Wednesday, June 10, 2009

U.S. Conservatives Care About Europe?

The crowd of neo-cons that has been scoffing at Europe as a ridiculous anachronism, a geographical blip in the radar to be scorned and despised, for all or most of the Bush years is now hyping the results of last weekend's European Parliament elections. That's because the European right has obtain a fairly resounding victory, while the left seems in disarray in many countries. And it is so that American conservatives have been jumping on the European right's bandwagon.

Incorrigible as American conservative spin-masters are, though, they are reporting the election results in ways that are completely unwarranted. For example, they are saying that the results indicate a popular revolt against the bankrupt tax-and-spend policies of the left. This is an unwarranted conclusion. In fact, in some countries like Italy and France, the right has been in power for some time; in such cases, then, there was nothing to revolt against. Instead, such victories are, in my opinion, a result of the xenophobic atmosphere that is starting to take hold in economically depressed nations, where locals are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet in the face of a slow but constant decline in wages and living standards.

This rising wave of xenophobic discontent is not just limited to Italy and France. It is also evident in Holland, the xenophobic Party for Freedom (a name Sean Hannity could have picked himself) garnered 17% of the vote; in the United Kingdom, where the British National Party--a neo-fascist formation--got more than 6% of the vote (in 2005's national election it had only reached 0.7%); in France, where the National Front also earned 6% of the vote; and in Hungary, where the Hungarian neo-fascist Jobbik party almost broke 15%.

(Incidentally, my impressions are corroborated by Stratfor, in an article entitled Europe: Xenophobia Rising. The Italian president, wrote Elisabetta Povoledo in the New York Times less than a month ago, warned that Xenophobia Threatens Italy. I know this to be true, because I am Italian and I just returned from Italy where many of my friends and even family members expressed their "concerns" about "an invasion of foreigners".)

In sum, whereas the left has been incapable of seizing the opportunity to focus the political discourse on the sagging economy and to offer viable alternatives to revive it, the right has been effective at exploiting the rising populist tide and the hostility of the electorate towards immigrants. The right has switched the focus from the failed economic policies of the past few years (of which both political sides are guilty) to a promise of stricter law and order policies, aimed at curbing a wave of rising crime pinned, rightly or wrongly, on the shoulders of outsiders (the Eastern Europeans, North Africans, Indians, Pakistanis that have been flocking to Europe in search of better economic conditions). Kind of like Lou Dobbs does with Mexicans, if you will.

Sadly, none of the above will keep the right's talking heads from making spinning their fictional story of the reason behind the right's victory in last week's European Parliament elections. No conservative likes to be called a racist, after all. It's a label they reserve for Supreme Court nominees picked by the enemy President.

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