Tobold's Blog
Monday, June 10, 2024
How to prevent a shift to the right

Being both European and of a center-left political disposition, I am of course worried as much as everybody else about the political shift to the right demonstrated in this weekend's elections for the European Parliament. In many big European countries, parties that are generally described as "far right" did extremely well, and often much better than the parties in government. Now part of that comes from the idea that the election for the European Parliament doesn't really matter, and is thus a "safe" opportunity for protest voting. But I will say for Europe the same that I said for the USA: Protest voters are an important indicator of what issues regular people have, and what problems the parties in government failed to properly address.

If the far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen gets 31.5% of votes in France, twice as much as the party of president Macron, you can't just call a third of the population of France "Nazis", and tell yourself that these people don't matter. Not even Macron does that, which is why he reacted in a very democratic way by calling a national election.

If you analyze it, the current main attraction of right-wing parties in Europe (and often elsewhere as well) is their hard stance against migration. In 2022, 875 000 people applied for international protection in the EU countries for the first time. That is the highest number since the 2015/16 peak from the war in Syria. And it is in addition to 3.8 million of people under "temporary protection" status, 98% of which are war refugees from Ukraine. The fundamental problem of migration into Europe is that Europe has very little control over the numbers under the current system. Waves of migration happen due to international events, like wars. But there is also a stream of asylum seekers that come due to economic conditions, just hoping for a better life, even if they aren't actually persecuted in their home countries. How many of the asylum seekers are legit is unclear, for example France only accepts 27.5% of asylum seekers in the first legal instance, while the Dutch in 2022 accepted 83.5% (and then elected a right-wing to far-right government in 2024), with the European average being just under half .

All of this results in some real issues for voters. They feel that there are too many immigrants, that they don't have control over how many of them are let into their country, and that a good number of them are basically cheating the system. Many voters also believe far-right statements that migrants are criminals; a more detailed analysis shows that it isn't the fact that somebody has a migration background that makes him more likely to be a criminal, but that the asylum process creates a large number of young men which are unemployed (because they aren't allowed to work). Young, unemployed men are more likely to be criminal than other parts of the population, regardless of origin.

The political problem is that the political center and left doesn't have any good solutions to these problems. Sometimes they just adopt a right-wing hardline, as Biden just did, limiting the numbers of migrants that are let in; such a solution is obviously unselective, and risks harming people legitimately in need of asylum, while letting others in that aren't. More often, the parties in Europe that aren't right wing simply say nothing much at all about the issue of migration. Voters, who have the choice between no answer to their issues, and a bad answer, will mostly choose the bad answer.

Europe actually needs immigrants, as they are a good solution to Europe's demographic problem of not having enough children. Migrant smuggling over the mediterranean with small boats is both costly and dangerous for the migrants; they wouldn't do it if there were accessible and legal ways to come to Europe and work. The centrist and leftist parties of Europe can't leave the important problem of migration unanswered, leaving dumb propaganda from far-right parties as the only answer out there. If Europe can solve legal immigration, they would stop the political shift to the right and seriously damage the far-right parties. 

Analysis from France : Part of the issue is also that Immigration is blown out of proportion by the medias. Some medias are focusing on every tragedy that is caused by a migrant, or look like a migrant (even if french) While every other tragedies are not covered, leading to a strong bias in the collective opinion.
This is not by accident, as it mainly happens on medias owned by one billionaire, who openly want to push his far-right agenda - those medias also supported the 2nd far-right party during the last presidential election.
This trend of billionaire buying media to push their agenda is quite recent in the french medias, that was historically dominated by state-sponsored medias ( think BBC, but with lower budget, quality and independance. )

The far-right is also highlighted by the current government, that know its best chance at election is to be opposed to the far-right candidate.
No one has an answer to immigration issues. Not now and not historically either. Countries need immigrants to function and yet sweeping immigration always brings social strife.

And you aren't wrong that the left doesn't really have a good answer to it either apart from appealing to the right by adopting short term strategies like Biden recently did.

Even the recent bipartisan proposal that Trump torpedoed was far more right leaning than most Democrats would admit.

Immigration is a complex social issue and frankly governments are terrible at dealing with complex social issues.
The difference between the left and the right on immigration is that the left wants legal immigrants who get a job. Who will employ them is not a question which is asked, it's just assumed that they will enter the labor market by magic, even if they are completely unqualified for the jobs that our advanced societies need.
The right wants illegal immigrants, because they are more easily exploited, both by less-than-scrupulous companies and organized crime, and also by the right itself, which can use them as a scapegoat for anything.
Nobody has a "solution", because it's not even clear what a "solution" would be.....

In any case it'll be interesting to compare the evolution of EU economies vs. Asia ones, where countries are much more closed to immigration and where the fertility rate has gone through the floor.
Ettesiun said: "Part of the issue is also that Immigration is blown out of proportion by the medias."

But part of the problem is that for too long the problems have gone unreported and uncommented on in most of the media, and among those whose voices are quoted the most in mainstream media.

[As for Murdoch, he is no more the evil wizard behind everything bad than is Soros...]
Keep in mind I am discussing about the situation in France that is very different than the one in the US ( not better or worse, but different geography, history, culture and politics. )
The french 'evil wizard' to use your term is Bolloré and not Murdoch.

I am following but not commenting the US politics, as I am too far away to have an accurate vision of what is the real life over there.
I am following but not commenting the US politics, as I am too far away to have an accurate vision of what is the real life over there.

This may not not a good idea: personally I'm always interested in reading what people say from the opposite side of the world, because it gives me an idea on how things are perceived there. Of course when I look for hard data I go for local/specialized sources, but if you want to have a feeling on how the media presents stuff in another country, and in particular which parts of it stick with the public, comment sections are interesting.
It is hard to ignore US politics. Not just because of cultural imperialism and it dominating international news. But also because in the end it can be the decisions of a US president that influence whether Russian tanks will roll into Europe.
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