PARIS -- Why has real democracy become so elusive in developed nations? Sure, you can still vote and feel as if you have some kind of say, but genuine democracy is getting further and further out of reach. The current climate in Europe should serve as a warning to America about what lies ahead if U.S. citizens don't reclaim power by choosing the anti-establishment candidate, Donald Trump, in November's presidential election.
Hungary held a referendum last weekend on whether to allow the European Union to impose migrant quotas on the country in an effort to resettle millions of refugees from the Middle East. According to the Associated Press, about 98 percent of voters rejected the imposition, but because fewer than half of Hungary's voters cast a ballot, the referendum is considered invalid. Even if the requisite 50 percent had shown up to vote, a 1964 decision of the European Court of Justice set a precedent establishing the supremacy of EU law over the laws of member nations. As a result, any anti-democratic quotas imposed on Hungary by European governance can't even be canceled out by the overwhelming popular vote of Hungarians.
The only way for an EU country such as Hungary to maintain national sovereignty is to officially escape the European straitjacket, just as Great Britain did earlier this year with the Brexit vote. But elected representatives are loath to give their people that kind of democratic freedom.
At least two of the conservative candidates in France's presidential primary, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, are calling for a referendum on merely "reformatting" Europe. In other words, the elites want to set up a false dichotomy under the pretext of democratic choice. Voters would get to choose whether they're satisfied with Europe in its current state, or if they want the same elites who made a mess of things in the first place to have another chance to make a different mess.
French President Francois Hollande has said that the next presidential election is a referendum in itself, so there's no need to have a referendum dealing specifically with France's relationship to the European Union. But Hollande's position on this could be risky for the establishment.
If the issues of cultural and societal preservation, establishment cronyism and the erosion of democracy become more important to French voters than the choice between ideological right and left, then French voters are really left with only one electoral choice: Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen is the only serious candidate who has promised a Brexit-style referendum if she wins the French presidency in May. French elites are betting that voters won't dare to vote for a far-right party in order to escape the clutches of the European Union. It's quite a gamble.
Is it any wonder that so many millennials in Europe and elsewhere are veering to the far right? In France, the National Front has the largest and most active youth membership of all the big parties. These young people are rejecting establishment arrogance and the "progressive" values of their parents that have long been destroying their countries.
We're also seeing growing support of the anti-establishment far right in North America -- a backlash that has been building for a long time.
When I was barely out of school in the early 2000s, trying to carve out a niche as a conservative voice in a North American media landscape dominated by the left, I felt that the leftist buzzwords being bandied about reflected social engineering on a massive scale. The counterculture generation had come to power and were peddling the notion that society needed fixing because it was too sexist, too intolerant, not diverse enough and just simply too unfair.
The establishment foisted these views and this way of thinking onto society and made it an offense to deviate from the left-wing point of view. If you didn't conform, you were marginalized.
Some of us checked out of the system altogether to forge an independent path and have been waiting decades for the pendulum to swing back in our favor. The cavalry has finally arrived, and it's made up of our critics' own children.