The Score at Half-Time

A narrative has dominated the discussion of the march of our time. It has been the, said-to-be unstoppable, progress of the “Right” to power. The concept pertained to Trump’s election, Brexit, the National Front in France, evolvements in Austria, Holland and Germany, the EU’s Visegràd Four (especially Poland, and Hungary) and the rise of a tide to erodes once safe left-liberal reservations. What we were led to miss is that not the “Right” –always a menace if not to the left of Stalin- but the growing discontent of the subjects is what deserves attention.

Let us address the terminologies before we assess the ongoing phase of the struggle. To talk in terms of “Right”, misstates the nature of the invasion by the masses of politics. Yes, the open and camouflaged “Left” is losing its strangle-hold over public affairs. To talk about a “Right” tide (“Hitlerite” is insinuated) against leftist misrule might be, in view of old habits but surpassed conditions, understandable. The new grassroots movement and the old Right overlap without being identical. What unfolds wants a break with traditional politicking as it has degenerated into a sham. Recently, “new politics” has even added a left-inspired component.

Disenchantment and feeling “forgotten” is why disappointed centrists, once hoodwinked leftists, and a crowd that had given up on politics, reconnect to public life through new parties with a right-of-center base. Meanwhile, the left claims to be liberal although its substance is unrelated to genuine liberalism. Cowardice and submission as a tool to “downplay conflicts” and to “preserve the peace” by not “provoking”, does not equal wisdom and it fails as statesmanship. At any rate, even if condemned for it, people want security and a protected identity more than they long for gender-neutral bathrooms.

Regardless of the Left’s use of the Liberal label – a love reciprocated because the nominal liberals have legitimized and enhanced the radical left- we witness a new beginning. Part of it is an alliance positioned outside the political class that used to allocate power within the circle of its “morally qualified” insiders. The upshot: the right-leaning contest of power in Europe and the USA. As a reflection of traditional politics’ bankruptcy, an analogous left-leaning response emerges. Its expression: Macron in France. Due to its liberal instincts, the reputable “Economist” calls him Europe’s “savior”. Indeed he might be an early bud of a blooming to come.

We see what the panicked call “populism” is gaining ground. This involvement of the once passive, and the participation of those “forgotten” by “their” parties, creates new, majority-capable forces. Mirroring the elements of the new amalgam and local traditions, these movements can lean to the right or, sometimes, to the left.

Although claiming to be above traditional politics, Macron’s DNA points to a leftist parentage. In time that is likely to rise to the surface to make Macron macaroni.

The crew claiming detachment from the past to design a future has a record. The new regents attended the “right” schools that produced the past’s administrative elite, and as such, they have statist origins. In that light, the claimed new beginning is unconvincing. Its motto: “forget our failures. Forgive the past; let us continue so we can mend the fence we promise to tear down. Everything you favor –the support allocated – will continue, and others will pay. Nothing you like will change, but everything will be different”. Translation: the same clan, young faces, expired recipes.

The magic of leftist populism is likely to be of limited radiation. Socialist collectivism, whether admitted (Sanders, Corbyn) or plugged under a fake label by alleged “centrists”, has failed along with the First World’s establishment. Its “we can drive faster in the dead-end street” is what provoked mainstream populism as a reaction.

The outcome of left-leaning populism is in the womb of the future. The break with the past by movements that had their beginnings right-of-center, appeared before the left’s reaction. Therefore, the latter is a “me-too” reaction to the rejection of the old fare that boosts the rightist revolt.

Now, back to the rightist strain of the revolt of the awakening and “deplorable” multitude. Superficially viewed, its balloon has lost some of its lifting hot air. The cases are the lost election for the Presidency in Austria, the blocked success of Wilders in Holland, Le Pen’s defeat in France. Then comes to mind May’s reduced majority, the underperformance of Germany’s AfD, and the stagnation of the SVP in Switzerland. Meanwhile, in the USA, the traditionalists of both parties and the bureaucracy block Trump. In these cases, the revolt seems to fizzle. Does this imply the failure of the challenge and the return to complacency? Not really.

Sometimes, such as in the case of the AfD, the improvised movement suffers from growing pains. They are manifested in internal discord involving the articulation of programs and tactics. Mainly, however, the still-stand -the Netherlands is a good example- might be more temporary than the beginning of a decline. There and elsewhere, the traditional right, and even the left, has deciphered the writing on the wall. People demand protection from criminal migration, deficit spending, and the big government that perpetuates a regulation-producing overpaid parasitic “apparat” that steers its wards through the thicket it erects.

This realization has persuaded old parties to copy the program of discontent. As in Austria, the traditional “conservatives”, but also the left, promise to face the problem seen by those that “do not feel at home in their own country”. Concessions to the people –rewarding good behavior- are coupled to an inherited advantage. The popular forces propose change for which they are tagged as extremist by the “moral avant-guard” of the press, pulpit, and the office. Change always means uncertainty. The old elites that verbally subscribe to the solutions advocated by those they condemn promise the security of the usual along with solving complaints they privately dismiss as hysterical. An illustration is the border controls of Hungary. Once, especially Austria’s socialists, called them because of their effectiveness “fascism” in action. Newly, they and the conservatives propose to do the same to pacify their ruffled masses. Indeed, this makes “fascism” into such a stretchable term that every self-respecting rubber band must be envious.

The advice, “choose a safe version offered by those you know” still gets the last moment’s nod of those that are made to hesitate by the iconoclasm of politics’ newcomers. This hesitancy, in view of the alarming prospect that, guided by common sense, and without the elite’s approval, the citizen might exercise power, could be of short duration. Meanwhile, those branded by the scribe-tribe as “populist militants” emerge as governing forces or as major contenders in the political game.

The time gained by the beleaguered establishment is likely to be misused by stand-patters. Meanwhile, the threat to the way of life of advanced countries remains not an illusion but a fact. Altering images by playing roles not sincerely meant and faking solutions will not contain the assault. Ongoing developments stem from facts; their menace cannot be dissipated by therapeutic incantations. Admonishing the fatalities of left-liberal errors, to suffer the burden being a virtue by the definition of “virtuous leaders” posing as humanists, might temporarily tranquilizes hypnotized victims. What the old magic cannot do is to make these permanently catatonic.


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