The Corner

National Security & Defense

Voters in the West Feel Betrayed and Endangered By Their Leaders

Tyler Cowen looks at the rise of Donald Trump and “Bernie Bros”, and a far-right, anti-refugee party nearly winning Austria’s election and asks “what the hell is going on?”

These developments may reflect the men’s difficulty in navigating the new rules and standards of a rapidly changing world, as Cowen theorizes. But let’s look more broadly, at a lot of Western countries…

The UK Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage, is getting what it wants, a referendum on Great Britain’s EU membership June 23. He’s accused UK Muslims of having “split loyalties” and  charged that the EU was “seriously imperiling our security” because of the risk of terrorists posing as migrants. Initial reports suggest one of the Paris terrorists had a passport belonging to a Syrian refugee.

He said the EU’s principle of free movement of workers had resulted in the “free movement of Kalashnikov rifles, the free movement of terrorists and the free movement of jihadists.”

In France, the parents of two victims of the Paris attacks announced they will refuse to pay taxes to the government that failed to protect them:

Driven by this struggle, the parents of two children murdered on 13 November have addressed a letter to the president of the Republic of which Le Figaro has gotten a copy. To Francis Hollande, they explain that if their children had lost their life, it was due to their “jihadist friends.” Therefore, they refuse henceforth to pay their taxes “which serve to defend the killers of our children through the intermediary of the funds guaranteed to hire their lawyers, and for their upkeep as well as that of their ilk on French soil, our Fatherland!”

Elsewhere in France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front is expected to make the runoff in 2017 and is considered the second-most influential member of the European Parliament.

In Italy, Northern League leader Matteo Salvini accuses Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of being an  “accomplice” in an invasion by illegal immigrants and has quadrupled the party’s support in two years.

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom, which campaigns against the “Islamization” of his home country, is leading polls. Populist parties hostile to immigrants now rule in Hungary and Poland.

What’s the common thread behind all of these populist movements across the West? A sense of betrayal. People look around their communities and see problems worsening instead of improving – particularly the threat of terrorism, the assimilation of waves of immigrants and impoverished refugees, and basic economic concerns like jobs and wages. They feel their leaders didn’t just flail helplessly; they pursued ideas and policies that worsened the problem and exacerbated the risks in their lives.

The message of the crowds in these countries to their leaders is “you had a job to protect us, and you failed!” The question is, how many elected officials in these countries will listen and change their perspective?


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