As a species, we humans are unshakable pattern makers. We also suffer from recency bias – the tendency to give more weight to things that have just happened. It is hardly surprising, then, that when analyzing party politics, we take the results of the latest elections and try to fit them into a trend.
That’s why the results of the recent elections in Germany have made a difference. The country is set to have its first social democratic chancellorship since 2005 after Olaf Scholz’s party emerged as the largest party in the Bundestag. In turn, this has at some point led to the fact that the centre-left now controls a whole bunch of countries we are all too familiar with – and to wonder Are conservatives everywhere in trouble.
Good question. But to answer this, we must first lay out what we mean by “conservative.” Often it is used to describe parties who will reject the label themselves. This is certainly the case for the CDU/CSU – the big losers in the German election.
Christian democracy, in Germany and elsewhere, such as the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland, is a very different animal to conservatism and liberalism. It is as much concerned with the “social” as it is with the “market” side of the social market. It is deeply internationalist and is rooted in the notions of community and family rather than the ultimate sovereign individual from the point of view of society.
So, when we’re trying to analyze trends, it’s arguably more helpful to talk about the mainstream right. This portmanteau term allows us to choose those parties that (as opposed to the Left) tended to rule more comfortably and/or in the interests of socially traditional voters, but which (in their favor) tended to be far-right. As opposed to parties) ) consider the norms of both a liberal democracy and a liberal international order as given.
With this in mind, looking at the trends in Western Europe over the past four decades, it is clear that most right-wing parties have become more popular over time, though perhaps not as much as some horror-story headlines are likely to bring. Liberal parties have remained largely stagnant, but the Christian Democrats have fared the worst. As the chart shows, their performance in Western Europe has declined more rapidly than other conservatives since the 1980s.
The reasons for the trajectory of all kinds of mainstream conservatives are complex and clearly each country has its own story. For example, one cannot be expected to appreciate the difficulties experienced by the mainstream in Italy without taking into account the post-Cold War influence of the country’s entire party system and the rise of Silvio Berlusconi’s hyper-individualist political organizations. Is. Nor is it possible to understand the problems faced by the Partido Popular in Spain without realizing how big issues have become corruption and Catalan and Basque nationalism.
However, as the research covered in our new book shows, a useful way to fix the difficulties facing the mainstream is generally to think about the two ongoing challenges its members face.
There is a so-called silent revolution which, since the 1970s, more and more people in Europe have adopted what we might call cosmopolitan, progressive-individualistic values. His move away from the (right or wrong) values associated with the right of the more traditional, and at times nationalist and authoritarian, political spectrum has helped kickstart the green and new Left.
The second challenge is the so-called silent counter-revolution: a backlash against that price-change gained momentum in the 1990s and helped fuel the rise of populist radical-right parties. Since then, these men have threatened to eat in support of their more traditional counterparts on the right.
In fact, as our book’s contributors make clear, the mainstream right has indeed at times struggled to adapt – although some parties have coped better than others. But since his response has often included, over time, the adoption of more socially liberal policies on issues such as gender and sexuality, while taking an increasingly nationalistic and restrictive stance on immigration, it can perhaps be inferred that this would be the case in Europe. It is the Christian democratic parties of the U.S. (already facing a decline in religious adherence in a more secular world) that have struggled the most.
Survival at what cost?
But if liberal and conservative parties in general have not suffered so much, could there be a heavy price to pay for both their reputation and the long-term health of liberal democracy? To take just one example, the British Conservative Party, in its desperation to shut down various vehicles of Nigel Farage, has taken a Europhobic and anti-immigration stance and is determined to undermine the role of the judiciary and the independence of the Election Commission. No wonder some people warn that it is on its way to Hungary and Poland.
That said, we need to be careful as humans, not to over-explain. And, recency bias aside, what just happened can sometimes provide a useful reminder not to do it. In Austria, Sebastian Kurz – in some ways the poster-boy for the idea that mainstream right-wing parties can win by embracing too far – seems to have been undone by allegations of corruption. On the border in the Czech Republic, the mainstream right has performed better than expected in its elections.
Finally, in Germany, as a vote-of-vote analysis shows, although the CDU/CSU suffered a net loss for the Greens, it may have attracted more voters than the far-right AfD as a serious reaper. lost for. , noting that an estimated 7% of its voters have died since the last election. At least this time anyway, it was the good old-fashioned SPD, rather than the products of the Silent Revolution and Counter Revolution, that caused the most damage it ever did.
Radical right-wing populism and social liberalism, then, remain a significant double threat to Europe’s mainstream right, but they must still keep an eye on their traditional rivals!