Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Europe is one restless place these days

Much is made, and much of it properly so, over the tensions in Trump's relationships with the leaders of key ally nations (as Rich Lowry puts it, "Trump tends to view foreign countries like contractors trying to scam him in a development deal"), but a few of them are up to their eyeballs in domestic political challenges that add a layer of complexity to the mix. One could say that their holds on power are tenuous.

There's the situation of Merkel in Germany:

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who staked her legacy on welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany, agreed on Monday to build border camps for asylum seekers and to tighten the border with Austria in a political deal to save her government.
It was a spectacular turnabout for a leader who has been seen as the standard-bearer of the liberal European order but who has come under intense pressure at home from the far right and from conservatives in her governing coalition over her migration policy.
Although the move to appease the conservatives exposed her growing political weakness, Ms. Merkel will limp on as chancellor. For how long is unclear. The nationalism and anti-migrant sentiment that has challenged multilateralism elsewhere in Europe is taking root — fast — in mainstream German politics.
Ms. Merkel agreed to the latest policy after an insurrection over migration policy led by her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, threatened to bring down her coalition.
Then there's the situation of Macron in France:

President Emmanuel Macron will gather both houses of parliament at the opulent Versailles Palace on Monday for what has become an annual address on his plans for overhauling wide swathes of French society and institutions.
His office has given little indication of the issues Macron will cover during his hour-long speech, which comes as his ratings continue to tumble.
This week, lawmakers will begin debating his call for constitutional changes aimed at streamlining the legislative process, including shrinking the number of seats in the National Assembly and the Senate by a third.
He has already pushed through corporate tax cuts, eased labour laws, reformed the university entrance system and revamped state rail operator SNCF despite stiff union resistance.
But a growing number of critics, including some in his own centrist Republic on the Move party (LREM), accuse the former investment banker of neglecting the concerns of voters on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.
Recent comments that France spends "a crazy amount of dough" on social security programmes did little to soften his image as the "president of the rich", as he is called by opponents.
Macron's regal, top-down style has also raised hackles, with some MPs on both the left and right boycotting his Versailles speech as the latest sign of a "monarchical" drift.
They cite in particular his threat to override resistance to his parliamentary overhaul by calling a referendum "if necessary".
"The president is reducing parliament to a simple spectator," Marie-Noelle Lienemann, the Senate's Socialist vice-president, posted on Twitter, announcing she would join a boycott of the speech.
The leftwing France Unbowed party, which is also snubbing the event, said they would organise a protest on social media.
"Tomorrow we're going to get a long speech on 'my life, my work' that will be all about him," Christian Jacob of the rightwing Republicans party complained on French television Sunday.
Macron has also taken heat over the cost of bussing out hundreds of lawmakers to France's former royal seat and deploying dozens of Republican Guards who will flank his ceremonial entry -- estimated at 300,000 euros ($350,000).
- Seeking balance -
The Versailles speech could be a chance for Macron to burnish his social justice bonafides in the face of wavering poll numbers.
"I hope he's going to talk about poverty," said Senate president Gerard Larcher, referring to a plan which was supposed to be announced this month but has now been pushed back to September.
An Odoxa survey published Thursday found that just 29 percent of respondents thought Macron's policies "fair", and while 75 percent declared him "dynamic", only 45 percent considered him "likeable".
His speech also comes amid reports his government will announce thousands of job cuts in France's fiscal and customs administrations in the coming days, reviving fears over Macron's pledge to cut 120,000 public sector jobs.
"The president will lay out the principles of his action for the coming year and put them in perspective, but it's not a speech for going into the details of his announcements," a source in his office told AFP.
Macron has vowed to slash state spending, among the highest among wealthy countries relative to its economy, in order to balance the French budget for the first time in over 40 years.
He has said he wants to make social benefits more effective in terms of getting recipients out of poverty.
Yet the president himself has given fodder to critics after recent reports that he and his wife Brigitte had ordered a lavish new set of porcelain tableware for the Elysee Palace worth some 500,000 euros.
"A shift is expected from policies based solely on accounting and budget logic," LREM lawmaker Frederic Barbier wrote in Le Monde daily on Saturday.
"Even if we see some social advances, the balance still hasn't been found," he said.
Then there's the situation of Theresa May in Britain:

Sources insisted the Prime Minister would stand and fight for the national interest while her allies derided Mr Johnson, saying he offered no solutions on Brexit. 

Boris also faced criticism in many quarters for taking the time to stage the photos of himself signing the resignation letter and was branded a 'poundshop Churchill'.

In a reference to his decision to resign only after David Davis had quit as Brexit Secretary on Sunday night, one May loyalist said: ‘There’s not much honour in being second over the top.’

Mrs May also swiftly reshuffled her cabinet, bringing in Jeremy Hunt from Health to replace Boris as Foreign Secretary and Dominic Raab to replace Mr Davis.
But, in a significant intervention, Jacob Rees-Mogg last night backed Mr Johnson, saying he would make a ‘brilliant’ prime minister.   
What are the particulars and what are the parallels among these situations? With regard to particulars, in Germany, basically, the country finally gets it: It doesn't work to bring in hordes of Muslims from culturally alien lands who have no interest in assimilation. In France, it's a case of a politician who ran as a centrist but, once in office, saw the acute need to implement free-market measures, and is now experiencing the ire of statists. In Britain, it's a case of the ire coming from the right: Boris Johnson et al want a Brexit deal that really and truly asserts British sovereignty.

The main parallel is a restlessness in these societies that puts the lie to the notion that strikingly charismatic political figures, who seem to be bringing some unprecedented kind of vision to the table,  have more weight behind them than the trends of history. Here in the United States, the leftists thought they had such a figure in Barack Obama, and then the populists thought they had one in Donald Trump.  But the lessons learned are deeper than what some compelling personality says or does. In Europe, the trend we ought to discern is a strong desire for sovereignty and free markets.

Is it too late to hope that the next phase of the trend might usher in a yearning for the transcendence that found its formal form in the Church and that informed the continent's rise to greatness?

That might be a wish too far. It's probably best not to get too speculative. But one can pray.


  1. It's not too late at all to move forward towards brotherhood, freedom, humility, peace and love. If you're talking about a return to church, well, how long did it take bloggie?

  2. A while, but the length of time is not the point. Everyone receiving the grace of almighty God is the point.

  3. Not at all unusual to be in a rush for everyone else to get on board.

  4. We should not want to see any human being anywhere be lost and broken for one more second.

  5. Yep. There's a strange saying though in AA that one should never interfere in another's last drunk. I think you'll catch the drift there.

  6. In essence, souls quite often need to crash and burn before they look towards God. No amount of proselytizing is going to do it for the soul; in fact proselytizing may have the opposite effect or prematurely offer solutions which the soul is only ready to manipulate like it tries to manipulate everything else, mistakenly aligning the spiritual aspect of beingness which is merely ego.

  7. That last sentence admittedly needs some work.