So is a Joe Biden wave forming out there? Perhaps more importantly, has the drift toward right-wing authoritarianism that Donald Trump’s ascendancy seemed to herald been checked?
Of course it’s early, and many key national elections — in Germany and France, for example — lie in the future. But voting in the Netherlands last week and recent state elections in Germany and Australia point to a covid-era seriousness about government’s responsibilities, a search for democratic stability after a series of right-wing uprisings, and a redefining of progressive politics in a green direction.
Taken together, these things don’t necessarily suggest a Biden wave, but they do point toward the same sensibility that led to his election. Activism with a moderate tone, competence and focus in ending the pandemic, alertness about climate change — these approaches are being embraced by the center-left, but also by parts of the moderate right.
Here’s the most striking fact about the Dutch vote, two state elections in Germany and an election in Western Australia: The incumbents did well in all of them. And while parties of the far right in the Netherlands and Germany held their own — advancing a bit in the Netherlands, moving backward in Germany — their surge has been checked. They are no longer, as they were in the Trump years, at the center of the news.
In the Netherlands, Mark Rutte and his center-right VVD (from the Dutch name the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) topped the list of 37 parties that contested last week’s election. Rutte, one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders, will be forming his fourth coalition government. While his handling of the pandemic was far from perfect, he was seen as safe and experienced. That was enough this year for a sizable plurality of the electorate.
This feels more like projection of desire than reality. In France, Macron is running for reelection by charging far to the right on cultural issues, claiming critical race theory is an attack on the French state. And this is the party that is going to be the further left of the final two parties. You have Brazil. You have India. You have the military coup in Myanmar. There’s Turkey and Hungary and Poland.
I’d like to think that COVID will lead to a re-engagement with liberal government values too. But I don’t see any real evidence of it on a global scale yet, that’s for sure. And once the pandemic is beaten back, people will likely forget its lessons soon enough. After all, there might be immigrants at the border or something.