Hamburg Meeting with people in the Netherlands and Germany, conversation quickly comes to the Clinton-Trump race. People want to be reassured that Trump really can’t win. They don’t want to hear that the vote will be close, even though Clinton will win in the Electoral College. Interestingly with all the brouhaha that Trump has stirred up over closing borders, building walls, blocking entry to Muslims, and deporting millions, no one asks about the issue, mainly because these are issues too worrisomely close to home for them as well.
In Holland, a xenophobic, anti-immigrant leader has risen and created a “party of one” largely on this platform. Though he may not have much of a party, he clearly has a base. Political experts believe that he is taking votes way from the Social Democrats, long the dominate party of unions and some of the left. The Social Democrats are in a free fall for many reasons including the compromises they have made on healthcare and other issues as part of the ruling coalition government, but a piece of the problem, similar to the challenge for the Democrats in the United States is anger and desertion of some older, working class voting segments reacting to the anti-immigrant campaigning.
In Germany where Chancellor Angela Merkel a year ago during a humanitarian crisis opened Germany’s borders to one-million migrants largely from the war-torn Middle East and Syria, there has clearly been a political backlash over whether or not German standards of living and services are being compromised by these migrants. An upcoming election in Merkel’s home state is being watched closely to see whether her center-right governing party has been able to re-position itself with voters by implementing agreements to hold more of the immigrants in Turkey. Merkel is not retreating from her conviction that Germans “can do this,” but she is equally clear in recently reported interviews that she cannot lead along this path for another year, as she has for the last year. Her party in the state elections is busily echoing rightwing themes of homeland and security as it scurries about trying to hold onto its base. A new anti-immigrant party is expected to take votes away from Merkel’s Christian Democrats as well as the more progressive Social Democrats.
And, what in the world is this urkini thing about in France? Courts there have overruled local municipalities over their burkini banning, but reports are indicating that the activity, right down to having police stop Muslim women on the beach and make them disassemble their outfits, were very popular with the general French public. The rightwing, anti-immigrant party there did not fare as well as they had hoped in recent elections, but continues to be a serious force nationally.
Country to country immigration, migrants, and refugees are divisive political issues. Muslim women in particular are reporting worldwide that they are being viewed differently and worse than in the past. Discrimination in large and small ways is increasing.
Today there are no hard questions for an American traveler on immigration, because embarrassingly, too many progressives and others are fearing that politically we may be more united by hate that any other national value. Everyone is living in glass houses now, so no one is throwing stones, and fewer and fewer are leaving their doors open.