Philip Stephens writes: The terms of politics in many of the world’s advanced democracies had changed well before [Donald Trump] joined the Republican primary contest. If the party of Lincoln now risks being devoured by its own terrible creation, the European model of consensual centrism has been under threat for some time. Mr Trump’s flair, if you can call it that, has been in riding the wave.
Populists in Europe fume against the same supposed conspiracy of the elites that Mr Trump claims is doing down America’s middle classes. The binding threads of the shared populism are angry nationalism and state intervention. Europeans used to call it national socialism. Mr Trump wants to expel Mexicans and bar Muslims. In France, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen is bidding for the presidency on a platform of Islamophobia and state capitalism. Both are unabashed admirers of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The other day a proudly neo-Nazi party — complete with sinister black uniforms and lightning flashes — won seats in the Slovakian parliament. In neighbouring Hungary, prime minister Viktor Orban presides over an authoritarian regime that is hostile to Muslims, permissive of anti-Semitism and blames foreign capital for the country’s economic ills. Poland’s politics have swung towards the xenophobic right. Nationalists are on the march in Scandinavia and Italy. And while populists on the far right rail against migrants, their cousins on the extreme left join them in blaming globalisation for economic ills.
Germany, hitherto a linchpin of the continent’s political stability, faces the beginnings of its own insurgency in the rise of the Eurosceptic and anti-migrant Alternative für Deutschland party. In Britain, the movement to take Britain out of the EU has its own populist hue. Mr Trump promises to make America great again by throwing up the barricades. Boris Johnson, the ambitious mayor of London, pledges that Brexit would see Britons “take back control” of the nation’s borders. [Continue reading…]