This week I attended the Tech Inclusion Conference in San Francisco. I can honestly say it was one of the most diverse and inclusive conferences I have ever attended. I enjoyed meeting people from a variety of backgrounds who are committed to increasing accessibility to technology and careers in the tech sector. This issue is near and dear to my heart for a variety of reasons. As the provost of a small college in the heart of Silicon Valley, I want my diverse student body to be aware of all the opportunities that are available to them. It helps my students to see people who are like them working in the companies that surround our campus.
The main takeaway for me from the conference was that I needed to expand my definition of diversity. I was impressed with presentations about indigenous rights, neuro-diversity, veterans, disability, and even invisible disabilities. I was also impressed with the companies who have committed to changing the culture in Silicon Valley to create a more inclusive future. This will be critical to the future of tech, as we need to reach out to the broader community to develop the workforce that will keep the economy moving forward.
I firmly believe that education is a vital component of this effort. Along with running a diverse college, I also support many organizations that are working to get more low-income students into college. For example, the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula works with over 100 high school students to help create a path to college. These students are the future of our state and our country. If we don’t support them, we won’t have the educated work force we need. It is critical that we support an education system that develops the capability of ALL of our students, regardless of socio-economic status, race, religion, disability, or gender-identity.
I truly appreciate the efforts of visionaries like Wayne Sutton and Melinda Briana Epler at Change Catalyst who are helping to lead the way to a more inclusive future.
I posted this on Facebook after reading one too many posts that chided NFL players for not standing during the national anthem. Many people, including veterans, police officers, senators, etc…have stated their support for the right to protest. However, passions have been high – I have seen many discussions turn into rants followed by name calling. What is it about this particular issue that has led to such passionate responses? [a rhetorical question]
For many African-Americans, this is a time of heartbreak. Not particularly because of Trump – we have seen many like him in our lifetimes. No, the heartbreak comes from learning that many we consider friends, even family, have little or no empathy for the situation we are facing today. We cannot ignore the bigotry and racism that are coming to the fore, something we had hoped our children wouldn’t have to deal with.
Many who have protested the protest say that players are being disrespectful to those who have given their lives for the US and the flag. Others argue that players are privileged and don’t have a right to complain. My nephew, Anthony Givens, captured my and many others’ thoughts on this:
If you ever speak to me, or have posted about these “ungrateful” athletes disrespecting a piece of cloth, but you have never once spoken to me about the disrespect shown to the founding ideals of America by literal nazis in Charlottesville, or you have never once spoken to me about the murders of young black men that were handcuffed, on the ground, unarmed, and executed by those who we have entrusted to protect all Americans, or never once called out the systemic racism and fear that all minorities must live with everyday in a country that has a president who is the embodiment of privilege and a constant reminder of the promises that have been broken…if this is you, a person that I know, then we are done. We are and cannot even be acquaintances, much less friends anymore. There cannot be middle ground on racism and misogyny. #TakeAKnee
Whatever happened to the “Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave?” When and where are we “allowed” to protest – if it doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, what’s the point? I grew up in the military, my father was a 20-year man, who was greatly disrespected during his time in the military, but never lost his love for this country. We protest because we want America to live up to it’s promise. We want a country where I don’t have to worry about my boys being stopped by the police because of the color of their skin. We want a country where we can truly live free.
Our original plan for our family vacation this year revolved around a trip to the Normandy WWII landing beaches. I was excited to return after 31 when I was there for my first time abroad as a study abroad student at Stanford. My husband Mike had never been, and my son Andrew is a military history nut. We had also gone to an exhibit of Monet paintings at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco that focused on his early career that included many paintings in the Normandy region.
We also decided to spend a few days in London as described in my previous blog, and a few days in Paris to end our vacation. After leaving London, we took the Chunnel train to Calais where we had planned to rent a car Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately we missed our train and had to stay in Calais a couple of nights because we arrived Saturday night after the rental car agencies were closed and they wouldn’t be open again until Monday morning. Fortunately, we were able to find a nice hotel in the center of town and our unexpected day in Calais turned into a pleasant visit.
Monday morning, we picked up our car and headed to the city of Rouen, known for being the home of Joan of Arc and where she was martyred. It is also home to the stunning Cathedral of Rouen which was a subject of several paintings by Monet, which we had seen in the exhibit in San Francisco. The old town has many half-timbered houses and along with the cathedral there is also the Church of Saint-Maclou which is in the “flamboyant” gothic style.
The Cathedral of Rouen has many impressive memorials, including one to St. Joan of Arc, who I consider a real “Amazon” and who is memorialized throughout the city of Rouen. There is also the femur of the original Duke of Normandy, Rollo, who was a Viking leader. The town, as most of the towns in Normandy, was heavily damaged in the war, and the cathedral is under nearly constant repair, from storm damage as well as age and pollution.
