The financial crisis which broke last fall brought the Left to power in America. The crisis also cost Conservative Prime Minister Harper a majority in the Canadian Parliament in that country's general election, held a few weeks before our presidential election. So has the global economic recession helped the Left everywhere? Has it hurt the party in power everywhere? Interestingly, no.
In the United Kingdom, the Labour Party of Gordon Brown continues to do dismally in polls. After calamitous losses in local elections last year, which included an unprecedented Conservative Party victory in London, every single poll points to a huge Conservative landslide when the next general election is held. Last November, it looked like Labour might be able to squeak by the next election, if all the breaks went its way, but all the polling organizations show a Conservative lead of a dozen points or so, and that will mean David Cameron will almost certainly be Prime Minister of Great Britain by June 2010 (or sooner, if Brown calls the election earlier.)
Angela Merkel, the conservative Christian Democrat Chancellor of Germany, however, is doing very well in public opinion polls. Currently she has to govern through a coalition with the major Leftist party, the SDP, rather than the Christian Democrat's traditional ally, the Free Democrats. State elections have weakened the Christian Democrat Party a bit, but not really much at all (especially considering the decisive gains that party had made before Merkel became Chancellor.) Polls have consistently shown over the last year that after September 27, 2009 (the date of the next general election), the Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats together will have a majority of seats in the Bundestag, allowing Merkel to form a genuinely conservative German government.
Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy since last April, heads a coalition of three conservative parties. This coalition is more popular today than it was one year ago. It commands, in a system used to many political parties, an absolute majority of support of the Italian people. Like Germany, Italy has been hit by economic problems, and like Germany, Italy has found that its conservative government remains popular with the voters.
Europe knows all about socialism. The nations of Europe have been experiments for social welfare state politics for generations. Europe is what Obama wishes America to become. But in the midst of a very serious global financial crisis, the people of the major democracies in Europe do not appear to feel that the Left has much to offer. The Labour Party of Great Britain, who instituted so many of the measures which Obama wants us to enjoy, only gets about 30% of the popular support in public opinion polls. The Social Democrat Party in Germany only gets about 24% of the popular support in similar polls. The principal socialist party in Italy also gets just about 30% of the vote.
These numbers can be misleading. These three nations all have multi-party systems, and some small Leftist parties would boost the overall strength of the Left. What we call "conservative" parties in European democracies would be moderate Republicanism in America. But even with these discounts, the salient fact remains: within those partisan and ideological groups in European politics, those that are more conservative are strong and have grown increasingly stronger over the last several years.
The citizens of large democracies in Europe know the modern welfare state about as well as any people anywhere. The welfare state is not being dismantled in Europe, but it is also not finding its tired, dreary arguments generating excitement among the people of Europe either. Merkel, Cameron, and Berlusconi are not Reagan, but they are the closest Germany, Britain, and Italy has of genuine conservatives. And, in the midst of a crisis, it is toward the leaders of the Right, not the leaders of the Left, that people are drifting.