Why the left got hammered

The numbers speak for themselves. The center left is the big loser of the European parliamentary elections. This time it was not the ruling parties that suffered the so-called political cost. Sure, the British Labour Party and the Socialists in Spain were both dealt heavy blows. But the ruling conservative parties in France, Germany and Italy mostly held their ground as their center-left rivals got hammered. Electoral preferences are shaped by many different factors. The economy is an important factor – but still only one. Nevertheless, even on the economy, the center left did not have the upper hand. The crisis that has hit people’s everyday lives is a crisis of what we have come to know as globalization. Center-left parties have mostly adopted the globalization process, often becoming its cheerleaders. Some have even gone as far as to defend casino capitalism. The election campaigns of most socialist parties sounded more like cheap demagogy than sincere political platforms. The left has also found itself in a disadvantageous position on other issues, and this is a failure of its own making. The defense of national identity, the campaign against illegal migration and fight against crime have all become the property of the right. This is absurd. These issues impact on the daily lives of people – especially those in the low-income groups that have had to pay far heftier a price than the more prosperous strata. The crisis has aggravated fears about public safety, giving these problems vital political significance as a result. Adopting postmodern recipes on national identity and public safety, the center left was incapable of proposing pragmatic and effective solutions. This failure has alienated socialists from their grass-roots supporters. As the ballot showed, the political paralysis of center-left parties strengthened the hand of conservative governments while, of course, boosting politicians from the hard right.