When Donald Trump shocked the world with an upset victory in the U.S. presidential election this month, much of Europe was aghast. But in at least one critical sense, the result couldn’t have been more European: Across the continent, parties of the center-left that have dominated politics for decades — and that have given Europe its reputation for generous social welfare systems — now find themselves beaten, divided and directionless. Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are just the latest members of a beleaguered club.
In Germany and Britain, once-mighty center-left parties have been badly diminished, locked out of their nations’ top jobs for the foreseeable future. In Spain and Greece, they have been usurped by newer, more radical alternatives. And in France and Italy, they’re still governing — but their days in power may be numbered. The rout of the center-left has even extended deep into Scandinavia, perhaps the world’s premier bastion of social democracy.
Overall, the total vote share for the continent’s traditional center-left parties is now at its lowest level since at least World War II. Like the Democrats, these parties have been marginalized, with little influence over policy as the right prepares to place its stamp on the Western world in a way that could endure for decades.
“If the left and the center-left don’t get their act together, then we’re looking at a period of very unstable right-wing hegemony,” said Alex Callinicos, a European studies professor at King’s College London.