With the recent rise to prominence of right-wing populist parties across Europe, it’s refreshing that Iceland has remained largely immune to such nationalistic rhetoric. On the continent, figures like Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands are capitalizing on what political scientists are calling a third wave of European populism that began after the international financial crisis of 2008. These parties are characterized by their anti-immigrant, and specifically, anti-Muslim sentiments. They fashion themselves the “protectors” of their homelands’ traditional culture against cosmopolitan globalism.
Yet, tiny Iceland has resisted this dirty brand of politics because of the rise of social movements that challenged the power structure of the Icelandic political establishment after the financial crisis of 2008. Unlike in other European countries, these social movements transformed themselves into a political movements, filling the vacuum of traditional center-right and center-left political parties, while also preventing far-right political projects from succeeding.
For starters, Iceland is a relatively young country that only became independent in 1944. It is a parliamentary democracy, based on coalitions because the Althing (parliament) has 63 members but a single party rarely has a clear majority. Unlike other Nordic countries, Iceland has been governed by the right for most of its history, either from the liberal conservative Independence Party or the center-right agrarian Progressive Party.
Continue reading at FEE.
In February, the Fourth Circuit upheld Maryland’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” in Kolbe v. Hogan. The law targeted firearms by name and by reference to cosmetic features (pistol grips, flash suppressors, etc.), and the ability to accept magazines that hold more than 10 cartridges. The broad proscription outlawed many of America’s most popular sporting arms, including AR-pattern rifles.
While few were surprised the Fourth Circuit upheld Maryland’s desire to restrict its citizens’ right to bear arms, it chose to do so by ignoring Supreme Court precedent. The 2008 case of DC v. Heller held that weapons “in common use at the time for lawful purposes” were protected by the Second Amendment.
Instead of following clear guidance protecting the common and wildly popular firearms encompassed in Maryland’s ban, the Fourth Circuit found the weapons unprotected, despite their common and lawful use, because of cosmetic similarity to military rifles. The Fourth Circuit’s wild departure in Kolbe may be what finally forces the Supreme Court to rule on state “assault weapon” regulations once and for all.
Continue reading at The Federalist.
On 15 March, the Dutch voted in their parliamentary elections in favour of the ruling Liberal party and against their own version of the alt-right. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) won 33 seats compared to insurgent candidate Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party’s (PVV) 20 seats. Although this triumph will act as a speed-bump for ethnic and economic nationalism, it is a temporary effect. The election was mostly about immigration, particularly of Muslims, and how to integrate them into Dutch society.
Now that they have won, centrist parties must learn that without incorporating some of the more legitimate and palatable concerns of voters concerned with immigration, they will be unable to maintain power. During the lead up to the election, Rutte warned of the need to integrate ethnic non-Dutch people to ensure every citizen shared the same basic secular and liberal values.
Rutte said everyone needed to know that the Netherlands wasn’t for people who “litter,” “spit,” “attack gay people”, or “shout at women in short skirts.” All of this was declared in a full-page advertisement which said people should “act normal or go away.”
By doing this, the VVD was able to steal some of the PVV’s rhetoric and, in turn, some of their voters. While such language from an establishment leader rattled the liberal and centrist press, it worked well and was copied by other parties. Finally, Rutte benefited from taking a firm stance on a visceral row with the Muslim-majority country, Turkey. The problem facing centrists is how to stop nativist parties that thrive on marginalising others without alienating increasing numbers of nativist voters.
Continue reading at EUobserver.
It’s conventional wisdom that Washington, DC is a city marked by gridlock. Republicans obstructed President Obama’s agenda on principle, as Democrats are attempting to do now with Donald Trump. To give even an inch is a sign of political weakness. Trump is, admittedly, a polarizing figure, and there is certainly plenty of dissent in today’s political environment on a host of issues. The War on Terror, though, continues the same trajectory it’s been on for the better part of this century. President Trump, like President Obama before him, has mainstream support for his terror policies and approach to the conflicts in the Middle East.
The incredibly hawkish nature of the Obama administration’s foreign policy legacy has been well documented, and Trump is picking up right where he left off. He launched his first drone strike within days of being sworn in as president. There are reports that Trump is giving authority for these strikes over to the CIA and will tolerate more loss of civilian life – essentially giving the reins of an already non-transparent lethal program over to a group of people who lie for a living. And, of course, there is the infamous botched raid in Yemen by American Special Forces which took the life, among others, of a Navy Seal and an eight year-old American girl on January 29th.
Continue reading at Antiwar.com.
Nothing is really changing politically in Berlin. To begin with, Germany’s socialists are currently in a coalition with the conservatives, forming an immense majority in parliament. The coalition has slowed down public spending cuts and reforms enacted by the previous government. The German Left is at risk of fading into irrelevance as its choices regarding coalitions are limited: it’s either Merkel once again or going down the road of a three-party coalition.
In this post-crisis economy, Berlin shouldn’t be interested in who organizes a government reshuffle in September, but should instead be concerned with how a freer economy can unleash the potential of hard-working Germans.
Germany’s historic free-market champion, former conservative politician Ludwig Erhard, should serve as a role model for the ideological emptiness of contemporary German politics. Erhard is known to be responsible for the most extensive period of economic deregulation in modern times. Instead of following the temptation of slowly moving towards more economically interventionist policies, Berlin should follow Erhard’s example who believed that, instead of central planners, individuals should decide a country’s future.
Continue reading at FEE.