This creates a puzzle: Why did voters who by and large benefit from social democracy turn against the parties that most strongly support it?There is a myth on the left, going all the way back to Marx, that issues of culture, nationality and race are not real. They are "superstructure" erected on economic foundations, or "false consciousness" spread by elite spies to divide the workers. I think the Trump/Brexit phenomenon shows exactly the opposite. To millions of working class and poor people, group solidarity (race, nation, religion) is just more important than economics, and they will vote against their economic interests to express support for their kind of people. They don't seem to be a majority, but there are enough of them to matter a great deal.
It’s a hard question to answer if you believe people cast their ballots principally on the basis of their perceived economic interests. European social democrats have been proposing ideas that more objectively speak to the material interests of voters, particularly in the working class, for decades. In virtually every country in Western Europe, however, it hasn’t been enough to help the parties maintain their historic levels of public support.
Ironically, that could be because the European left is the victim of its own success. Ronald Inglehart, an eminent political scientist at the University of Michigan, argues that the combination of rapid economic growth and a robust welfare state have provided voters with enough economic security that they could start prioritizing issues beyond the distribution of wealth — issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and, most crucially, immigration.
So it’s not that European social democrats failed to sell their economic message, or that economic redistribution became unpopular. It’s that economic issues receded in importance at the same time as Europe was experiencing a massive, unprecedented wave of nonwhite, non-Christian immigration.
That, in turn, brought some of the most politically potent nonmaterial issues — race, identity, and nationalism — to the forefront of Western voters’ mind. How comfortable were they, really, with multicultural, multifaith societies?
Monday, March 13, 2017
The Welfare State and the Anti-Immigrant Vote
Leftists of the Bernie Sanders sort tend to believe that working class voters abandoned the Democrats because they did not stand up wholeheartedly enough for the economic interests of the non-rich. But there is no evidence that this is so, and some that cuts directly against it. In Europe, ethnic nationalism is strongest in the places with the strongest welfare states. Zack Beauchamp: