Why Europe Gets No Respect

VDH attempts to explainWhy Europe Gets No Respect.”

The high-tech revolution that birthed Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft passed Europe by. Judged by the great historical determinants of civilizational power—fuel, energy, education, demography, political stability, and military power—Europe is waning. It is spending a mere 1.4% of its collective GDP on defense. Most analysts conclude that even what Europe does spend on security does not translate directly into military readiness, at least in comparison with the U.S. military. And with a fertility rate of less than 1.6%, Europe is slowly shrinking and aging—hence the short-sighted immigration policy of Angela Merkel who apparently sees immigration also as a solution to the demography crisis and a shortcut to low-cost labor.

Across the continent, laws against fracking, German dismantling of nuclear power plants, and massive green subsidies for erratic wind and solar generation—all self-inflicted wounds—have made European gasoline and electricity costs among the highest in the world. Europe remains dependent on Russia, Central Asia, and the OPEC countries for much of its energy needs. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings of the world’s top 20 universities, only 1 was a continental European university; in contrast, 15 were American and 4 British.

Politically, the European Union has not squared the circle of uniting diverse peoples, languages, and cultures with long historical grievances into a pan-European nation—at least without a level of coercion that is inconsistent with democratic values. Instead, members increasingly find European Union dogma at odds with human nature, at least in terms of entitlements, immigrations, and national security. For a continent that celebrates diversity, the European apparat is quite intolerant of dissident voices.

The result is frustration and polarization, as the EU is slowing becoming trisected. Eastern Europeans revolt at the open-borders bullying of Berlin and Paris and are beginning to refuse entry to any more Muslim men from the Middle East. Meanwhile Mediterranean Europeans see their frontline burdens of dealing with massive illegal immigration not just as underappreciated, but also as another manifestation of an earlier northern European financial diktat. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom just drifts away. In the center of these regional tensions stands Germany, the EU’s largest nation—and the one with its most problematic history. In theory, Germany asserts that it no longer is the bully of 1871, 1914, and 1939. In fact, Berlin shows little patience with those who object to its plans of dealing with Brexit, Muslim immigration, and indebted southern European Union members.

These rifts are symptomatic of an existential paradox, similar in some sense to the contradictions of the progressive movement in the United States. European government is largely run by an elite class of professional and bureaucratic careerists. On matters such as illegal immigration and financial sacrifices, their privilege exempts them from the concrete consequences of their ideology and policy: someone other than they will bear the immediate consequences of massive illegal immigration on the schools, neighborhoods, and public safety.

The implementation of a social welfare state seeks to provide cradle-to-grave support for a static underclass in exchange for its political support for an entrenched elite. The expensive social project squeezes the middle class, as taxes rise to pay for entitlements for the poor and to subsidize the lifestyles of the mandarins of the administrative state.

The European social welfare state envisions military expenditures as theft from social welfare entitlements—a viable assumption as long as the United States continues to underwrite European national security. European culture is uncomfortable with the individual drive toward upward mobility and entrepreneurialism. Its own attitude is more like the Obama platitudes “you didn’t build that,” “now is not the time to profit,” or “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” Purely private research universities are almost nonexistent. The European ethos too often sees profit-making as a violation of fairness. Equality not liberty is the operative agenda, an idea that transcends the European Union and in theory applies to anyone from anywhere who can manage to cross the borders of the European Union.

Out of this complex matrix emerges the haughty European mindset that it alone has transcended the limitations of human nature, convinced that enlightened ideas about soft power and pure reason can eliminate war, poverty, and inequality not just inside Europe, but globally as well.

Loud professions of human rights, and deep antipathy to religion as a sort of dark, unenlightened force from Europe’s troubled past have deluded the European Union about the ultimate sources of its safety and prosperity. Its postwar trajectory to affluence and security partly rested on U.S. military subsidies, as well as the ability to run up large trade deficits with the United States that supported the evolution of a globalized economy. European foreign policy in the concrete hinges on trading and profiting with almost anyone, while in the abstract it opposes human rights abuses, often by its own trade partners. Europeans talk loftily, but act either in self-interested fashion or not much at all.

The 21st century has not been too impressed…

A continental ethos of agnosticism, state dependency, childlessness, and multiculturalism leaves Europe especially vulnerable to both the foreign challenges of a dangerous neighborhood, and massive influxes of mostly Muslim immigrants, as its own shrinking population is in danger of becoming incapable of supporting the welfare state and pension payouts of an aging population.

An American solution to European stasis—deregulation, tax cutting, more referenda and plebiscites, increased defense spending, natural gas and oil fracking, border security—would be unthinkable Such a turnabout would be antithetical to the European elite’s own self-perceptions and humanitarian pretensions, and would entail a collective admission of failure.

The European Union is left with its signature mythology that pan-Europeanism alone has at least kept the peace for nearly 75 years, the longest period of uninterrupted continental calm since the unification of Germany in 1871. Such naiveté takes into little account the role of an American-led NATO or the anomaly that Germany, Europe’s largest, most dynamic country, and also its most aggressive nation historically, did not develop nuclear weapons, while its traditional frontline enemies in two world wars, France and the United Kingdom, nuclearized—on the instinct that power, not pretension, keeps the peace.

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SCOTUS is undemocratic

Rich Lowry writes that yes, indeed, as a matter of fact… the Supreme Court is undemocratic.

In an era of partisan polarization, it is rare to get agreement on anything, but about this there should be a consensus: The Supreme Court is an undemocratic institution whose power should be carefully circumscribed.

The Right has long been of this view, and the Left is suddenly and opportunistically partway there.

In an essay capturing progressives’ newfound skepticism, Ezra Klein of Vox wrote that the Supreme Court “has always been undemocratic” and is now becoming even “more dangerous.”

This represents a welcome turnabout from cheering the high court’s de facto legislating, although the Left is about a half-century late to the insight that the court isn’t a democratically elected legislature.

Lowry also thinks, “The irony in left-wing opposition to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation is that he would work to rectify the problem.”

My hope:  no re-litigating of past culture wars, but a rediscover of the small-r circuit-breaker type features of our federal republic.  E.g., roll back the administrative state, re-assert separation of powers, protect the 1st Amendment from cultural Marxism and identity politics.

Somewhat related:  Michael Walsh believes the democrats are going over Niagara Falls in a barrel and says, simply, “Have a nice trip.”

And so, after less than two years of the Trump Administration, the eight long years of Barack Obama are already being relegated to the ash heap of history. Obamacare is enduring a slow dismantling, bit by bit, rather than an outright repeal and some of Obama’s race-based policies regarding education are being rolled back as well. In a way, this death by a thousand cuts is a more fitting demise for the Obama “fundamental transformation,” since its prescripts were largely instituted by stealth, accretion, strictly by fiat, and wholly untethered in constitutional principles.

And that’s the problem—the modern American Left has no faith in the Constitution (in fact, it loathes it), and on its long march through the institutions it has sought to diminish our founding document via emanations and penumbras of phantom “rights” whose existence, like that of Planet X, can only be inferred but not proven. What the panicking Democrats see as a hijacking of their country is, in fact, a restoration of basic American principles that have been nearly Alinskyed to death via the practical application of critical theory—a cultural battering-ram that has been used to lethal effect against such institutions as the family, religion, and patriotism.

At the root of the cultural-Marxist panic is the fear of rollback, which displays weakness, which they cannot afford. As I’ve long observed, the American Left essentially subscribes to the Brezhnev Doctrine, which stated that once a country had gone Communist, it could never go back, and would be prevented from doing so by force (e.g., Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968) if necessary. Never mind that most of the legislative victories of the leftist manifesto since the mid-‘60s have come via the courts, not the ballot box; the fate of “progressivism” is too important to be left the will of the grubby Little People in whose name the Left insists it acts but for whom it holds nothing but contempt. For them, to lose even an inch is tantamount to losing not just a mile, but the whole race.

For years, the Left was used to getting its own way in the federal courts, including the Supreme Court. Their tools included offense—the discovery of hidden rights nowhere mentioned in the Constitution but simply willed into existence—and defense, such as whenever a lone federal judge decides to issue a nationwide injunction against the president. The notion that a single, unelected member of the judicial branch (which in the case of the lower courts, Congress actually controls) can overturn the policies, duties, and bailiwicks of a duly elected Congress or president is so fundamentally undemocratic as to be breathtaking in its effrontery; each judge a potential petty dictator unconcerned with the will of the people.

But so effectively has the Left implanted the notion of “higher loyalties” and of an abstract “rule of law,” that it was simply accepted instead of laughed out of, well, court. No longer. In the travel ban opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas took note of the absurdity of such injunctions and gave the Progs fair warning that the days of bowing before their gods are coming to an end.

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Optimal currency area

This is a great/brief explanation of an OCA, and a little commentary on the future of the Euro.  (Spoiler alert:  it needs to split into two, to accommodate the economic and cultural differences, aka, Lindsey Lohan yoked to Rosie the Riveter).  In the end, a currency without a government is doomed to fail.  Or lead to a centralized government.

The U.S. contains states with very different economies, too, so one might well ask how the Federal Reserve can get monetary policy right for the entire “dollar zone.” The answer is that the dollar zone is closer to being an optimal currency area (OCA) than the euro zone.

Being an OCA means the monetary authority does not have to get monetary policy perfectly right for each region. That is because an OCA has economic “shock absorbers” in place that allow for a gentler adjustment to inappropriate regional monetary policy. For example, imagine the U.S. economy is booming while Michigan is in recession. The Fed tightens policy to keep the national economy from overheating. This tightening could prove disastrous for Michigan residents — except they can move to booming states like Texas or California, collect unemployment insurance and other federal safety-net benefits, or take wage cuts to stay employed. Moreover, they know their financial assets will be safe in their banks and that they could tap into capital markets to borrow if needed to get through the recession. In short, the OCA theory says that even if a regional economy is subject to destabilizing monetary policy, it can still be a viable part of a currency union — so long as there is some combination of labor mobility, fiscal transfers, price flexibility, and a safe financial system that insulates the region from monetary shocks.

The euro zone lacks the requisite shock absorbers to be considered an optimal currency area.

The euro zone lacks these shock absorbers. Labor mobility in the euro zone is limited, there is no meaningful euro-zone fiscal-transfer mechanism, euro-zone wages and prices are not very flexible, the euro-zone banking system is fragile and stuck in a “doom-loop”, and euro-zone financial markets are not fully integrated. The euro-zone project, in other words, is incomplete and susceptible to further crises. If a country’s business cycle is out of sync with that of the currency area as a whole, that country is likely to find a common currency destabilizing. It has the power to take some steps to make itself a better fit for the currency area — similar to how Spain has increased its shock absorbers via structural reform to make its labor markets more flexible and to firm up its banks — but it is not clear that this approach is enough, or that other periphery countries even have the institutional capacity to follow it.

French president Emmanuel Macron has pushed hard for greater fiscal and financial integration in order to create more shock absorbers. There is, however, another way to ameliorate the problem, albeit one not much more likely to appeal to Germany: a higher euro-zone inflation rate.

[The region’s trend inflation] has run far below any reasonable interpretation of the ECB’s target of “below but close to 2 percent.” It has averaged close to 1 percent since the Great Recession in 2008. Had the ECB let inflation run closer to 2 percent, the higher inflation would probably have been seen first in the regions closest to full employment. That is, the additional money spending created by a looser monetary policy would have run up against capacity constraints in the “core” countries first. Prices in core countries would have thus risen relative to prices in the periphery — boosting the periphery’s exports.

Higher inflation, in other words, would have worked in a way similar to a fiscal union, transferring resources from the core to the periphery. It would have acted as a shock absorber. As I have argued elsewhere, a total-money-spending or nominal-GDP-level target for the ECB would be an effective way to achieve higher inflation without the costs of an ad hoc increase in that rate.

The Path Forward: Integrate or Separate

So where does this leave the euro zone? For now, euro-zone officials are still kicking the can down the road, but at some point they will face a fork. One path will force further integration upon the euro zone, along the lines of Emmanuel Macron’s proposal and better ECB monetary policy. The other path will lead to the separation of the euro zone. As Ashoka Mody shows in his new book, the 20-year history of the euro zone suggests the latter path is more likely. Breaking up the euro zone, though, need not end the EU. As suggested by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and Ramesh Ponnuru, the periphery could keep using the euro while the core could exit and adopt their own currency: Call it the Deutschmark 2.0. This approach would minimize the financial stress from the breakup of the currency union.

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The courts in America became an agent of social discord

Daniel Henninger writes that “The United States needs to settle down politically.”  From Kavanaugh and the Culture Wars in today’s WSJ:

The Democratic opposition to any Supreme Court nominee from Mr. Trump in 2018 has been about virtually one thing: the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. That was 45 years ago. And that is about the time the culture wars began in America. There have been casualties since then, a lot of them.

Whatever one thinks about Roe, the court for the first time involved itself in a subject that for many Americans was profoundly and overwhelmingly moral (some might cite Engel, the 1962 decision banning school prayer). Through the 1970s and ’80s the religious right emerged as a politically active opposition to America’s cultural direction. But its rise produced a more powerful, media-driven counter-movement of aggressive secularism.

More than ever before, many matters that entered American politics, such as racial preferences or various disputes over free speech, were rerouted away from legislatures and into the judicial system, with both sides contending that the opposition wasn’t merely wrong but immoral.

The Obama presidency expanded the alternative battlefield. Explicitly identifying its impatience with the legislative branch, the Obama White House ordered administrative agencies to execute contentious policies affecting sex and race.

The Supreme Court, in its 2015 Obergefell decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, established gay marriage as a protected right. In a recent essay on these pages, Walter Olson made a definitive argument that this decision will survive in a conservative Supreme Court. Roe v. Wade will survive, too, not least to avoid social upheaval.

Shortly after the Obergefell decision, something else of cultural and political significance happened. Within months, the left began to agitate for transgender rights, another moral claim whose substantive meaning is a mystery to most Americans.

Liberals remain incredulous at Mr. Trump’s election. But nearly half the electorate voted for him, and among the reasons is that today a lot of people—across all income classes—feel they are really being jammed by the culture. Progressive jurisprudence had a lot to do with this. Liberals won their share of court decisions, but at a price: The courts in America became an agent of social discord.

It would be good for the country’s stability if a Kavanaugh Court disincentivized the left from using the courts to push the far edges of the social envelope. This is not about turning back the clock. It is about how best to resolve bitter social and cultural disputes in the future. It is about no longer using the courts to make triumphal moral claims against the majority.

In the Kavanaugh Court, extending rights claims beyond their already elastic status is going to require more rigor than appeals to a judge’s personal sensibilities or a theory of social organization developed in law journals.

Advocates for social change involving race, gender, identity and such will have to convince representative majorities, elected by voters, to agree with their point of view. Unlike in the past four decades, the high court will more often weigh in after, not before, the political process has happened.

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Book review – “Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times”

In Juris Prudence, Matthew Spalding, provides a second write-up of Paul’s book at NRO.  Must be some book.  Good timing, with the news of Trump’s 2nd Justice expected tomorrow.

Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times, by Joel Richard Paul (Riverhead, 512 pp., $30)

91xONYR6gNLWhen John Marshall was asked the first time by President John Adams to be on the Supreme Court, he promptly declined. Alexander Hamilton had rejected the same offer from President Washington, as had Patrick Henry. John Jay had been chief justice but resigned when he was elected governor of New York; when Adams asked him to return to the Court, he refused to preside over “a system so defective.”

The Supreme Court was no place for an ambitious, self-respecting jurist. In its first decade, it averaged just over six decisions per year, most of them insignificant. There were no lower courts of appeal, which meant that justices had to “ride circuit” around the country on horseback, hearing mediocre lawyers debate lackluster cases. For most, the highest court in the land was a step down.

Fortunately, John Marshall changed his mind when he was asked again by President Adams in 1801. After having three chief justices in eleven years, the Court would be dominated by Chief Justice Marshall for 34 years. Before Marshall, there was a majority decision but justices spoke individually, if at all. Marshall began the practice of delivering a single “opinion of the Court” that justices could concur with or dissent from, and more often than not, that opinion was John Marshall’s. He wrote every opinion of the Court in every case he participated in during his first five years, and three-quarters in the next seven years. Only eight times did Marshall file a dissenting opinion in a Supreme Court case. Just as much as any great president or legislative leader shaped the presidency or Congress, Marshall transformed an insignificant legal body into a crucial institution of constitutional government. “If American law were to be represented by a single figure,” Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said, “sceptic and worshipper alike would agree without dispute that the figure could be but one alone, and that one, John Marshall.”

A compelling new book tells the fascinating story of how that happened. Much of Joel Richard Paul’s Without Precedent deals with Marshall’s pre-Court life, providing lively accounts of his role in America’s early history — as soldier in the Revolutionary War, member of Virginia’s legislature and delegate at its convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution, minister to France, member of Congress, and secretary of state. This background is crucial for understanding Marshall’s later work in guiding the Court through cases involving complex issues both foreign and domestic.

As the subtitle announces, the work is also about Marshall’s times, providing a full picture of the Founding-era context and the swirling circumstances — from the French Revolution to the War of 1812, slavery, and westward expansion — in which Marshall pursued his task of building a coequal branch of government with little more to work with than the Constitution’s grant of the “judicial power.”

The book juxtaposes the lives of Marshall, the practical-minded Federalist, and his Republican second cousin Thomas Jefferson, always drawn to political abstractions. Their careers reached the pinnacle of power at almost exactly the same moment: In December 1800, Vice President Jefferson (as president of the Senate) informed Secretary of State John Marshall of the Electoral College returns from that year’s election; three months later, it would be the new chief justice, John Marshall, who would swear in the new president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, it was the result of that election, and the realigning victory of the Jeffersonian Anti-Federalists, that drew Marshall to the idea of serving on the Supreme Court — not as a narrowly partisan move, but to establish more firmly a judicial check on the popular branches that (as it turned out) would be controlled by one party for decades.

Paul’s narrative excels when providing background details and the political context of Marshall’s famous decisions. Unlike many previous Marshall biographies, this book properly focuses on the practical circumstances that form the ground of Marshall’s decision-making. Consider Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), in which Marshall wrote a majority opinion declining to issue an injunction against a set of Georgia laws depriving the Cherokee nation of rights under state law. Paul shows that Marshall actually agreed with the dissent written by Smith Thompson and joined by his close friend and ally Joseph Story. But Marshall knew that he could not change the outcome of the case by voting with the dissent and that, if he did, a much broader and more racially hostile opinion would have been written by Justice William Johnson. Marshall’s strategy to limit the scope of the majority decision bore fruit when he was able to take up a more opportune case the next year: In Worcester v. Georgia, he was able to lead a 5–1 majority upholding the sovereignty of the Cherokee nation.

Perhaps most interesting is Paul’s recounting of the circumstances surrounding Marshall’s most famous case, Marbury v. Madison (1803). Two centuries removed, it is easy to read Marshall’s opinion as though it were simply an exercise in deciding a nuanced legal question. Largely forgotten, however, are Marshall’s masterly behind-the-scenes maneuvers to ensure that the case would arrive at the Court at the right time and in the proper form. Paul argues convincingly that Marbury was a setup, designed to give Marshall an opportunity to insulate the Court by establishing judicial review, and posits that Marshall may have resorted to questionable evidentiary tactics in order to establish Marbury’s standing in the case.

Yet while the book covers all the great decisions of Marshall’s tenure, it doesn’t provide enough depth to capture the deliberative substance and prudent consistency that constitute Marshall’s statesmanship. Perhaps that is why Paul can only conclude that Marshall was a pragmatist, willing to abandon principles in favor of compromise, often inconsistent and unconcerned with consequences. He sees a “master actor” who had the “confidence and imagination to reinvent the law” and a “gift for illusion” that allowed him to transform himself, the Court, and the country.

Fortunately, one can read Marshall’s judicial opinions to complete the account. Unlike modern judicial decisions — cluttered with footnotes, legal jargon, and references to convoluted court precedents — Marshall’s opinions are vivid, well organized, and easily accessible. Marbury v. Madison is as coherent and convincing today as it was two centuries ago.

The clarity of Marshall’s writing is not incidental; it proceeds from his core belief that “a constitution is framed for ages to come, and is designed to approach immortality as nearly as human institutions can approach it.” Marshall’s defense of the responsibility of the Court to interpret the Constitution rests not on an argument about the technical expertise of judges but rather on the assertion that the document was instituted by the sovereign American people as the supreme law of the land (Article VI) and that all constitutional officers — legislators and presidents as well as judges — take an oath to support and defend it.

“The people made the Constitution, and the people can unmake it,” Marshall wrote in Cohens v. Virginia (1821). “It is the creature of their will, and lives only by their will.” Because the Constitution is the highest expression of the American people, the Court must apply its meaning even if doing so means overturning a law passed by the elected representatives of the people. Rather than judicial supremacy, Marshall established the doctrine of constitutional supremacy springing from “the authoritative language of the American people.” The purpose of judicial interpretation is not to mold the Constitution to fit the “spirit of the times” but rather to make sure that (until amended) the spirit and the letter of the Constitution endure the times. In this sense, the Constitution is both a charge and a limitation on judicial power, as well as on the executive and the legislature. Marshall reiterated this in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), when he reminded judges, “We must never forget that it is a Constitution we are expounding.”

Most Americans know little about John Marshall, and what they do know has to do with some vague idea of judicial review or the false assumption of judicial supremacy. That’s too little, but also too much. Marshall wanted to make the Supreme Court more consequential, but he did not intend it to be the ultimate arbiter of the Constitution. Marshall sought to elevate the Constitution above party and popular passions by strengthening the Court within the constitutional regime of checks and balances.

While Marshall certainly reacted to practical political concerns and did not shy from creating new judicial doctrines, it would be a mistake to ignore the larger constancy of his understanding of the purpose and meaning of the Constitution. Reviewing his judicial statesmanship, his juris prudence, does indeed remind us that judges are still political actors, but it also shows that the best judges — of whom Marshall was the greatest — are partisans not of political party but of constitutional self-government.

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Better Dead than Read

Andrew Stuttaford reviews “Marx and Marxism,” by London-based historian Gregory Claeys, in the WSJ:

Reading Mr. Claeys’s description of Marx the man—someone he evidently, if far from unconditionally, admires—it is both easy and reasonable to conclude that Marx’s personality set the tone for some of the most lethal strains in the regimes he inspired: “He was . . . almost totally unwilling to see anyone else’s viewpoint. The essence of democracy—compromise and the acceptance of opposition—was often beyond his capacity.” From his earliest years, Marx would tolerate very little dissent, and the sometimes lengthy, frequently inventive and sporadically repulsive abuse to which he subjected those with whom he disagreed (especially on the left) contain more than a hint of the prosecutors’ diatribes at show trials to come.

Marx died in 1883. Eleven people attended his funeral, but, as Mr. Claeys notes, “a year later . . . some 6,000 marched to the gravesite.” The cult was on the move. Something more than the cult of personality already emerging while he still lived, it came with echoes of earlier eruptions of millenarianism—a term that has long since expanded beyond its original theological definition to include, among other varieties of judgment day, the complete overthrow of society and its replacement with, in essence, heaven on earth. These similarities have been identified by scholars since at least the mid-20th century, but too often ignored.

Mr. Claeys, who is also a historian of Utopianism, is well equipped to avoid that omission. He acknowledges that millenarianism seeped into aspects of Marx’s philosophy, including both his view of history and his conveniently hazy vision of the communist paradise to come. This line of inquiry would have been worth pursuing further: Millenarianism is an ancient, proven formula that will find an audience as long as the credulous, the discontented, the jealous and the unfairly treated are among us—in other words, forever.

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Tapping the breaks on trans-national progressivism

Long excerpt from a great piece by Matthew Continetti, wondering why the center left has seemed to disappear:

The only civil war happening at the moment is within the Democratic Party. The old-guard corporatists are under attack from activists with radical goals and immoderate tempers. You can trace a line from Occupy Wall Street in 2011 through Black Lives Matter in 2013 through Bernie Sanders in 2016 through the Women’s March a year later, Tom Steyer and Maxine Waters’s impeachment campaigns, the growing prominence of Democratic Socialists of America, and the movement to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement today.

How long Nancy Pelosi remains Democratic leader is an open question. During a recent telephone town hall, activists demanded Chuck Schumer stop President Trump’s Supreme Court pick (he can’t) and back up Auntie Maxine (he’d be crazy to). The intellectual energy is on the farther reaches of the left: Jacobin and n+1 are the hot journals, Chapo Trap House is the podcast the cool kids listen to, Washington Post columnist Elizabeth Breunig defends the socialist ideal in Jeff Bezos’s newspaper, and the New York Times recently announced that Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, will be joining the op-ed page in the fall.

This is a trend that has been building for some time but over the last two years acquired galvanic force. Why? Is it because the nature of the threat that Donald Trump represents to the left? Is it because, as Victor Davis Hanson has argued, Trump denied the left the power it considers its due? Or is it because Barack Obama, despite all of his purple rhetoric and fantastic publicity, was unable even to approach his goal of “fundamentally transforming” America—because he left the Democratic Party a smoking ruin, and bequeathed a regulatory and policy legacy as fragile as a paper crane?

All of these explanations for the resurgent left have some merit. I am especially partial, naturally, to the one that pins responsibility on Obama, who raised the hopes of a generation that the waters would cease to rise only to hand over command of the ship eight years later to Donald Trump and become a Netflix producer. Still, it is important to recognize that the collapse of the center-left is not limited to America. It is a global phenomenon. Obama and Clinton may have broken the Democratic Party, but don’t hold them responsible for the destruction of the French Socialists, the fall of the Italian Democratic Party, the takeover of Labor by Jeremy Corbyn, the worst result by the German Social Democratic Party since World War II, and the triumph of López-Obrador in Mexico.

If there is a common denominator to these electoral shakeups, it is the politics of migration. The overthrown establishments all benefited from the economics of illegal immigration and used migrants as chits in a humanitarian sweepstakes in which the leader who signals the most virtue wins. Migration became a symbol for the “flat world” of globalization where not just people but also cultures, goods, and investments flowed freely, borders had little meaning, and sovereignty was pooled upwards to transnational bureaucracy as identity was reduced to racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual characteristics. The fantastic wealth produced by the global marketplace enriched the center-left to such a degree that its adherents became walled off from the material, social, and cultural concerns of the working people they professed to represent. And so middle-class workers who believe a country’s leadership ought to be accountable to a country’s citizens went elsewhere—devastating the ranks of the center left and creating a vacuum for the neo-socialists of the twenty-first century.

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