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July 14, 2020

Why the far-right might win in the end

Catherine De Vries has made a perceptive observation. Economic history shows that big crises always lead to a rise in support for the far-right, though not always immediately. It is true that centrist governments can thrive in crises, as the grand coalition is doing now or the Schröder government did in 2002 during a flooding catastrophe. But, once the moment passes, other forces quickly establish themselves. This is why we do not yet consider the outcome of the US election as a given. We are not in a situation that is comparable to normal election years, which is why we are greatly sceptical of all statistical comparisons with the pre-election polls of the past. We also fundamental disagree with the lazy judgement of some commentators, who believe that the pandemic is a disaster for the populists on the grounds that Boris Johnson and Donald Trump mishandled the health crisis. That specific observation is both trivially true, and irrelevant. What matters will be how governments manage the aftermath. De Vries also points to the volatility in Trump's approval rating, which had reached an all-time high of 49% at the beginning of the crisis. 

De Vries' main argument is that the decline in the support for right-wing parties in Europe could easily be reversed in the aftermath of the crisis, especially if it is followed by a long recession. Historical data would support the view of a strong link between economic crises and support for far right parties, because the far right always excels at finding scapegoats. 

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