Clayton M. McCleskey, Dallas Morning News
I am sure y'all were breathlessly awaiting the election results out of Estonia this weekend. For those of you who missed it, the ruling center-right coalition won re-election. Now before you yawn, this should give us pause to think about the yet-to-emerge American center-right movement.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip managed to stay in power even after pushing through painful austerity measures that were unpopular in the short-run but which kept Estonia on course to adopt the Euro this January. Voters were willing to accept painful decisions now, with the knowledge they would pay off tomorrow. Would American voters do the same?
Estonia's decision to keep steaming in a center-right direction comes at a time when conservatives are in power across Europe. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Poland, etc. are all governed by right-leaning parties. Leading European conservatives gathered this weekend in Helsinki to talk economics, focusing on how to reign in debt while also promoting economic growth. In other words, our counterparts across the Atlantic are having the same conversations we are. But Europe is having more success in addressing the problems.
What makes European center-right politicians - such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel - different from many on the American right is that European conservatives have accepted the basic notion of the welfare state and recognize that government is not in of itself a bad thing. That has allowed them to be more effective in pushing through reforms.
Instead of declaring war on the government, European conservatives have chosen to present voters with a vision for how government can better address their needs. That's not always an easy approach. It's simpler to make your platform: "Washington is horrible! The government is bankrupting our future!" It's more challenging to reason with voters, explaining that they need government, but also have to pay for it. That sometimes means raising taxes, as was the case in Estonia.
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Estonia-style center-right victory not on America's horizon. Yet.