Outspoken leftist Slavoj Žižek recently declared The Left obsolete.i It would hard for even the biggest neoliberal apologist to disagree. Self-proclaimed progressives just got their clocks cleaned in the American presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and state legislature elections. Rather than embracing introspection and unity, the defeated Democrats are now resorting to capitulating to Trump, ignoring winnable political fights like DAPL, squabbling over who should become the new head of the Democratic National Committee and blaming Hillary Clinton’s loss on her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders.
Similarly, the Labour Party has been fragmenting between radical party head Jeremy Corbyn and the centrist party establishment ever since losing to the Conservatives in last year’s Parliamentary election. Amidst this political chaos, Britain rejected the EU status quo in the Brexit referendum. Progressive Scotland must take a long look in the mirror and decide if it would rather try to secede from the United Kingdom again or join the UK in leaving the EU.
Italian PM and Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi just had to pull a David Cameron and resign after his power-grabbing referendum failed this past Sunday, thus paving the way for anti-EU forces in Italy to potentially take over the government and initiate the Quitaly referendum, a Roman version of Brexit. Italy’s Five Star Movement literally has its slogan, “Fuck Off”, so great is their contempt for neoliberal establishment in Italy and the EU as a whole.
Meanwhile, France’s Socialist Party leader and current President François Hollande is declining to run in next year’s election, what with his 4% approval rating.ii This paves far-right National Front leader and Eurosceptic champion Marine Le Pen’s way to the Élysée next May. The only person potentially keeping the female firebrand from victory is Républicain candidate François Fillon, who harbors extremely polarizing views on social issues and austerity.
By contrast, Marine Le Pen has successfully been appealing to voters beyond her non-ultraconservative base, such as the gay communityiii, and working class people who fear the specter of austerity even more than the EU. In other words, she’s adapting Donald Trump’s winning strategy: eschewing old-school social conservatism in favor of nationalistic populism. Donald Trump beat his conservative opponents in the GOP primaries by shifting the vitriol from old-school evangelical boogeymen like Social Security and the LGBT community (Trump famously waved a Rainbow Flag at a rally) to more contemporary boogeymen like immigrants and globalization. We’ll know in half a year if this formula works as well for Marine Le Pen.
In Holland, home to the EU headquarters, hardcore Eurosceptic and anti-immigration Party for Freedom candidate Geert Wilders is now the frontrunner in the country’s Parliamentary elections, to be held next March.iv Hungary’s xenophobic Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has openly declared to wield, “a sword we can forge in the fight against the Brussels bureaucrats.”v Austrian nationalist candidate Norbert Hofer lost the Presidential election by just over 100,000 votes this past Sunday, winning almost half the vote as the head of a party, the FPO, that was literally founded by former high-ranking Nazis.
In Greece, the ruling Syriza party is quickly crumbling. Once hailed as the future of global Progressivism, Syriza has become a lame duck after bowing to the European establishment on crippling austerity measures and harboring 60,000 immigrants.vi People are now flocking from Syriza to the conservative New Democracy partyvii and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, whose members openly murder opponents,viii assault immigrants and rival politiciansix and riot in the streets of the world’s original democracy. Syriza’s own superstar Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, gave up on Syriza due its capitulations to the European financial elites.x
Outside of the West, progressivism has also been dying a slow death. The Arab Spring has been reduced to a rotting corpse, just like its Western antecedent, Occupy Wall St. Egypt is now controlled by a junta, Libya and Syria have been reduced to perpetual civil war and all of the ultra-conservative monarchies remain firmly in control of their kingdoms. Earth’s 12th largest country, the Philippines, elected to its Presidency a vulgar, misogynistic, anti-establishment, undiplomatic strongman named Rodrigo Duterte before Trump had even become the Republican party nominee. Brazil, the world’s 9th largest economy, this past summer impeached on dubious charges its socialist President, Dilma Rousseff, replacing her with an anti-science and pro-austerity lawyer named Michel Temer,xi whose approval rating has been frozen in the low teens throughout his tenure.xii
Neoliberals have yet to find an answer to this worldwide sea change. As long as leftists dismiss the phenomenon as nothing more than sheer racism and stupidity, they will continue to evade potential answers. Working class people from Pennsylvania to Paris are hurting due to unprecedented upward wealth redistribution, shrinking jobs in both skilled and unskilled labor, soaring costs of living, college tuition, kabuki bureaucracy and collective trauma from the Wars on Drugs and Terror. Voters aren’t stupid; they’re getting tired of the platitudes, plundering and plutocracy of the Global Gilded Age. If the status quo doesn’t come up with any solutions, the populace will seek them elsewhere…