The recent elections in Bavaria did not go unnoticed in Europe. On the contrary! The comments were so stormy to the extent that most analysts agreed, with a rather devilish joy, that the punch was not as heavy for Horst Seehofer, as it was for Angela Merkel. This is a great amount of social psychanalysis: the collapse (or its perspective) of a strong leader induces a strange excitement in the little people.
However, the elections in Bavaria were just the latest episode in a series that began with the Brexit referendum and continued with the elections in France, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, and so on. A series will not end any time soon. It is not difficult to notice that the traditional center parties from all over the place – affiliated, at the European level, to the EPP or PES- registered significant backslides. At the same time, the so-called “extremists” or “populists” registered top scores that allowed them, in some cases, to adhere to power.
I believe the European electoral experiences in the last period can be analyzed from four points of view. One: Transforming politics in governance. For some decades now, not years, the functions of power shifted away from the political options, which involves making decisions according to a humanist vision, towards increasingly technical management options. This means that the citizens’ wishes or opinions are second to mathematical arguments (in economy, transportation, communications and even human resources management). The philosophical consequence that few people have the courage to say out loud, is that a better world for all can be built on mathematical models in which the political factor is nothing but the root cause for perturbations, mistakes, and corruption. At the level in discussion, this phenomenon is reflected in the decrease of people’s interest in politics as a fundamental discipline of society.
Two: Transforming political options in civic movements. If the deep resorts of society’s leadership are mathematical, as it results from point one, then the man and citizen’s freewill is narrowed down to superficial and seemingly comprehensible aspects of life. Citizens’ action is transformed intro street movement and the attitudes and claims are ad-hoc, based on the day’s agenda.
Three: The joint consequence of the above-mentioned points is that the classical political parties lose their ability to persuade the citizens and become abstract bureaucracies that function per se.
Four: Two major challenges arose at global level that are far more important than anything humanity has hitherto seen. Climatic changes and the extreme polarization of wealth in a basically- global population.
In Europe, the general picture drawn by the phenomena above looks something like: middle class citizens no longer understand the need for classical political parties’ action and they separate, from an electoral point of view, into three layers. The first is absenteeism, the second is extreme populism, and the third is extreme bait.
Political extremes are more attractive especially at the ends of the middle class: low middle class and upper middle class. Interestingly, these extremes do not associate correspondingly with the far right or far left. There are relatively privileged individuals whose options tend towards communism, as well as there are unprivileged tempted by fascism.
The absentees are relatively few in developed countries where the culture of demographic and civic engagement is strong. However, there are many countries in the East where people cannot see, in the short or medium term, any potential for a vigorous recovery.
Anyway, center populism paves, in its turn, two distinct political action ways. The first one is the “proper” populism: people want to live better here and now! This requires only fiscal-budgetary decisions of the government. The second direction is the ecologist one: changes have become undeniable and began to directly affect the lives of all people. In the end, nature is stronger than society and a flood that ruins our house feels harsher than the decision to raise interest rates at a central bank.
The elections in 2019 and 2020 will certainly lead to a new political architecture both in the Member States as well as in the European Union as a whole. As we can deduct from everything above, the rational side of the electoral behavior is atrophied to the detriment of the emotional one. Real politicians who are truly preoccupied with the societies they live in must prepare for this new revolution. What can European conservatives do? I will formulate some suggestions in the following article.