian Bremmer of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media sees a more divided and polarized Europe, but still a pro-Europe Europe.

  • As in the U.S., institutions prove resilient and stable: Americans are plenty angry, but Trump isn’t about to break the United States.

Be smart: Trump advisers take this global mood as a bullish sign for his re-election in 2020. But American presidential campaigns command so much voter attention — and Trump is so Trump — that trends are relevant but not predictive.

Go deeper