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The World is Moving to the Right--and the Left

There is evidence that the world is moving to the right. Witness Donald Trump's strength in the U.S., Marine Le Pen's performance in France last week, Geert Wilders' coming in first in the Dutch elections last year, Viktor Orbán's continued strength in Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's seeming invincibility in Turkey, and more.

But wait. Something weird happened in the U.K. yesterday. The Labour Party won a landslide victory, winning 412 seats in the House of Commons, to the Tories' 121 seats and the Liberal Democrats' 71 seats. A party needs 326 seats for a majority, and Labour has that and much more. The Tories lost 250 seats and outgoing P.M. Rishi Sunak has said "I am sorry" and tendered his resignation to King Charles III. His brainstorm of calling snap elections maybe wasn't one of his better ideas.

One thing the U.S. could learn from the U.K. is how to run an election. On May 22, Sunak announced that there would be an election on July 4, a slightly odd pick given its role in British history. That gave 6 weeks for the campaign. Yesterday the election was held. Today the King will ask Labour leader Keir Starmer to form a government. By next week, it will probably be up and running. None of this 2 years and several billion dollars stuff.

With such a large majority, Starmer will not have to compromise with other parties and will be able to enact much of Labour's platform without delay. Sure, Labour is somewhat divided, as always, but internal battles are easier to handle than external ones. It will be interesting to see how fast and how far Starmer moves. Unlike the U.S., where getting anything done is nearly impossible, we expect real change in the U.K. soon due to Labour's enormous majority.

In France, there will be a second round of elections Sunday. France has a district system, like the U.S. and U.K. In many districts, a left-wing candidate, a centrist candidate, and a right-wing candidate qualified for the second round by getting at least 12.5% of registered voters. In an attempt to stave off a far-right National Assembly, this week in hundreds of districts, either the socialist candidate or the centrist candidate has dropped out to force a choice between the right-wing candidate and one other candidate. The goal is to create a hung parliament, although the French use a somewhat friendlier term, cohabitation. (Please don't send mail. We know the difference. We are using our poetic license.)

France moved sharply and decisively to the right last week and the U.K. moved sharply and decisively to the left yesterday. What's going on here? One possible explanation is that in the U.K., people are just tired of the Tories after 14 years, especially since many of their leaders have been weak and ineffective. It may be less ideology than "these guys couldn't run a lemonade stand."

In France, part of the reason may be that young people are moving to the right, somewhat analogous to what young Black and Latino men are doing in the U.S. Polling shows that a quarter of 18-to-24-year-olds voted for Marine Le Pen's National Rally last Sunday. This is a shocking increase over past elections. To some extent, this may be due to Le Pen's choice of a 28-year-old TikToker, Jordan Bardella, as the face of the party. He is a lot more user friendly to young people than Le Pen's father, the racist and anti-Semitic Jean-Marie Le Pen. He has also turned down the bigotry somewhat and packaged it better. He talks more about France for the French than calling out enemies of the state by name. Bardella has also managed to goose turnout among young voters. It is up from 25% last time to 56% this time. By Monday, we will know if France has lurched to the right just after the U.K. lurched to the left. (V)

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