Europe’s Left Turns Right on Immigration
Europe’s center-left parties are increasingly succumbing to political pressure on immigration. Instead of following in the nationalist right's footsteps, they should pursue a three-pronged strategy that can be popular without being populist.
BERLIN – Europe’s established left is facing the threat of extinction. In less than two years, the continent’s social-democratic parties have suffered historic losses in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. On a continent long defined by democratic competition between center-right and center-left parties, the collapse of the left could have far-reaching consequences, beyond particular party interests.
Many factors underlie the left’s decline, including the dissolution of the traditional working class. But one of the most important reasons is as grim as it is simple: European voters are increasingly opposed to immigration, and do not trust the left to limit it.
Faced with a sustained influx of refugees and migrants, primarily from the Middle East and Africa, European voters have transformed a series of recent elections into popular referenda on immigration. Right-wing populist movements have skillfully played on blue-collar voters’ fears by convincing them that traditional labor parties will allow immigrants to flow in virtually unchecked.