Skip to main content

legrain28_GettyImages_boysilhouetteholdingfence Getty Images

Is Immigrant-Bashing a Vote Winner for the Left?

With Europe's traditional voter blocs now scattered like never before, some center-left parties have been tempted to siphon off working-class votes from the right by adopting an anti-immigrant agenda. But aping far-right populists is a mistake for progressives, on both moral and tactical grounds.

LONDON – Is a hardline position on immigration the key to electoral success for Europe’s beleaguered center left? Denmark’s Social Democrats certainly think so. They took first place in a general election this month after arguing that immigrants threaten the country’s social cohesion and generous welfare state. The far-right Danish People’s Party, whose line that message echoed, suffered significant losses.

Center-left parties undoubtedly need to bolster their appeal. In last month’s European Parliament election, their share of the vote plunged to new lows in Germany, France, Italy, and Britain; they finished first in just five of the European Union’s 28 member states. And while center-right parties have also languished in Europe’s increasingly polarized and fragmented political environment, they have not flagged as much as center-left parties.

But notwithstanding the Danish Social Democrats’ victory, opposing immigration is not the answer. Though some voters have deserted center-left parties for populists who blame immigrants for everything, no self-respecting progressives should be aping the far right. Principles aside, such a strategy will generally backfire.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.


Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.;
  1. reinhart39_ Sha HantingChina News ServiceVisual China Group via Getty Images_jerome powell Sha Hanting/China News Service/Visual China Group via Getty Images

    Jerome Powell’s Dilemma

    Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart

    There is a reason that the US Federal Reserve chair often has a haunted look. Probably to his deep and never-to-be-expressed frustration, the Fed is setting monetary policy in a way that increases the likelihood that President Donald Trump will be reelected next year.

  2. mallochbrown10_ANDREW MILLIGANAFPGetty Images_boris johnson cow Andrew Milligan/AFP/Getty Images

    Brexit House of Cards

    Mark Malloch-Brown

    Following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament, and an appeals court ruling declaring that act unlawful, the United Kingdom finds itself in a state of political frenzy. With rational decision-making having become all but impossible, any new political agreement that emerges is likely to be both temporary and deeply flawed.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions