European Elections: It's Not Just Immigration Driving People Right

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The conventional wisdom that mass migration was a driving force in the sharp rightward turn in the European Union's Parliamentary elections is absolutely correct, but a lot of people are missing another crucial factor: what is being called "Greenlash."

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I'm not sure if dissident Democrat Ruy Teixeira coined the term, but if not he deploys it to good effect in his Substack essay on The Liberal Patriot. (Note that "liberal patriot" sounds strange enough to our ears that it makes a good site name).

The European elite has been going Green even longer and harder than the United States and, consequently, has been paying the price longer and harder than we have been here. And Europeans are getting fed up with the expensive and damaging policies. 

The results from the recent European parliament elections were quite something. Right populists did very well indeed while the European Greens took big losses. They lost 18 of their 72 seats in the European parliament and their performance was particularly bad in the E.U.’s two largest states, Germany and France. In Germany, the core country of the European green movement, support for the Greens plunged from 20.5 percent in 2019 to 12 percent. Shockingly, among voters under 25, the German Greens actually did worse than the hard right Alternative for Germany (AfD). That contrasts with the 2019 elections, when the Greens did seven times better than the AfD among these young voters.

And in France, Green support crashed from 13.5 percent to 5.5 percent. The latter figure is barely above the required threshold for party representation in the French delegation.

The Greens’ overall poor performance means they are now behind not only the traditionally largest party groupings—the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the social-democratic Socialists and Democrats group and the liberal Renew Europe group, but also both right-populist groupings—the European Conservatives and Reformists (which includes Georgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy) and the Identity and Democracy group (which includes Marine LePen’s National Rally group)—and even the non-affiliated group (which includes Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Hungary’s Fidesz party).

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European elites have been making life miserable in Europe, closing farms, driving up energy prices, and trying to convince everybody that the key to saving Gaia is to live meanly and have shorter lives surrounded by migrants who hate them. 

It's not a pleasant picture, at least if you aren't a member of that elite. 

The New York Times in its analysis of the European Union elections, put it this way:

There is no sugarcoating it: losing one-third of their seats in the European Parliament elections last week, the Greens tanked.

The European Union has in recent years emerged as the world’s most ambitious frontier in fighting climate change. It did so through major policy shifts like setting high targets to cut emissions, preparing to ditch combustion engines, pushing for nature restoration and curbing the effect of farming on the environment. Green parties across the 27 E.U. member states have successfully driven that agenda.

But over the past few years, something has clearly snapped in much of the European electorate…A backlash against climate change policies as part of broader culture wars has gained momentum.

In many places, the nationalist agendas of far-right parties have been augmented by populist appeals to economically strained citizens. The right surged among voters by targeting the Greens specifically, painting them as unfit to protect poorer working people in rapidly changing societies.

For many voters, Green parties failed to show that their proposals were not just expensive, anti-growth policies that would hurt the poorest the most. And some view them as elitist urbanites who brush aside the costs of the transition to a less climate-harming way of life.

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They may not be sugarcoating it, but to a conservative, that analysis actually tastes pretty sweet. 

The Greens have been promising a utopia in which everybody owns nothing and is happy, to (not) coin a phrase, and people are finding that the two things don't go together that well. Life with cheap and abundant energy is just better, and bashing fossil fuels is a lot easier than living without them

The elections have tilted the European political balance against the green agenda which has served as an important reference point for politics in Brussels for the last five years….Even if Ursula von der Leyen succeeds in her bid for a second term as Commission President, she will not be pursuing the full-throated green-forward policy that launched the Green Deal in 2019 and Next Gen EU in 2020….There is a groundswell of opinion in Europe that is preoccupied with the cost of living, wants to keep its internal combustion-engined cars and sympathizes with farmers in their opposition to green regulation.

Things have changed so drastically in Europe that Ursula von der Leyen's European People's Party (what a deceptive name!) is reversing course on banning internal combustion engine cars in the near future, calling the move a "mistake." We'll see if they follow their rhetoric with action. 

Ruy Teixeira sees similar resistance to green policies in the United States, although he thinks that the Democrats don't grasp that reality sufficiently. The Greenest voters are the most Democrat of voters--more loyal than Black voters have been, if not nearly as large a constituency. They are, however, loud and active, while Blacks are generally not politically motivated to the same extent. 

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Recent polling by Impact Research for Third Way vividly demonstrates these realities. Just 4 percent of voters attach enough priority to climate change issues to be described as “climate-first” voters, dwarfed by the ranks of voters most concerned about lowering costs and reducing inflation. This mighty 4 percent of voters supports Biden by 96 points (!), a margin that would have made a Soviet Politburo candidate happy back in the day. Doesn’t seem like these voters, unlike the economy-first voters, are really in play.

Moreover, nonwhite and young voters—among whom Democrats have been bleeding support—are disproportionately economy-first voters. And who are the climate-first voters? According to the Third Way report they:

…tend to hold a college degree or higher…They are also far more likely than Economy-First voters to be financially comfortable and to believe the economy is in good shape, by a margin of 35 and 47 points, respectively….

It’s simple: if you’re prioritizing climate change this election, you’re financially comfortable. For everyone else, it remains a fringe issue, and cost-of-living concerns take center stage.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs anyone?

No wonder Trump thinks he can effectively slam Biden and the Democrats on their climate change approach. They are leaning into an issue and devoting considerable resources to a cause that is fundamentally boutique in nature. Sentiment about electric vehicles has been trending negative and most in the working class now say they would not even consider buying one. Voters are strongly opposed to measures and regulations that would limit the future availability of gasoline-powered cars. And somewhat cluelessly the Biden administration has recently doubled down on doing just that.

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Green may be a bigger issue than many people think in American elections if the polling and the European results translate into voting behavior. 

Climate change fanatics are getting more extreme as voters have become more skeptical, and that is a bad combination for the Democrats. Their most devoted fans want fealty to their issues, while ordinary Americans want relief from high prices and more austerity. 

If Democrats can pull out a victory in this election it will be despite, rather than because of any appeal to voters. The results would have been driven by an appeal to fear, hatred, and a turnout operation of questionable ethics and legality unseen in recent US history. They will have to improve on their 2020 turnout operations, and it is hard to see how they can do that within the rules. 

As if they care about rules. We have to win beyond the margin of fraud. 

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David Strom 12:40 PM | July 23, 2024
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