The last thing Europe needs right now is advice from Americans, particularly American progressives.
After all, we failed to prevent Donald Trump and his cronies from seizing the White House or the far-right wing of the Republican Party from taking over Congress. Before that, we were unable to push President Obama to the left on critical domestic issues like health care or to dismantle the worst features of the U.S. war economy.
Still, an outside perspective can sometimes be useful. And I write this letter not only out of great concern but out of an even greater affection.
The European left has been one of the most powerful and successful progressive movements in history. It was the motive force behind European integration, which brought peace and prosperity to a war-torn continent. It entrenched social welfare policies so thoroughly that even conservative political parties — like Germany’s Christian Democrats — have accepted the basic tenets. It promoted cultural policies that have made Europe one of the most tolerant places on Earth.
All of that is now at risk because of a pincer attack by right-wing populism and neo-liberal globalism. And the European left is at perhaps its weakest position since the end of World War II.
Consider the recent presidential election in France.
The French have turned back the National Front’s Marine Le Pen — vive la France! But it wasn’t a victory for the left, which failed to pull together before the election or convince enough voters to advance a leftist into the second round.