Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Omnipresent in-fighting weakens right-wingers

Trump vs Koch, Farage vs Le Pen, Klaus vs Mach, Dawn vs Bloc Against Islam...

In recent 24 hours, I read about an unusual excess of the tensions between various pairs of right-wing politicians (and a businessman). It seems that these conflicts can be found everywhere on the right side of the political spectrum. Some frustration coming from the politicians' perceived failure to become important may be partially blamed for the trend.

First, Charles Koch prefers Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. He says some good things about the economic policies of Bill Clinton – I obviously sometimes say similar things – but he also adds that it's unacceptable for the GOP candidates to vigorously defend America against the radical Islam (by Muslim travel bans and carpet bombing of Daesh, respectively).

Sorry, Mr Koch, but the candidates' views about these things make perfect sense. The threat posed by the radical, i.e. real and undiluted, Islam, is damn real. One can't avoid speculations why Charles Koch is such a leftist when it comes to this particular issue, the Arabs. Well, he's probably grateful for all the billions from the oil industry. Much of this wealth wouldn't exist without the oil-rich Arabs.

I've never realized this particular idiosyncrasy of Mr Koch. But with the hindsight, it makes some sense. For example, in 2014, CATO Institute said "good-bye" to Czech ex-president Klaus. Disagreements about geopolitical issues were a likely key. But what I hadn't quite realized was that CATO was really founded from Charles Koch's money in 1977 and in June 2012, CATO and Koch agreed to increase the influence of Charles Koch over the Libertarian think tank.

Meanwhile, Marine Le Len is planning to visit Britain ahead of the Brexit referendum. Nigel Farage said she wasn't particularly helpful for the "Out" camp. He may be even joining those who are trying to prevent her from a visit of the U.K. This is quite a cold relationship. UKIP probably thinks that its attitudes to the immigration questions (and the image connected with these attitudes) are much more politically correct than those of the Front National. But is it really true?

I have serious doubts about it. Le Pen's father could have been said to be a leader of a racist party but I think that Marine Le Pen simply isn't. I have heard lots of statements about foreigners from the two parties and I disagreed with a similar percentage in both cases. Also, I have a significant problem with both parties' opinions about the public finances in their countries, the international debt issues, and with their opinion about the free trade.

To put it differently, I don't really believe that UKIP has the credentials to pretend that the National Front is inferior or less humane in some way. In my eyes, despite their different origins and "founding flavors", they are very analogous parties that naturally attract a similar subset of voters. And I don't believe that Le Pen's ideas about the EU discourage a much greater number of British voters to vote "Out" than the magnitude of the opposite influence. The Britons know that the French are different folks but they may also empathize with their approximate counterparts in France.

The third example of the animosities: the right-wing Civic Democratic Party of Czechia (ODS) was celebrating its 25th birthday. It was founded by Václav Klaus (and allies) a quarter of a century ago and was the main party that may be credited for the relatively smooth transition of Czechoslovakia and Czechia back to capitalism and Parliamentary democracy. Klaus, Macek, Strejček, and others blasted the current ODS. At the end, the main reason is that ODS has shrunk to a small party (with the support estimated by the surveys between 5% and 11%, depending on the weather). But what are the reasons of this weakness?

The critics seem certain. Klaus says that ODS is still fighting non-existent communism. And it tries to focus on some simple geopolitical issues (it tries to be blindly pro-American and anti-Russian, if I simplify just a little bit) and this attitude is both unreasonable as well as uninteresting for most voters. ODS isn't solving the hot political issues of the day. Moreover, it has apparently surrendered to the "anti-corruption" and similar anti-capitalist demagogy even though it should be doing exactly the opposite – to vigorously fight against the "anti-corruption" leftists (who have removed the last ODS-led government, among other sins). Other men from the "old ODS" and members of current ODS close to Klaus said mostly similar things.

I am clearly closer to Klaus in the opinions about all these things but is it really sensible to choose the current ODS as a main target?

