On Sunday, September 24th, the Christian Democratic Union of Germany and Christian Social Union in Bavaria won the plurality vote (32.8%). The win allows Angela Merkel to serve a fourth term as Chancellor of Germany.
Since her initial election in 2005, Merkel has presided over an economically strong Germany. Germany has become the strongest economy in Europe and possesses an unemployment rate that hovers between 3.7 and 3.9%. In 2016, Germany also overtook the United Kingdom as having the fastest-growing GDP in Europe. Knowing this, Merkel created the slogan “For a Germany in which we live well and happily” for her 2017 campaign. She campaigned on the idea of “continuity,” which turned out to be a successful strategy.
Merkel’s victory was widely anticipated, but this election revealed an unexpected political shift – one that was rooted in dissatisfaction with globalist policies.
This shift took form in the public’s support for the political party Alternative for Germany, commonly referred to as AfD. Polls predicted that the party would have support, but that it wouldn’t break 10% of the popular vote. The party ended up gaining more momentum than expected and took third place in the federal election, capturing 13% of the popular vote (nearly 6 million votes). The AfD is now a party that has 94 seats of representation in the Bundestag (Germany’s federal parliament). This is the first time a far-right party has been elected into Germany’s parliament since World War II. So why is this happening now?
It all started in 2013 when the AfD began to campaign against globalism. Initially, the party didn’t receive the popularity it had hoped for. Polls estimated that the party would gain no more than 5% of the vote in the 2013 federal election, and they were correct. AfD captured a million votes and received 4.7% of the popular vote in the election, narrowly missing the 5% mark for representation in Germany’s parliament. Support for the party stagnated, but that all changed with Angela Merkel’s new immigration policy in 2015.
Because of the nation’s economic success, Merkel decided to implement an “open-borders” immigration policy in 2015. The policy significantly increased the number of migrants accepted in the country, but it was met with severe criticism. Leading Social Democrats condemned both Merkel and her finance minister in their failure to adequately expand the social welfare program for migrants. Others had called for the immediate closure of the country’s borders. But Merkel was not willing to take this action. Her popularity began to fade as the German public’s frustration grew with the “open-borders” policy.
For the next two years, AfD capitalized on the general public’s opposition to Angela Merkel’s immigration policy, and it worked in their favor. More than half the German population identified as having “populist views” by 2017. A Quartz article states that “Populism, which the Bertelsmann Institute defines as being anti-establishment, anti-pluralistic, and pro national sovereignty, is definitely present among German voters, according to the institute’s three-part survey on populism in Germany between 2015 and 2017. The results showed (pdf in German) that 29.2% were deeply populist, 33.9% held some populist views, and the rest couldn’t be described as populist at all.”
This growing opposition to globalism isn’t exclusive to Germany. Parallels are seen in recent elections across the globe. In each of these elections, there is a distinct pattern.
- Left-leaning politicians attempt to institute long-term, globalist policies
- These policies foment dissatisfaction within the general electorate
- The public brands the implementor of these policies as “part of the establishment,” adversely painting this person as someone who is guided by their interests, and not guided by the interests of the people
- A right-leaning candidate/party notices this dissatisfaction and banks on the idea that people will accept a radically different system
- A right-leaning candidate/party will campaign on a variety of issues but will focus on immigration
The United States’ 2016 Presidential Election is another testament to this trend.
Hillary Clinton ran on the idea that she’d be a “third term of Obama.” This is not an uncommon strategy for candidates following popular presidents to use. George Bush Sr. won the election of 1988 with relative ease because of President Ronald Reagan’s popularity. Harry Truman won the election of 1948 because of the success of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. But her decision to run as a “third term Obama” was a critical mistake. She mistook President Obama’s popularity for public support of his policies.
At the beginning of his term, Obama had incredibly high approval ratings. But through his two terms as president, he expended a great deal of political capital to implement globalist policies. Here are a few:
- Trans-Pacific Partnership
- Paris Climate Accords
- DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
- Global Poverty Act: spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid.
These policies led the general electorate of America to believe Obama was “part of the establishment.” Even so-called “champions” of progressivism portrayed Obama as both part of the establishment and part of a corrupted system.
