Nadette De Visser writes: In Europe as well as the United States the political arena has shifted to the fringes. Measured, moderate stands on issues of national and international importance are zapped by high-voltage soundbites, obliterated by incendiary one-liners.
Anger is the coveted political currency of the moment—anger fueled by fear of foreigners, by fears for the future — anger fueled by populist politicians at home and abroad. And even little Switzerland, the Continent’s hoary paradigm of democracy, has not been immune.
Until this year, in fact, it seemed all but certain that the right-wing populists of the SVP (the Schweizer Volkspartei) would push through a referendum calling for the expulsion of “immigrants,” even second or third generation Swiss born, if they were found guilty of a legal offense as minor as two parking tickets.
(Donald Trump has made essentially the same idea part of his 10-point immigration plan: “Zero tolerance for criminal aliens,” he proclaims. “We will issue detainers for all illegal immigrants who are arrested for any crime whatsoever, and they will be placed into immediate removal proceedings.”)
But in Switzerland, the SVP populists found themselves up against a new grass roots movement, Operation Libero, that seemed to come from nowhere. The SVP referendum lost badly, and all of a sudden all eyes turned to a political newcomer—26-year-old driven, committed, and comely Flavia Kleiner, the movement’s co-president. [Continue reading…]