I don’t often agree with the New York Times‘ Bret Stephens or like what he has to say, but I have long-admired how he says it. His recent NYT piece entitled “How Trump Wins Next Year” is an exception to the former but no exception to the latter. The man has a way with words.
Stephens lays out the reasons for the radical left’s election losses around the world and then explains why they are likely to lose to President Trump in 2020.
In India, Narendra Modi won his re-election largely on the strength of his appeals to Hindu nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiment. In Australia, incumbent Scott Morrison ran against the high cost of climate action, including in lost jobs, and won a stunning upset. In the U.K., Trump surrogate Nigel Farage looks like he and his Brexit Party will be the runaway victors in the European elections. In Brazil and the Philippines, the political appeal of Bolsonaro and Duterte seems to be inversely correlated to their respect for human rights and the rule of law, to say nothing of modern ethical pieties.
The common thread here isn’t just right-wing populism. It’s contempt for the ideology of them before us: of the immigrant before the native-born; of the global or transnational interest before the national or local one; of racial or ethnic or sexual minorities before the majority; of the transgressive before the normal. It’s a revolt against the people who say: Pay an immediate and visible price for a long-term and invisible good. It’s hatred of those who think they can define that good, while expecting someone else to pay for it.
When protests erupted last year in France over Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to raise gas prices for the sake of the climate, one gilets jaunes slogan captured the core complaint: “Macron is concerned with the end of the world,” it went, while “we are concerned with the end of the month.”
This is a potent form of politics, and it’s why I suspect Trump will be re-elected next year barring an economic meltdown or foreign-policy shock.
. . . . But the left has the deeper problem. That’s partly because it self-consciously approaches politics as a struggle against selfishness, and partly because it has invested itself so deeply, and increasingly inflexibly, on issues such as climate change or immigration. Whatever else might be said about this, it’s a recipe for nonstop political defeat leavened only by a sensation of moral superiority.
He gets in some typical (i.e. yawn-inducing retread) Trump-bashing, but it’s worth reading the whole thing.
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