The world seems to be in a state of political chaos right now. In one western Democracy after another elections seem to confound the pundits and experts are totally confused about what the electorate will do in any given election.
Last year we had the stunning vote in England to support Great Britain exiting from the European Union. This led to the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the election of Conservative leader Theresa May in July of 2016.
In the United States 2016 was a tumultuous political year where Donald Trump stunned everyone, his advisors included, by pulling what many consider a monumental upset when he defeated Hillary Clinton.
Later in 2017 in French elections something happened that has never happened before. None of the major parties survived the initial rounds of the election and the two remaining candidates; Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen were considered outsiders in French politics. Macron had actually resigned from his government position and formed a new political party, En Marchant. He easily defeated Le Pen in the general election to become the youngest French head of state since Napoleon.
In the United States Donald Trump had taken office and was immediately besieged by rumors of Russian interference in the election and this led to a number of investigations being conducted. He fired FBI Director James Comey and last week Comey testified in Capitol Hill that he felt he was fired because he would not end the investigation of former National Security Advisor General Flynn.
The irony of this was only a few months prior the Democrats were excoriating Comey for his investigation into Hillary Clinton and her emails and today he is their hero and they have canonized him as a bastion of truth and freedom. Some of that glow was extinguished when he admitted that he was the source of leads to the New York Times on conversations he had with President Trump.
Looking back to England Prime Minister May had called for national elections and at the time it appeared the goal was to strengthen her majority in Parliament and make it easier to advance the Conservative party agenda. Looked like a good call at the time but as we all know things happen. The elections resulted in losses for the Conservatives and instead of strengthening her majority she actually lost it. The Conservatives still had the most seats in Parliament and at last look Theresa May was trying to form a coalition government with the Democrat Unionists from Northern Ireland. She actually jumped the gun last night and said a deal had been reached only to have the leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, put the brakes on that and now the official position is talks are continuing.
Today the French are back to the polls for parliamentary elections and this will determine whether Macron can actually implement his policies. In French politics today’s vote will only be the first round. In order to win a seat in Parliament a candidate must get at least 50% of the vote and a minimum of 25% of eligible voters must cast ballots. Since most candidates don’t get the 50% they will be engaged in a runoff next Sunday. Anyone who gets 12.5% of the eligible voters (not just those that voted) will also make the runoff.
Can you imagine if we had those rules in U.S. elections? The confusion that would reign and the cost of holding multiple elections would become a major problem.
So what is the cause of all this turmoil? In my opinion it is a result of the voting public in these nations expressing their distaste for the current state of political affairs. Candidates on the extremes are winning and the elections are going back and forth between them. The people that seem to be forgotten are the majority in the middle of America. These are not the elites of both parties in the large urban areas of the nation. These are the hardworking people in small cities and town throughout America. In most democracies the average person is tired of the same old politicians telling them the same old promises and then getting nothing done. They are tired of the same old politicians bickering with each other instead of talking to each other. They are tired of watching the same old politicians try to score political points at the expense of logical solutions to the nation’s problems.
In this country the Republicans blocked initiatives from the Obama administration and conducted multiple investigations into Hillary Clinton, all of which amounted to nothing. It resulted in sending the negatives of Ms. Clinton higher than they already were and portrayed her as a politician lacking any ethics and having an aversion to the truth. Democrats bemoaned this tactic and demanded that Republicans come to the table and work with them.
Then suddenly the Republicans win the White House and have control of the Senate and House of Representatives. (Nobody really has control of the Senate unless you have 60 votes on your side and that rarely happens). The Democrats response is to demand investigations of Donald Trump and to block nominations and elections. Republicans tell them to stop it and come to the table and work with them. The American public eventually just starts to tune them both out.
Back in France it appears from early results that Macon’s new party is set to gain a strong majority in the French Parliament. Some of his major goals are to change the retirement and employment rules in France, which would be a refreshing step backwards from the socialist policies that have ruled the nation for the past generation. He is an amalgam of pro business and pro social programs. One of his main goals is to reduce unemployment in France, which right now is near 10.5%. Compared to other countries like Germany (4%), Netherlands (5%) and Great Britain (5%) it is abnormally high.
One of the best definitions of Macron came in a campaign stop earlier this year. He was being heckled by a man in a black shirt who called out the former banker by saying “Not a penny to pay for a suit like that.” Macron responded by saying the best way to get a suit like that was to work for it.
In summary, I think what is happening around the world is people are fed up with career politicians and they want meaningful change. That means shaking up the status quo and it also means that those in office need to stop looking at how to score those political points they all seem to need and to start working together. I am not going to hold my breath.