I WAS born in 1973, the year Britain entered the European Community. And like Britain, I have always been skeptical about the quasi-religious, ever-closer-union ideology that gripped so many proponents of the European Union, especially the anxious old men of my parents’ generation, who swore that the only alternative to unification was a relapse into nationalism.
And now this. Just as Europeans of my generation were being relieved of those anxious old men, another type stepped onstage: the angry old men.
These politicians — men and women, to be sure — are young enough not to have experienced world war, but they are old enough to idealize the pre-1989 era and a simpler, pre-globalization world. At the same time, they are obviously too sclerotic to imagine how democratic institutions can adjust to the new realities. With their aggressive posturing, these Nigel Farages, Marine Le Pens, Geerts Wilderses and Donald J. Trumps are driving the debate — and possibly driving the West off a cliff.
“It’s a victory for ordinary, decent people who have taken on the establishment,” declared Nigel Farage, the head of the U.K. Independence Party. Rubbish. It was a victory for people who have neither the guts nor the imagination to take on the downsides of globalization.