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May 28, 2014

Andrew Sullivan has one of the cannier reflections on the recent elections in Europe:

What globalization is doing to us is scrambling these identities – creating one class doing relatively well with globalization and one that absolutely isn’t. The first is likely to be more tolerant, progressive, modern, risk-taking. The second is likely to be more traditional, conservative, cautious, security-seeking. This doesn’t completely square with left and right. In Europe, the right fostered the economic liberalization that undermined its traditional middle-class base. The populist left remains deeply suspicious of economic liberalism, but became a beneficiary of its cultural consequences. And in these circumstances, of course immigration would come to be an issue, as it has in the US. When you’re out of work in a part of the country left behind by the 21st Century, and suddenly have to compete for what jobs there are with thousands of new immigrants from Poland or Romania, you’re going to get mad. And the EU itself – especially among its elites – seems a spectacular symbol of this cultural and economic disconnect, a perfect target for the new populism. That’s why I don’t believe the latest upset in the European elections is a fluke. I think it’s the new reality.

That also cuts across left-right lines in the US, where Democrats are more likely than Republicans to oppose various free-trade treaties.

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