Does Rise of Macron and Schulz Mean Return of “Third Way” Politics in Europe?

To reach that goal will require some measure of achievement by Macron in the early days of his presidency and for Schulz to emerge as chancellor after a nip-and-tuck race with incumbent Angela Merkel. Then Europe and the world will know if the “Third Way” is cool once again.

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By John Gizzi l May 15, 2017

President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair at Number 10

One little-noticed result of Emmanuel Macron’s long-predicted victory in France’s presidential election Sunday could well be the revival of a brand of politics thought near death: the “Third Way,” the centrist philosophy that embraces free enterprise and growth, but also favors the state in bringing about social justice and reform.

Coupled with the emergence of Macron, a defeat of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in September by former European Parliament President and SPD (Social Democratic Party) Martin Schulz will mean a full-blown return of “Third Way” politics.

Put another way, centrism could be on the verge of “cool” again.

In the 1990’s, the “Third Way” was considered the avenue of success for left-of-center parties in Western democracies. U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were all Third Way leaders who “seized the middle.”

Blair may have offered the best definition of their philosophy: “The Third Way stands for a modernized social democracy, passionate in its commitment to social justice and the goals of the centre-left. … But it is a third way because it moves decisively beyond an Old Left preoccupied by state control, high taxation and producer interests; and a New Right treating public investment, and often the very notions of ‘society’ and collective endeavor, as evils to be undone.”

With the fading of its charismatic leaders, the “Third Way” waned. The left of center left parties emerged triumphantly. Barack Obama inarguably campaigned and governed from the left, and Hillary Clinton described herself as “progressive” — a term her husband would never have embraced.

Blair has since departed politics. However, there remains within his Labour Party intense animosity over committing troops to the invasion of Iraq that led to its complete takeover by the far left. Today, Labour is led by Jeremy Corbyn, an anti-nuclear and anti-austerity activist who has publicly suggested Blair should be tried for war crimes.

Onetime Goldman Sachs banking executive Macron is more centrist than leftist. A vigorous Europeanist, he has called for “reforms” in fiscal and labor policy. He promises to seek Germany’s cooperation to create a “pro-growth movement.” Macron also wants to reform France’s large state bureaucracy and vows to be a hardline foe of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Germany’s Schulz is a close ally of former Chancellor Schroder. He also is a committed Europeanist and is opposed to the “unconditional basic income” for workers that is favored by the left wing of Social Democratic Party (SPD).

“Macron probably wants some kind of third way, à la Blair and Schroeder, and will try to implement some reforms,” Laure Mandeville, veteran political correspondent for France’s Le Figaro and best-selling author, told us. “But the situation is extremely volatile and very new in the sense that he will have to govern in a France that is deeply divided into very different camps.”

Mandeville believes “a lot will depend on the parliamentary elections [which will be held later this month]. If Parliament gets divided into four big groups, Macron will have a hard time finding a majority with which to govern. He will have to face the massive anti-capitalist extreme left forces that are ready to be on the street on Day One of his victory, and will sow chaos and try to block economic reforms.”

“Yes, I do agree that Macron and Schulz are ‘Third Way’ politicians, although I think Macron is even more a centrist than Schultz,” said Martin Klingst, senior political correspondent for the venerable German publication Die Zeit, “If Macron fails, then the European Union will fail as well. Macron’s success will greatly depend on Germany’s support.”

More than a few Europeans second the view of the FT’s Wolfgang Munchau that “Mr. Schulz and Mr. Macron are sentimentally and intellectually pro-European, more so than any leaders since the days of Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand.”

But to reach that goal will require some measure of achievement by Macron in the early days of his presidency and for Schulz to emerge as chancellor after a nip-and-tuck race with incumbent Angela Merkel. Then Europe and the world will know if the “Third Way” is cool once again.


John Gizzi is the White House correspondent and chief political columnist for Newsmax. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the conservative-online-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.

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