Politics & Policy

I’m Thankful We’re Not Europe

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference following talks on EU integration in August. (Photo: Charles Platiau/Pool/Reuters)
As American institutions learn to contain an unstable president, European politics grow more chaotic.

I’m thankful for many things this year. We survived it, for one. I wasn’t entirely sure of that outcome given my low opinion of our president’s character and mental stability. But we’ve far and away cleared the lowest expectations for Donald Trump’s America. Trump’s relatives haven’t been given Supreme Court appointments. Most of the people of Seoul, South Korea, are still alive. The U.S. Navy Seals haven’t been rebranded the “Trump Seals.” All good things.

In fact, it’s better than that. In all the places where Trump’s policies seem most amateurish or lacking in thought, he’s been inactive or stymied. The U.S. hasn’t left NATO to die in a heap. The U.S. is still experiencing some salutary economic trends. The Republican Congress is still a do-nothing Congress, but that’s fine by me considering what they’ve been contemplating doing. Trump’s governance looks chaotic, but that is just one man’s constant war for the news cycle. The states, the courts, and even public opinion work against his excesses. America is, despite it all, working.

And here’s another thing for which I’m thankful: We’re not Europe.

Look at the politics across the Atlantic right now. Nothing looks stable or solid. In the United Kingdom, the Tories squandered their strong and stable government in an unnecessary election this year. Ever since, Theresa May’s Tory cabinet ministers have been sniping at each other in a way that makes Brexit seem less exciting. It’s been so petty and disorganized that you begin to think, if this is the kind of government Britain produces natively, maybe they’d be better off without sovereignty, or democracy. Bring on the Continental technocrats.

But, wait a minute. How are the Continent’s technocrats doing? Not so great. As late as this September, the great and good of the European liberal order had a plan. The plan was that Emmanuel Macron, having broken the traditional parties of France, would break all the rules of French politics and be able to pass long-hoped for labor-market reform. And then Germany, led by Angela Merkel, would suddenly and inexplicably develop the political desire and will to completely reform the European Union and fix all the flaws in it that have irritated people and led to the rise of socialist movements and nationalist populisms. She would then become the leader of the Free World.

How’s that working? Emmanuel Macron’s government is basically failing to do anything. Macron is trying to rebrand. His favorable ratings are sinking into Trump territory, and the public has labeled him a “president of the rich.” And Angela Merkel’s future is suddenly in doubt again. Months after the German election, Merkel has been unable to form a coalition government in Germany. The rise of the Alternative for Germany party was expected to only embolden her; instead, it has totally hobbled Merkel’s ability to govern. And she may find, like Theresa May, that forcing elections on an election-weary people will lead to disaster.

Emmanuel Macron’s government is basically failing to do anything. Macron is trying to rebrand.

It’s not just the big countries. Leo Varadker was made taoiseach of Ireland by Fine Gael party insiders. His nation has the most to lose from Brexit, and its economic interests rank low on the list of priorities in London, Berlin, and Paris. In fact, many in Europe would like to see Ireland humbled for doing dodgy tax deals with American tech companies. Varadkar should be working fanatically to create ready-made solutions for the overwhelmed government in Britain to adopt. Instead, he says that he won’t help, in the hope that Brexit just won’t happen. Oh, and the Irish political class is preparing itself to finally accept Sinn Fein into potential coalition governments.

It’s getting so desperate in Europe that Italians are thinking of returning to Silvio Berlusconi for a modicum of stability. It’s like a drunk leaning on Boris Yeltsin to steady himself. All the popular leadership in Europe seems to be coming from the economically dependent Central European nations.

All in all, the picture is starting to look like this: American institutions and politics are slowly learning how to handle the unstable element of a demagogic and self-obsessed president. European politics are utterly falling apart at the first sign of real dissent from the narrow “European agenda” of tighter integration and ever-freer movement of capital, goods, and people.

I’ve spent a good part of this month in Europe. But this week, I’m thankful to be in America.


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