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Europe's Designer Demagogues

The world needs a Europe committed to internationalism, generous to its former colonies, and willing to absorb its share of migrants and refugees. But in today's Europe, an successful electoral platform includes shutting out immigrants (especially poor or black ones), abandoning multiculturalism in favor of "cultural integration," limiting access to social welfare, halting or reversing the progress of European unification, and pouring police onto the streets.

All of this looks like classic right-wing revanchism. But within, or alongside it, is a new kind of populism, unclassifiable in traditional terms.

In France, Italy, Holland, Denmark, and Austria, rightist programs have re-shaped national elections and sometimes helped new parties into power. Through regional legislatures or influence on mainstream parties, the trend extends into Germany and Belgium. Even in Spain and Britain, where few electorally successful right-wing extremists exist, governments seek to pre-empt them by poaching their policies and their rhetoric.

The old-style right, with its fascist ancestry, lingers on. But, as the failure of the Front National in France shows, it cannot break through from posturing to power. Meanwhile, a new extremism--sleek, trendy, and cool--puts down roots. Its language is that of the Enlightenment, but made stylish, wired into the Zeitgeist . The old right can hardly compete; but the establishment can hardly cope.