We don’t truly understand the modern right.
No one does. I honestly don’t either. Well, I have an idea, but that comes a little later.
While we can all understand the motivations, goals, driving forces and spirit of the movement, we demonstrably do not understand it. My rationale in making this statement is an important distinction- while we can understand what is behind our ongoing revolutionary period, we cannot model it in the real world. We are unable to define where it will succeed and where it will not. It’s hard to say exactly why growth can be so rapid, yet seemingly capped in Germany, or how Geert Wilders lost his First-Place spot within a fortnight of the Dutch Elections. It’s hard to chalk it up to anything beyond the Anglophonic Spirit as to why Brexit and Trump succeeded while Le Penn failed (which is a fun an interesting explanation, truly, but I don’t believe a very good one). When the French Nationalists, Hofer, and Wilders all piled up their second-place finishes, it seemed that our historical moment had passed. However, the defeat was not unmitigated, and some would say the results only seemed a failure because of how successful the parties actually were. The historic swell in popularity among ideas that had been confined to fringe movements like the BNP for much of the post-Cold War era was remarkable to begin with, and that we would see anything other than outright victory as a failure is a sign of how high the watermark truly became. The dominant way of thinking, once this was accepted, was espoused in The Economist magazine first- that Nationalism should be seen as neither a fad, nor an instant recipe for revolution- rather, it would become an integral part of European politics. It may not win many elections outright, but it will always be there, draining support from centrist or establishment parties, demanding concessions and coalitions, as many movements have done throughout modern European electoral history. For a while, I toyed with this model and decided it stood up- indeed, it seemed neat and clean, explaining the European Situation well. I would even go as far to say that I liked it.
On further inspection, however, the model has failed to explain a few things.
For example, it doesn’t explain geographical divides. In the V4, largely the cradle of modern anti-establishment right-wing politics, the National Spirit is still alive and well. These nations- Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and what I will only call by the accurate and linguistically aesthetic name Bohemia- continued to successfully stand to the EU and oppose almost all immigration, save for white Ukrainian refugees. Poland’s ruling authoritarian party continued to gain support, and now stands with over majority support in the country’s multi-party system. The staunch arch-conservative Viktor Obran of Hungary is massively popular, and the EU reaction to his border fence has only made him more firmly supported among his nation.
This question cannot be answered by a simple historical outlook tacked onto the original model. Certainly, it seems as though there is a Cold War East-West divide, down to internal divisions in countries themselves. Look at Germany- the AfD fared well for a relatively new part through much of the country, but the truly stunning results were all found in the former GDR. Additionally, the V4 were all firmly within Moscow’s Sphere of Influence. All this would lead one to assume it is a divide largely based off of Cold War allegiance. However, this cannot be the case.
For example, look to the Baltics. The predominant leftist, neoliberal, often green and socialist sentiment there is a complete buck to the idea that post-communists states serve especially as an incubator for the far right. For a disparate example on the other side of Europe, look to Romania, a post-communist state dominated by Social Democrats. Such undercurrents can be found quite often in the East, and with an n as small as we currently have for measuring European post-communist states, it destroys the idea that there exists a simple causal relationship here.
However, what really dealt the death blow to this amended model, in my opinion, was the result of the Austrian elections. Here we had an affluent, Western European state which had just put a green in the presidency twice elect a party lead by Sebastian Kurz. Kurz, the youngest European Foreign Minister and now youngest Chancellor in Austrian History, previously proposed to ban non-German version of the Koran and argued before the EU in favor of a hardline, 50-point plan to crack down on border crossings, and campaigned on getting Austria out of the EU altogether. He is currently presiding over a rightward shift in both his nominally center-right party and Austria altogether.
Now, we have the Czech Elections. A post-communist state, certainly, but quite modernized by most measures- it ranks next to hypermodern South Korea in terms of GDP per capita (PPP), and not too far off from countries like Japan, France, and Israel. This most recent Czech election was possibly the most significant internal political upheaval a country can have. Leading the pack is Andrej Babiš’ party. Babiš is not a conservative by traditional measurements, but rather an anti-establishment pragmatist billionaire populist (never heard that before). In second place we have the conservatives, and in a tie for a very close third, we have the aggressively anti-establishment Pirate Party (who have never before held a seat in the Czech Parliament) and the Eurosceptic, right-wing populist SPD. The Communist party fell from third place to fifth place- and shockingly, the ruling Social Democratic party collapsed, falling from a strong first place to sixth in vote share. In neighboring Hungary and Poland, it was the right-wing, nationalist sentiment that drove stunning successes, but here, it is the populism. So what is it? Is it an economic divide that drives this- and if so, why has Germany generally stuck with Merkel? It isn’t geographic- could it be cultural? Economic? Well, perhaps.
I have an inkling as to what might be the determining factor. I am of the belief that there is a determining factor to whether or not a state will undergo a right wing or populist upheaval, and if so, what sort of upheaval it will go through.
I believe that a country will undergo such a thing if, and only if, two things are true- one, that the country is largely divided into homogeneous and high-trust societal units, and secondly, that these units perceive an existential threat for themselves and those like them that is not yet completed. If this threat is primarily demographic, the upheaval will tend to the right, while more economic issues will lend themselves to general populism.
This, in my opinion, explains a lot. It helps explain basic things, and bases itself off of them, such as why whites in large, diverse cities vote for the establishment left primarily. It helps explain why countries like Poland and Hungary, who can see what has happened in Germany and France, react more strongly to it than those countries do themselves. It explains why the Baltics, not in the path of Middle Eastern Migrants and for whom neoliberalism has proved an economic success, retain their leftist, often technocratic governments. It explains why general, big-tent populism was the primary winner in Bohemia, who has failed to restart their economy since 2008. It explains even the perceived East-West divide on the continent when one considers homogeneity-reducing immigration was far higher in the West, and the stifling effects of communism on economic growth in the East. Moreover, it explains even internal divisions- for example, the support for Brexit in the Labor North, Left-Wing Wales, and non-industrial Cornwall. It is even applicable in the US, and explains a number of primary and general election results- why Bernie won the Rust Belt but lost California, for one, or why Ted Cruz won in stable, seemingly non-threatened Iowa but lost when the discussion turned to opiates in New Hampshire. It even helps explain why Trump came so close in Minnesota- the influx of Muslims was threatening to the homogeneity of the majority, who (because of the State’s large, decentralized and largely rural nature) could see it, but remained 90%+ white.
Now, my model may very well not be correct. As I said before, the n in relation to these things is small- even if every European Country imitated it perfectly, as well as the US and Japan, the n would barely go above 50, and we’ve only been in a period of major upheaval for about one year. We’ve had enough time to feel out if some things might not be true, but proving anything will take a long while. Additionally, the model isn’t entirely comprehensive, and may only be effective at making snapshot calls. However, all things considered, I know not any model other than this that can explain the what and why of our modern revolution.