As time passed, the American public grew increasingly frustrated with Obama’s globalist policies. Polls began to show that Americans believed that both the Democratic Party and President Obama were out of touch with their needs. Perhaps the greatest proof of declining support for globalism were election results. Since former President Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Democrats have lost over 1000 seats, on national, state, and local levels. This shows a mild frustration with the leadership of the Democratic Party, which holds the principles of globalism as invaluable.
Donald Trump capitalized on this frustration and campaigned accordingly. He was known for his phrases like “We’re going to drain the swamp,” “We will put America first,” “We’re going to build a wall, and Mexico will pay for it.”
Notice the sequence. Trump addresses the concerns Americans have with globalism and promises to get rid of “establishment” politicians that lie within “the Swamp.” He then emphasizes his policy of “America First,” which is the antithesis of Obama’s globalist views. He then proposed one of his trademark solutions to the issue: “We’re Going to Build a Wall.”
Donald Trump’s campaign embodied what people were concerned about the most during Obama’s presidency: Globalism.
Hillary Clinton’s attempt to run as a third-term Obama did not succeed. Many pundits believe that Hillary’s flaws were to blame for her loss. But this misses the point. Trump had flaws as well. The 2016 election was not a referendum on either of the candidates; it was a victory of Trump’s nationalism over Obama’s globalism.
In France, we saw another similar scenario. Before the 2017 election, President Hollande had historically low approval ratings. Some polls had him as high as 12% and as low as 4%. His poll numbers plummeted because of his failure to display leadership following an onslaught of terrorist attacks.
In January 2015, two terrorists forced themselves into a building, which was the HQ of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. These terrorists killed 12 people and injured 11 more. In November 2015, terrorists targeted the city of Paris at several different locations. 130 people were killed, and over 350 were injured. In July 2016, terrorists attacked the city of Nice, France. 88 people were slaughtered, including children, and over 300 people were taken to the hospital due to injuries.
These attacks disheartened the country. Friendships were forcefully severed. Mothers and Fathers had to bury their children. Husbands and Wives were permanently separated. The people of France looked to President Hollande for leadership, strength, and guidance. Unfortunately, Hollande refused to take a tough stand, so the people looked for another leader, an outsider who understood them.
Candidates began to emerge from a variety of political parties, but the ones that had the most success were the ones that were “self-anointed” outsiders: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. These candidates capitalized on the notion that Hollande was now the embodiment of the establishment. They noticed that the people believed he no longer acknowledged their wants but was instead motivated by his own. However, The two candidates took very different approaches.
Macron, a moderate, founded his own political party “En Marche!”. Although the Party claims to represent an “outsider’s approach” to the functions of government, it is strongly progressive, both socially and fiscally, which aligns very closely with the party of the failed president Hollande. Despite this, Macron painted himself as a realist. He wanted to be looked at as a man of principle, but also as a man who was fed up with the establishment.
The Far-Right, National Front Candidate, Marine Le Pen also campaigned to appeal to the frustrated, French voters. However, the road ahead was difficult. The National Front had a history of racism, sexism, and antisemitism under the leadership of Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Being a convicted Holocaust denier, Jean-Marie Le Pen was infamously known for claiming things like “The Nazi occupation was not particularly inhumane” and “If you take a 1,000-page book on World War II, the concentration camps take up only two pages and the gas chambers 10 to 15 lines. This is what one calls a detail.” Marine Le Pen was forced to expel her father from the party in 2015.
No one predicted that the National Front would gain the amount of popularity it did. In the first block of voting, the National Front had attained 21.3% of the popular vote. This was a close second to “En Marche!”, which received 24% of the vote.
Because the National Front had reached the threshold of votes needed to move on to the second block of voting, Le Pen had now moved on to compete for the French Presidency. Although she had lost, Le Pen had gained 12% nationally, grabbing 10.6 million votes. It’s particularly noteworthy because she had earned approximately half of all youth voters, instilling a legacy of nationalism in France’s youth electorate.
On the day of her concession speech, Le Pen sent a resounding message throughout the world and stated that “France had voted for continuity,” but promised to never “give up her fight.” Although Macron received an overwhelming win in the election, the National Front gained many seats in the legislature, which gives them an opportunity to transcribe their ideological beliefs into legislation.
The fact is that these elections are signs that people are growing tired of globalism. They are signs which indicate there is growing support for nationalism. If this trend continues to be ignored, we may witness globalism completely fade away.