Klaus has also criticized Petr Mach, a young member of the European Parliament and once Klaus' protege. I know both men in person (and I am receiving newsletters – very similar in form – from both think tanks, around Klaus as well as Mach) so these cold relationships are something I am not terribly happy to watch. Since 1989, I only voted a non-ODS party once – and we succeeded to send Mach (as the only successful candidate of the Free Citizens Party, SSO) to the European Parliament. Klaus' problem is that Mach has hijacked and stole the idea of the Libertarian party and killed this project in the context of Czechia.

(I mentioned that I read both Mach-and-pals' and Klaus' newsletters. They are very intelligent and insightful. The format and the packing in black plastic are very similar. But in recent times, the differences in the content are obvious. Mach's bulletin is much more about some "in principle" issues, often translations of U.S. sources. Klaus' bulletin is much closer to the real-world Czech and European politics. Moreover, Mach's bulletin recently featured lots of pro-immigration texts. I think that his pro-judicial-activism texts could be disagreed by Klaus as well although I am inclined to agree that an impartial judge is needed to regulate the self-evidently biased leftists' and rightwingers' attitude to laws and constitutional principles.)

Now, it's obviously a possible interpretation. SSO remains a largely irrelevant party whose support is rather likely (but not guaranteed) to remain below the 5% threshold in the next national elections. And it may look like "something like that" has been Mach's plan from the beginning – he wanted a comfortable job in the European Parliament and had no broader plans, so he took the control over something that was supposed to be much more important. I admit that I feel inconvenient when I think that this could be an accurate description of what was always happening in Mach's head. But I don't see into his head and I would probably not be the first person to reveal this unflattering theory in public.

(There are other people of age comparable to Mach's who may have hijacked something much grander, and I am thinking about activities outside politics now, and who may have turned it into their personal business. It's bad not to be able to get rid of the feeling that their interest in something – a topic underlying their job – is just a pretended sentiment which is actually driven by their purely personal career goals.)

On the other hand, the possible "rosier alternative history" is just a pure speculation. Is it possible for any similar really Libertarian or truly conservative politician to establish a strong right-wing party capable of winning the elections in Czechia again? I have some doubts about it. Klaus achieved those things throughout the 1990s. But Klaus was special – aside from being a right-wing politician, he is also a very skillful, combative, charismatic politician naturally building "a big political consensus" who was also supported by 40+ years of thirst for the advantages of capitalism. And yes, he was sometimes willing to make his acts significantly less pro-capitalist than his speech.

Things have changed, however. The economy and other things work, Czechs are largely ignoring the fact that it's mostly thanks to the ideas that mainly Klaus (plus a few other people) returned to our country in the 1990s, and the nation has returned to its long-term left-leaning normalcy (which already characterized the democratic Czechoslovak republic in between the wars). Leftists and numerous "warriors against corruption" (i.e. assorted demagogues whose success is all about the jealousy of many people) have returned to their dirty tricks and it's working – it was already working in the early 20th century. Klaus probably still has the greatest potential to become "the most important right-wing Czech politician" again but lots of negative memes about him – which didn't exist in 1990 – have spread about him, too. He is aware of the fact that he would face huge hurdles if he tried to return to politics – which is why he remains much further from real "politics of acts" than Mach, Fiala, and others right now.

Should anyone blame anyone else at all? Is it a helpful path? And if the friendly fire stopped, would it help at all?

I am not sure whether the situation may be dramatically improved. I am not sure whether e.g. I could be the Phoenix who rises and changes everything. (Almost certainly not. When I was an undergraduate, the elections to the student chamber of the academic senate have taught me that I would be more likely to be a politician fighting for and happy for surpassing the 5% threshold, too.) But what I find obvious is that all these around- and sub-5% right-wing parties simply should stop fighting with each other. And in fact, they should merge. All such moves may create problems – the participants may always complain that they "own" a smaller percentage of the unified entity than they deserved or expected for various reasons – but this process is necessary, anyway.

The people supporting these small, around- and below-5% parties are genuine and they care. They would probably keep on supporting the merged entity. None of the smaller parties' politicians may be guaranteed to become the leader of the more unified one. But that's a part of the magic. The mergers mean an enhanced intra-party competition which is ultimately a good thing.

