Tags: emmanuel macron | france | election | democracy

Doug Schoen: Macron Victory May Hold Key to Saving Democracy

Doug Schoen: Macron Victory May Hold Key to Saving Democracy
French President Emmanuel Macron (Philippe Wojazer, Pool via AP)

By Thursday, 18 May 2017 02:24 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The electoral victories of France's Emmanuel Macron and Alexander Van der Bellen of Austria, both globalists, have triggered a collective sigh of relief from those worried that the global trend toward nationalism would spread like a wildfire throughout Western Europe.

But declaring the demise of the populist assault, which started with Brexit and accelerated with the election of Donald Trump, would be premature. For each time the globalists win, the populist pressure they face increases. Unless U.S. leaders and their Western allies draw the right lessons from these recent globalist triumphs, they're unlikely to undertake the political reforms that are so desperately needed.

It appears global instability has become the norm rather than the exception, with a nonstop barrage of terror attacks, failing states, disruptive political candidates, the rising tides of nationalism and nativism, and economic sclerosis.

So far in 2017, the terror attacks in Paris, Stockholm, and London suggest the chaos and instability will continue.

From the United States to Europe, from the Far East to Africa and Latin America, governments' diminished legitimacy and the broken trust of institutions poses a grave threat to the future of free societies, not to mention global security and the stability of the international order.

The global situation is growing darker, and is so unstable and volatile in some regions that the sudden outbreak of war cannot be ruled out. Faith and trust in the governing authorities has collapsed, and populism is on the rise.

If there is a central organizing principle driving all of this, it is the pervasive, global rejection of elites. This takes different forms in different countries. But the underlying premise is that institutions don't work, governance has failed, and people are on their own. What results is a world roiling in chaos.

Consider the way Western governments have handled the Syrian refugee crisis. The key figure in the story is German chancellor Angela Merkel. Without any democratic consultation with her constituents, she approved the entry of an incredible 800,000 refugees; more than 1 million have flooded into Germany alone.

When incidents of violence and sexual molestation occurred — most infamously at Cologne over New Year's — Merkel lectured her countrymen that they needed to learn to "master the shadow side of all the positive effects of globalization."

Merkel and her peers likely won't come in contact with Syrian refugees. It is ordinary people who live with the consequences of self-righteous elite decision-making. The same applies in the United States, which has allowed only a fraction of Germany's refugee influx.

"The larger point," Peggy Noonan writes, "is that this is something we are seeing all over, the top detaching itself from the bottom."

Law professor and USA Today columnist Glenn Reynolds finds a contemporary analogy: "It's like The Hunger Games. The Capital City, and its hangers-on, flourish, while the provinces starve."

This top-bottom breakdown has other definitive characteristics. Rampant elite corruption has shattered popular confidence. The Panama Papers, for example, revealed a system of unbridled self-dealing among the world's elites that included 12 current or former heads of state.

Most dramatically, the documents suggest a secret offshore money network, involving banks and shadow companies, tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Others implicated include Chinese plutocrats, a member of FIFA, Iceland Prime Minister David Gunnlaugsson, and Argentinian President Mauricio Macri.

International institutions have fared no better than global elites. The United Nations now admits that its incompetent relief efforts after the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince helped cause the subsequent cholera epidemic that killed more than 10,000 people. Failed leadership seems to be the common denominator everywhere.

It's no wonder then that we're seeing such anti-systemic, anti-elite motivation in country after country. It reflects elites' wholesale failures of leadership and governance, and their inability to address the challenges of the age and to serve the people they represent. Against this backdrop of Western political and economic, it should come as no surprise that authoritarian and antidemocratic governments, especially Russia and China, are consolidating their power at a pace unseen since the end of the Second World War.

Owing to their size and power, Russia and China represent the world's two definitive models of authoritarian leadership in the world today. But many other nations are joining them in a swelling anti-democratic tide. According to Freedom House, the number of countries that can be considered "free" continues to decline around the world. In 2014, the nonprofit judged that 60 percent of the world's population now lived in countries considered less than free.

To combat this anti-democratic tide, the world's democracies must rebuild the global community with outsiders, not unlike what Macron — who founded his own independent political party in April 2016 — has accomplished in France. Unnecessary obstacles that reinforce two-party political systems must be dismantled. Independents must not be systematically discouraged from becoming politically active.

In the United States, the tendency to game the political system was evident in the 2016 primaries, when hacked emails revealed that some DNC operatives clearly favored Hillary Clinton over the firebrand Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

As the election approached in September, the bar to join Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on the debate stage was set so high, at a polling threshold of 15 percent, that libertarian Gary Johnson, polling at about 8.5 percent, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, polling at 3.2 percent, were excluded.

The political structure in the United States, with its winner-takes-all methodology, and high polling and financial bars to qualify for participation, is rigged against third-party candidates. This makes outsider victories of the sort seen in France and Austria improbable, if not impossible. Consider that even Donald Trump, a billionaire who is as atypical as American politicians come, had to run under the aegis of the Republican Party to win.

Peter Ackerman, founder of the organization Level the Playing Field, aims to de-rig the system and give electable, independent candidates a fighting chance.

About three years ago, the non-profit group lodged a complaint against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) citing unfair rules set by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) that have blocked independent candidates from participating in the final presidential debates that lead up to the election.

The FEC rejected the complaint without due consideration, prompting federal court judge Tanya Chutkan to condemn the FEC for its "refusal to engage in thoughtful, reasoned decision-making in either enforcement or rulemaking in this case."

The FEC must now reconsider the evidence first presented by Level the Playing Field, a ruling that Ackerman says "lays the groundwork for removing the primary obstacles to providing Americans with the independent alternative to the two parties that polls clearly indicate they want."

This preliminary victory may open the 2020 U.S. elections to candidates who are neither Republican nor Democratic, potentially extending the global trend of industrialized nations rejecting the major parties to elect political outsiders.

By encouraging third-party and independent candidates to participate in the U.S. presidential debates, Peter Ackerman is exercising the same creative political thinking exhibited by Emmanuel Macron and Mark Rutte.

That creativity is essential if the next generation of Western leaders is to succeed in countering the rise of authoritarianism. The new standard-bearers of democracy must stay optimistic and progressive, while openly acknowledging institutional flaws that have too often turned a blind eye to the genuine concerns and fears of voters.

Effective reform probably requires easing the rules in order to welcome outsider candidates, while stepping away from the major parties. It also means reining in politicized bureaucracies — such as the FEC — that zealously guard the two parties' political monopolies.

If that's what it takes to save democracy, then democratically elected governments must act accordingly.

Doug Schoen is a Democratic pollster, strategist, and best-selling author. His latest book is "Putin's Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence."

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The electoral victories of France's Emmanuel Macron and Alexander Van der Bellen of Austria, both globalists, have triggered a collective sigh of relief from those worried that the global trend toward nationalism would spread like a wildfire throughout Western Europe.
emmanuel macron, france, election, democracy
Thursday, 18 May 2017 02:24 PM
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