Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why are European Right-wing parties cleaning up?

Anne Applebaum at Slate has an interesting article about Europe, and the stunning triumph of right-wing parties and defeat of left-wing parties in the recent elections for the European parliament. These are not national elections, but instead elections for the European Parliament, situated in Brussels, Belgium under the umbrella of the European Union. Applebaum says that the power that this parliament has quietly attained contrasts with the falling vote turn-out. The average turnout in the whole EU reached 43%, a substantial fall from the last European election. In Britain, which had a 35% turnout, the ruling Labour party had its worst electoral performance since 1910--when it was a dissolute fringe party. The anti-EU UKIP and BNP (UK Independence and British Nationalist parties, respectively) won victories, but overall it was a Tory landslide, and a reminder to the increasingly-feeble PM Gordon Brown that his turn is coming up. No less than five Cabinet ministers have quit in the last week.

Silvio Berlusconi's, Angela Merkel's, and Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing governments in Italy, Germany, and France both receieved positive reinforcement from the election, while the socialists in Spain, Britain, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and elsewhere were hammered.

Putting Labour on the Left and Berlusconi on the Right aside (Labour is embattled almost beyond belief, and Berlusconi controls much of the media in Italy...which helps in elections) the Right still won staggering victories. Why?

Applebaum doesn't say this explicitly, but it's clear that the right-wingers in Europe are different from those here. Fighting two wars, American conservatives have spent the last decade focused on national security, with trade-offs being made with personal liberty (the Patriot Act) and small government (Bush's deficits were almost as staggering as Obama's) while right-wingers in Europe have been free to concentrate on fighting socialist spending excesses. In short, Bush was quite liberal fiscally--Rush Limbaugh would agree with me on that--but unlike in Europe, the profligate spenders were replaced in November by new profligate spenders. As Daniel Hannan, MEP (Member of European Parliament) for South-east England, would say: "You can't borrow your way out of debt or spend your way out of a recession." The recent EU election results show that the Europeans, at any rate, have rejected the profligate spending of the Left-wing parties in favor of something more responsible. Hopefully America can follow their example before our country is as bankrupt as Brown's Britain.