Merkel, Italy, Brazil
To a public looking for a sign in these troubled political times a trio of recent developments must seem like auguries. The first was the slow demise of Angela Merkel's career. The Guardian writes that despite "clear political principles, exemplified by her brave, open-door migration policy and willingness to stand up to Donald Trump" her career is manifestly over. Voters in Bavaria have rejected her political party.
The end of the Merkel era could have dire implications for the future cohesiveness of Europe and the EU. ... Of the two other leading regional powers, Britain, a traditional ally of Berlin, has become a liability, wholly preoccupied with a mutually damaging Brexit process that is setting a worrying EU precedent. In France, meanwhile, the shine has come off Emmanuel Macron only 18 months after his insurrectionary electoral clean sweep. ... unemployment is rising again, towards 10%, and economic growth is falling. He has been damaged by high-profile resignations, his mishandling of an Elysée scandal, and his irksome, quasi-Napoleonic arrogance. His personal approval ratings are below 30%.
To the twilight of Merkel must be added the Italian budget revolt. "Europe’s leaders are engaged in a high-stakes standoff with Italy, trying to coerce the populist government to drop its budget-busting spending plan. But how far can they go? Can they risk pushing Italy out of the currency union?" Probably not because unlike Greece 'Italy is too big to fail yet too big to bail out'.
The third augury comes from Brazil where 'controversial far-right politician' Jair Bolsonaro upset 'left-wing hopeful Fernando Haddad", only proving as Simon Jenkins of the Guardian glumly observed, that "liberal democracy is proving no match for the lies and hatred spread by social media... one of the world’s most exciting emergent nations ... its evolution over 30 years from dictatorship to hesitant democracy seems to have stalled".
To progressives these events are real head-scratchers. "How a homophobic, misogynist, racist ‘thing’ could be Brazil’s next president" was how Guardian journalist Eliane Brum put it. She was understandably perplexed. Recent events pose an intellectual challenge for those who believed the Arc of History could unfold in only one way. It's clearly doing something else and not even those inclined to ascribe demonic powers to Trump can attribute all these events to him.
Peter Beinart, writing in the Atlantic, came close to suggesting a larger dynamic when he argued that 'globalist' is really a dog whistle for 'anti-semite'. "The term 'globalist'", he wrote, "is ... an epithet that is disproportionately directed at a particular minority group. ... it becomes a modern-day vessel for an ancient slur: that Jews—whether loyal to international Judaism or international capitalism or international communism or international Zionism—aren’t loyal to the countries in which they live." Anti-semitism is itself shorthand for a kind of shadowy, malevolent ideology that Beinart suggests has come to torment the world again.