Friday, May 08, 2015

And The Pendulum Swings



I'm just a casual observer of foreign politics. The popular media here in the US (popular as in widespread recognition, not necessarily approval) tends to ignore anything going on outside of the Washington Beltway. However, one of the side effects of my recent cable-cutting is that I now get a much larger share of my news from foreign media - France 24, NHK and Taggeschau being the big ones. And if you didn't know, there was huge election drama in the UK the past few days.

The two big parties over there are the Conservative and Labor party, which are roughly analogous to the Republicans and Democrats respectively. However, their third party slate is a little more prominent. We occasionally elect a Libertarian to national office, rarely a Green or Socialist makes it through. However, in the UK, their third parties score more than decimal percentage shares of the representation in their Parliament (Congress).

The Conservative party had a blowout in what the UK popular media was calling a "close one" during exit polls. They picked up a whopping 24 seats, mostly at the expense of the Labour party. Another big loser was the Liberal Democrat party, which basically lost everything, giving up 40 seats. Coincidentally, the Scottish National Party, which is basically (as the name implies) a Scottish nationalist Liberal Democrat party, picked up 39 seats. Scottish independence is back on the menu, folks.

The UK Independent Party picked up 1 seat. But, they got nearly 13% of the overall vote. In an election with 66% turnout, you had better believe the Tories (Conservative Party) are going to listen. The UKIP is considered a far right party which advocates withdrawal from the European Union, conservative policies and the continued union of nations associated with the crown (England, Ireland and Scotland.)

Looking at the seats picked up tells you who has the power in Parliment now, and it is clearly the right wing with 329 seats, vs the left wing with 296 seats. Even if you count all 23 seats in the "Other" column, the Conservative party owns parliment. But you can also look at the overall vote, and right wingers won 49.4% of the popular vote vs 43.1% for left wingers. This is as close as you'll get to a landslide in a political system split between four or more parties.

This is also a trend that is happening among major entities all across continental Europe. In France, the far right (by French standards) National Front led by Marine Le Pen made strong gains in local elections before sweeping the elections for the UK Parliment. This is in a country which leans hard left with the top two parties basically being socialists of different stripes. In Germany, the Christian Democratic Union made large gains over moderate center-right parties and much more powerful left wing parties. Much of Germany's shift to the left was a reaction to the legacy of the dominant far-right party of the 20's, 30's and 40's - the Nazi's. Putting that legacy behind them, the CDU made gains in public policy that finally matched their electoral ability. (5 of 8 Chancellors since the 1940's have been CDU chancellors, but they were largely restrained by left-wing public policies that they were forced to pursue to maintain popularity. Now, with CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany's right wing is starting to resemble an actual conservative movement.

What makes this all so surprising is the shift to the disastrous policies of the left that have been occurring in America over the last decade. The other bit of news today is that America's unemployment rate has hit 5.4% - the benchmark of low unemployment, and where it stood for most of George Bush's Presidency. While the 5.4% stat is being lauded, only the most astute will notice that there are a record 94 million Americans not participating in the labor force. There is another record - the majority of jobs being created are part time. The effects of the federal minimum wage coupled with Obamacare is destroying jobs at a record rate, and pushing people to drop out of the economy in a way not seen since the Great Depression. It's time for us to get back to time-tested political solutions that actually allow people to live.


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