Sunday 14 September 2008

They only look dead: why Europe's left will rise again

"They Only Look Dead" was the title of leading US political commentator EJ Dionne's excellent book - published at the height of the Newt Gingrich revoution - to argue the counter-intuitive thesis 'Why progressives will dominate the next political era", arguing that the populist and polarising anti-government fervour of the US right misread the mood of America.

Very few political observers thought that Bill Clinton could recover from the crushing defeat of the 1994 mid-term elections, when he had to argue that the Presidency was "still relevant" to win at a canter in 1996. But Dionne's was a longer-term analysis, which he reflected on in an essay last year on The Liberal Moment, and the possibilities and tensions for hopes of a new progressive era in the US.

In next week's Newsweek magazine, I set out a case as to 'why Europe's left will rise again'. My commentary can be read online.

The centre-left is in trouble across Europe: I don't want to minimise the political problems or challenges. Newsweek also carries an in-depth analysis by Stefan Theil about why "the center-left that has for so long defined European politics seems to be in a deep and protracted recession", particularly looking at the challenges and dilemmas facing Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the SPD (on which I wrote last week).

But here are my three arguments for optimism.

(1) The centre-right has prospered by apeing social democracy.

(2) The agenda of European politics is a broadly social democratic one.

(3) Within the left, the 1968ers of the left have produced neither new ideas nor new leaders. There is an opportunity for the next generation of social democrats, though they must show they are not clones who will repeat the politics of the last decade, by having more confidence in a core mission of narrowing inequalities and making the case for doing politics differently too.

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