On the eve of the coronavirus pandemic, a survey of 14 European Union countries in 2019 by the Pew Research Center found that few voters expressed positive views of political parties. Only six out of nearly 60 were seen favorably by more than 50 percent of the populations in their countries. Populist parties across Europe also received largely poor reviews.
The left has a lot of recovering to do.
It remains to be seen whether the Social Democrats in Germany will be able to lead a governing coalition. But if they do, they will join a relatively small club.
Of the 27 member states in the European Union, only Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Malta have distinctly center-left governments.
The old voting coalitions that empowered the center-left across the continent after 1945 included industrial workers, public sector employees and urban professionals. But those groups, driven primarily by class and economic needs, have fragmented.
Two decades ago, Tony Blair’s Labour Party cruised to re-election in Britain, promoting center-left policies similar to those of President Bill Clinton. Now, Labour has been out of power for more than a decade, and in recent elections it has suffered stinging losses in working-class parts of England where its support once ran deep.
In France, the center-left Socialist Party has never recovered from the unpopular presidency of François Hollande and its disastrous performance in the subsequent elections. Since then, France has moved increasingly to the right, with support for the Socialists and other left-leaning parties shrinking.