Let me mention one more conflict among right-wingers, although these are not "quite" my cup of tea and I don't consider them optimal for the general politics. The Dawn vs Bloc Against Islam. They are in a conflict as well, mostly about some money reserved for the campaign of Mr Martin Konvička, the entomologist who heads the Bloc Against Islam. This bloc is mostly an "NGO" outside standard politics (with some natural power given by the relatively fresh problems with the migration) while The Dawn is a small parliamentary party (which is a leftover from another conflict by itself, the party has kicked out its Czech-Japanese founder Tomio Okamura who retains some aura of a "genuine honest politician who will defend us" among his voters while his colleagues seem to be considered "careerists fighting for their feeding troughs"). Such conflicts are probably more likely when the sides feel that they're short of money.

Back to my general point. If I were in the Party of Free Citizens or ODS, I would probably promote the merger with the other party because the ideological differences have become so small that the division may be almost fully explained by the people's smallness and uninteresting personal interests and relationships. In fact, I would go further. I think that even ODS and TOP09 could merge (their current chairmen Kalousek and Fiala are behaving as ultimate friends and Gentlemen to each other). TOP09 is obviously insufficiently right-wing for me but it represents the "politics of the possible".

A month ago, I praised ODS and TOP09 for their defense of the small businesses and entrepreneurs – and opposition towards the uncontrolled power (and clash of interests) of minister Andrej Babiš, the billionaire. Something I found sort of important were the new Babiš's tools to monitor the economic activity in the whole country and new forms that entrepreneurs have to fill (electronically).

On the other hand, these are "details" that e.g. Klaus doesn't seem to care about at all – and I think that it is because he isn't really doing any business etc. His institute is getting funding from Petr Kellner, the wealthiest Czech (a financier), and Kellner's folks surely do all the paperwork required for that funding, too. ;-) So for this reason, Klaus is largely detached from almost one million of entrepreneurs, self-employed people, plus their dependents. But these topics are the relatively hot topic of the current politics.

They're not "topics of life and death" because most people are just employees and many entrepreneurs can deal with the extra duties, anyway (although most of them oppose the new changes). But truth to be told, the immigration hassles aren't a matter of life and death for Czechia now (or in a foreseeable future), either. The number of recent Muslim immigrants into Czechia is infinitesimal, many of them have left, others plan to leave (for Germany etc.), anyway, and these basic conditions are very unlikely to change dramatically for many years. Czechs consider this topic important but it is largely important in other countries now and only important for the distant enough future of our country, it's just not a really hot topic now and here. And all the parties in the Parliament have basically OK attitude to these questions, anyway, so I don't believe that this issue is something that a "new big right-wing Phoenix" may build upon.

So another problem is that unlike in 1990, to be extreme, there are no "really big political topics". Everything that politicians are solving may be interpreted either as business-as-usual or some relatively unimportant topics (from the viewpoint of a majority). But right-wing political parties should be working in such circumstances as well. Left-wing and various police state parties (Babiš's ANO is meant to be a textbook example of the latter) are apparently working in these conditions and growing their influence and someone – well, people who apparently do right-wing politics for their living – should work hard to reverse this pathological trend.

Meanwhile, the people behind the pathological trends are unifying as much as they can. Obama has turned himself into a mouthpiece of the most hardcore ideas of the Soviet-style European unification. And the Jewish "progressive" classmates of the Palestinian racist jerk who said that Tzivi Livni stinked have defended their classmate. Jews really stink, these Jewish "progressives" say, and Livni was a politician in Israel and any form of attack is right against those people. Holy cow, when I see some of these people emit similar stuff, I basically start to understand why Germany felt the need to introduce policies to combat Judeo-Bolshevism some 80 years ago. You, comrades, look really hopeless.

But similar "progressives" are doing fine these days – partly because of mostly petty conflicts of a district magnitude between those who should be their natural enemies. While it's obvious that I don't agree with "everything" that all sorts of right-wing politicians and pundits do and say, it seems that their disharmony reflects their lack of appreciation for how quickly certain aspects of the political atmosphere are deteriorating.

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