The base of former mainstream parties in Europe – mainly the social democrats and the conservatives – is eroding and their prime counter-strategy seems to be mimicking the messages and values of the political extremes. I think that’s a bad idea and will diminish their influence.
Successful Leadership means taking the right decisions, aligning the stakeholders and achieving countable results. Measured by that scale it will be pretty hard to find a lot of successful political leaders – who deserves this definition by those standards – in Europe. The level of indebtedness has grown exponential during the last decade, nobody has a clue how to finance social security and welfare systems in the near future, the way Europe deals with migration is catastrophic and we face an increasing polarization of societal groups. Plenty of key indicators are showing a downward trend.
Thinking of great leadership we – as European citizens – have to ask:
Did our European leaders take the right decisions? No. Not at all. Since decades our politicians are running a short term approach to win the next election. Due to the great challenges of our time they are running out of time and the solving of the problem can’t be further delayed. That’s why so many problems – that base on false decisions from the past – appeared on the surface during the last couple years. We will see an acceleration of this trend in the near future.
Could our leaders align all the stakeholders involved? No! Not at all! Seldom before society was that diverted as it is today. It’s rich versus poor, educated versus uneducated, domestics versus foreigners, Christians versus Muslims, nation versus Europe, far-right versus far-left, refugees welcome versus closing borders, … In a leadership-context this means nothing else than that our politicians failed on huge scale to align the people they are meant to lead. If society starts fragmenting and seeing it’s population moving to the political extremes I consider this as a strong indicator of failed alignment. People do not move to the political extremes because they consider their offer as good, they are moving because they lost the faith in the leaders in charge and are lacking options and alternatives. The European people are crying for vision, a positive outlook and a call for action. But nobody seems to be there to listen. People didn’t vote for Donald Trump because they consider him a great choice. People aren’t stupid! They voted for him because they had lost trust in Hillary Clinton and considered her even worse.
Did our leaders achieve countable results? No! Not at all! The financial crisis in Europe is still not solved despite the fact that we are spending via ECB 80 billion Euro a month for crap. And ECB by definition only buys the papers when it definitely knows that it’s crap. So the papers with value stay with the banks and the toxic paper with no value goes to the people. Isn’t that sarcastic? Further we see unprecedented youth unemployment especially in the south of Europe which leads to an increasing number of social incidents and the spread of ghettos in the suburbs of European cities. As a catalyst of the development we can name the unprofessional approach of European politics in terms of migration, integration and education. In comparison to most of world’s other regions our growth rate and perspectives are very low despite the fact that we still have the best educated people in the world.
Out of this I consider it as a huge misunderstanding of our politicians that they are losing votes with any election because of the political extremes and the attractiveness of populism. This is not the case! They lose these votes because of their own overwhelming incompetence and because voters are losing trust and becoming angry. If I am talking to people on the streets I am getting more profound answers to what Europe has to accomplish than in discussion with political leaders. The wisdom of the tribe has surpassed the wisdom of the so-called elites long time ago. A 12 year old child can tell you that Europe has to fix it’s spendings, reduce its debt, adopt it’s social security and welfare, improve education and lower its bureaucratically obstacles and complications.
But as lined out at the beginning of this essay this sort of reflection of the reasons of the downturn of the former political protagonists does not happen and the answer is that formerly serious political players are adopting on the populistic approach of their opponents.
This leads to the effect that by polls-driven politics the parties are losing their individual profiles and – even worse – the values they have once represented. So people losing reason to vote for them. Take a look at European conservatives and you will find a frightened group of people who are shouting for more border controls, less migration and greater power for police. That’s their prime message. The former key-competences such as economic development and reduction of state influence are not visible anymore. Or take a look at social democrats who are losing millions of voter and their answer to stop the drain is to adopt on far right policies and shout for higher taxes. The former key-competence of representing the working class to achieve a higher standard and improvement of living seems to be forgotten.
These are the real drivers why people are turning away from the political class and its protagonists. They are missing profile! And they are missing solutions! Europeans are missing that their leaders take care of the important things like fixing the financial crisis, reducing the indebtedness of Europe, improving our social security and welfare systems for the future, taking care of youth unemployment and proper education and setting a regulatory framework that allows Europe and its citizens to prosper in the future.
The 21st century can be the best or the worst in human history. We have all the assets and the know-how to build a great future but European people are losing faith that the political leaders in charge have the competence, the will and the ability to execute to deal with these complex and important issues.
A couple of days ago Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son in law, told the press that it is important that the government treats its citizens like customers. A trend that’s also visible in Europe. But I guess exactly that’s where politicians miss the point: WE ARE NOT YOUR CUSTOMERS! We – the citizens – own this place and YOU WORK FOR US!