European Voters Give Elites the Trump Treatment

Europe has witnessed the rise of right-wing, populist, and anti-immigrant governments across Europe. Most recently, Italy saw the Five Star Movement combine with the League party to form a government that promised to deport immigrants, and which questions the value of their membership in the European Union and use of the Euro. They have made headlines for denying entry to boatloads of immigrants. The Czech Republic openly broke with Germany’s leader and said that immigration policy should be decided by individual states. Germany’s right-wing party gained enough support in recent elections to become the third biggest party and forced a new coalition government upon Angela Merkel. Polish right-wing politicians continue to rule, and there are often protests in the street calling for additional border security and scrutiny of immigrants.

All of these developments have led to the usual hand wringing from politicians worried about xenophobia, hatred, violence, and “far” right policies. But in reality, these movements are simply a reaction to the disdain from elitists that ignored their serious concerns. In short, the European leaders only have themselves to blame for the rise of new governments and political parties.

Unfortunately, as Americans witnessed in Charlottesville, there is a strain of violent and hate-filled rhetoric that targets immigrants. But the media often conflates sincere, legitimate, and nonviolent economic and security concerns for the country with right nationalists and neo-Nazis. For example, Sweden, Germany, France, and England all report higher levels of violence, sexual assault, and crime among their immigrant populations. England has one of the highest rates of acid attacks in the world. Germany found that immigrants are responsible for as much as 90 percent of the crime in the province studied. (As usual, the BBC tried to explain away the data.) And this is before we get to terrorism, which the official UK website says is “very likely” in France. This is just a small sampling of the articles from a wide spectrum of sources describing the violence, sexual assaults, and terrorism associated with the immigrant community throughout Europe. The average Pole, Eastern European, or struggling worker in Europe probably has on-the-ground experience with no-go zones, relatives that are victims of violence, and an elite class of politicians quick to call them racist if they complain.

On top of violence, there are economic concerns. The migrant crisis has affected Eastern European countries more than their Western counterparts as countries like Italy regularly endeavor far larger numbers of immigrants. These governments then have to spend money on temporary refugee facilities, processing facilities, medical coverage, and relatively lavish social benefits. Despite the legitimate concerns about cost, the amounts of refugees they take are often dictated by the EU bureaucrats in Brussels who often seem unconcerned with the impact on local economics.

These benefits vary by country but they often include housing and food allowances plus medical coverage. The taxpayers of the countries have to provide these benefits, even as many of them, particularly Italy and Greece, are also undergoing austerity measures forced on them by the European Union that feature a cut in their benefits.  (Granted, these benefits are extremely generous to begin with, but being squeezed to pay for the benefits of others do seem ridiculous.) Finally, some places like Italy are facing a recession. Even after the painful cuts, the squeezed citizens still aren’t seeing the desired budgetary benefits.

The end result is that the average European citizen is sick of being ignored, marginalized, and having their tax money go to immigrants, where studies show the particular demographic commits more crime and welfare fraud than others. The average European, like their counterparts in the Rust Belt of America, has seen globalization shut down their local factories. They see their political class, often from their own party, lecture them on compassion and often accuse them of racism, while those same politicians lavish support and praise on immigrants, even as those immigrants spark legitimate concerns about security and violence. European elites should really stop accusing right- wing opponents of racism, and instead have a serious discussion of how they can show reasonable humanitarian concern for immigrants and refugees, while also safeguarding their economic and security concerns.