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The Wall Street Journal: Fear Wins in Europe and That's Awesome

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The Wall Street Journal is giddy with happiness this morning because the European left has "collapsed."

Across the Continent, the left is in disarray. Frances Socialist Party, which last won a Presidential election in the 1980s, refuses to move to the center -- and further sinks in the polls. Italys leftist parties compromised themselves in a brief two-year stint in office, before Mr. Berlusconi swept them out in April of last year. The center-left ruling parties in Britain and Spain, which inherited economies revitalized by courageous politicians who implemented free-market ideas, are also in trouble.

Even in a recession so widely attributed to unfettered capitalism, socialists are unable to take advantage. Consider the results last week of elections for the European Parliament. Center-right parties gained in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and across most of eastern Europe. Sweden, Denmark and Greece were exceptions.

It's difficult to be an optimist these days if you're a Conservative: your last guy in the White House wrecked the planet and your economic ideology nearly brought about the apocalypse. Things have gotten so bad that the Wall Street Journal is looking to Europe for some good news. According to the geniuses running the newspaper (can we still call it that?,) it's time to celebrate the series of political victories for Conservative parties that successfully capitalized on the fear, xenophobia, and homophobia of some European voters.

The WSJ's diagnosis for why this happened isn't even that the neo-conservative philosophy of unfettered capitalism is superior to regulation, but that Socialists simply failed to aggressively utilize their ruined economies as catalysts for fear, the only tool left in the Conservatives' handbag of tricks. Once again, the right out-feared the left, and some ultra-conservative crazies picked up a few parliamentary seats. You can see why that would inspire the WSJ to wet themselves from sheer glee. After all, check out these immaculate slices of humanity:
  • Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party. Griffin is famous for calling the Holocaust the "Holohoax." The BNP picked up two seats in Parliament.
  • David Cameron, leader of the British Conservatives. Cameron formed an alliance with the ring-wing Polish Law and Justice party (PiS), which brings us to
  • Urszula Krupa, leader of PiS, is famous for co-signing an open letter to the Polish people that states homosexuality is a "pathology" undermining the sanctity of family, and that Christianity was the root of European greatness. Krupa's party won 29.5% of the vote. PiS also favors strengthening restrictions on abortion, a practice already illegal in Poland except in extraordinary circumstances.
  • The Austria's People Party made large gains and won 30% of the vote. The party partly ran on an agenda of being anti-affirmative action and anti-rights for sexual minorities.
  • Søren Krarup, a key member of the Danish People's Party (DPP,) which picked up one seat in the European assembly, has previously stated, "Islam has for 1,400 years attempted to conquer and repress European Christianity..." and "It may sound offensive, but Islam is a totalitarian regime that has thousands of human lives on its conscience. The headscarf is a symbol of this regime and the Quran may very well be compared with Hitler's 'Mein Kampf.'"
  • Krisztina Morvai, a candidate for the far-right Jobbik party in Hungary -- and which won 22 seats -- wrote

I would be greatly pleased if those who call themselves proud Hungarian Jews played in their leisure with their tiny circumcised dicks, instead of besmirching me. Your kind of people are used to seeing all of our kinds of people stand to attention and adjust to you every time you fart. Would you kindly acknowledge this is now OVER. We have raised our head up high and we shall no longer tolerate your kind of terror. We shall take back our country.

  • In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders' anti-Islamic Party for Freedom won 17% of the vote and secured four of 25 seats. Wilders' political wish list includes a ban for immigrants from non-western countries, a ban for the founding of mosques and Islamic schools, and yet another ban on preaching in any other language other than Dutch. To put worried Netherlands liberals at ease, Wilders explained, "I don't hate Muslim. I hate Islam."
  • The ultra-right Greater Romania Party (PRM) won 8.7% of the vote. PRM promotes strong nationalist policies and has been characterized as homophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, anti-ethnic Hungarian, irredentist, and anti-Roma. PRM's leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, founded the nationalist weekly Greater Romania, a publication Time magazine calls a "crude mixture of anti-Semitism, racism, and nostalgia for the good old days of communism." Additionally, a former reporter at Romania Mare, Dan Corneliu Hudici, claims Tudor has a "secret blacklist" of politicians, journalists, and businessmen to be arrested if PRM ever comes to power.
So what is the WSJ celebrating here, exactly? I'm not suggesting the editors of the WSJ embrace homophobia, or anti-semitism, but they do seem pleased that fear is conquering the European people. Fear is always behind these kinds of shifts toward racism and xenophobia.

The conservative solution for cleaning up the mess left in the wake of decades of corruption and deregulation is more of the same policy. And the Conservative Party's only defense for when (naturally) poor people keep suffering is to say, "Well, it's not like the lefties are saving you!" The truth is that the policies of deregulation and the free market never went away -- they're still with us -- and that's why the underclasses continue to suffer. In fact, it was Gordon Brown's overzealous attempt to embrace right-wing politics that partially led to his demise, as journalist Johann Hari explains. Hari also explains that the BNP was able to secure seats in Parliament -- not because ultra-right wing ideology is somehow superior to Labour -- but because voters are afraid:

[I]t is not the case that 10 per cent of people in Yorkshire are sympathetic to Holocaust-denying lunatics. No: they were overwhelmingly broke young white men who would, a generation ago, have formed the Labour core vote. They are angry about low wages and chronic shortage of housing - and simply telling them they are bigots won't get us very far.

A prolonged exposure to Thatcherian abuses and subsequent decades under deregulation have resulted in poverty and enormous fear of "others," who are coming to take their jobs. In order to save themselves, and their livelihoods, a small percentage of the British population turned inward and became more conservative out of fear -- not out of love for an ideology that has left them more poor and more afraid. Voters are understandably afraid of losing their jobs, and so they look for an easy "other" to blame, whether it's Jews, or immigrants, or the gays, or some scared, pregnant woman.

Regulation and fair taxation have not failed -- most of the world hasn't even tried them yet. The dominant ideologies are still deregulation and the free market, and to say that voters gave leftism a chance -- and things just didn't work out -- is intellectually dishonest.

Cross-posted from Allison Kilkenny's blog. Also available on Facebook and Twitter.