After leaving Rouen, we headed to Caen, where we met my nephew Alfonso, and his husband Joris, who were joining us for our time in Normandy from Rotterdam. We spent some time at the castle of William the Conqueror that evening, which is in the process of reconstruction. We headed up to our house rental, a very cute home in the town of Benouville, near a war memorial, the Pegasus Bridge featured in the film “The Longest Day.” The house is near the beach town of Ouistreham, which is also worth a visit. We ended up using the two bikes at the rental house and renting two more so we could bike along the beach one day, which was a lot of fun.
Our second day in Caen, we went to the town of Bayeux to see the famous tapestry that depicts the Battle of Hastings between William the Conqueror and Harold who had taken on the throne of England in his place. The tapestry is impressive and we also enjoyed visiting the nearby museum about the WW II landings. After the visit to Bayeux we went to Omaha Beach and walked up to the memorials on the hill above.
On Wednesday, we made our way toward Brittany and the famous Mont Saint Michel. The day started off foggy and our first glimpse of the mount and it’s abby was in the fog. The day cleared some and we did get some sun as we made our way through the narrow streets of the fortress that has had many purposes over the centuries. I was happy to return to this place, as I felt we hadn’t been able to spend much time here when I was a student and our guide had seemed in a hurry to usher us through. We worked our way up through the crowds to the abby where we did the audio tour. It was very impressive and they have added some modern artwork in many of the rooms. The tide was at a high point when we arrived so we were able to watch it go out over the hours that we were there.
After touring the abby we made our way down along the ramparts, checking out the cannons and having lunch in one of the rooms above the tourist shops. We were lucky that the weather was nice during most of our visit.
Our next stop was St. Malo, and I was very excited to revisit this town, it was one of my favorite stops from 31 years ago. I had written in my diary then that I wanted to visit the town in the summer someday (my previous tour had been in April, when it had been rather cold) and so my wish was finally being fulfilled. It was as I remembered, the high walls surrounding a medieval town, although it had clearly
become much more commercial in the center part of the town. We made our way all around the ramparts, enjoying the views of the various forts, and the sea. I bought a water color painting at the marketplace to commemorate our visit.
The next day we went to the American Cemetery, which was very sobering. The monuments in general have changed a great deal since my last. They have all been improved with first-person stories from survivors. I was particularly impressed with the visitors’ center at the cemetery, which was built in 2004 and recently renovated. The center did a very good job of providing context and telling personal stories of individual soldiers. I felt it was important to pay my respects for those who gave all to protect democracy, and I hope that I can show even a shred of the courage that they did to help protect the future for my children.
Our next stop was Pointe du Hoc. This memorial has also been improved since I was last here. There is a new visitors center where survivors tell their version of the story. In fact, the story we were when I was a student was incorrect and I heard a more accurate version of the story more recently. The rangers climbed up the cliffs at this point to take out a gun battery the month before D-Day to keep it from being able to attack ships during the invasion.
Friday was our day at the beach with biking and we finished our day with a seafood dinner in Ouistreham. Saturday morning, we were up early to drive back to Calais to drop off our rental car and take the train to Paris. We stayed at an apart-hotel near the Gare de l’Est that had two bedrooms so the boys had their own bedroom, and we had a little kitchenette. That afternoon we walked through the Marais and stopped at Places des Vosges. The Marais has become much more commercial as well, I was surprised to see more chain stores and high-end shops. We then walked by Notre Dame and had dinner at a bistro. The weather was very nice in Paris, warm but with cool breezes.
Sunday, we started off with a visit to the Cluny museum which has medieval art, and is in one of the oldest buildings in Paris, with ruins going back to the Roman era, it was originally a Roman bath in the Roman city of Lutetia. It is also the home of the tapestries called the Lady and the Unicorn which are stunning in their color and vibrancy.
I took a break while the boys went to the Musee D’Orsay to check out the Impressionists in the afternoon. That evening we went to a chamber music performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in the Sainte-Chapelle. Both the music and the surroundings were stunning.
For our last day, I spent a few hours in the morning doing a little shopping, then met the boys at the Louvre museum – pro-tip, skip the lines by buying your ticket online. The only reason you have to stand in line is to get through security and the line is shorter if you can show them that you already have a ticket. The Louvre is wonderful as always and we focused on the Denon wing which is always the most popular. It houses most of the paintings, including the Mona Lisa, as well as the most popular sculptures, including Michelangelo. Andrew was particularly interested in the Romantic and Neo-classical art.
We concluded our last night in Paris at a restaurant recommended by Rick Steves, Bofinger, at Place de la Bastille. It’s in an art deco building, and the food was very good. We had the seafood platter which included lobster, prawns, shrimp, whelks, crab, etc…we had a very enjoyable evening overall.
Paris is wonderful, but I like London better. My big complaint about Paris is that it really smells of urine during the summer, and I don’t mean dog urine. We actually came across a man peeing in a park as we were leaving the Cluny Museum. Men seem to think it’s OK to pee just about anywhere, in the Metro, streets, alleys, etc. Since it’s summer and hot, it smells everywhere. This is not something I have noticed in London. Then there’s the typical problem of Parisians who don’t clean up after their dogs. You have to be constantly vigilant to avoid stepping in dog poop.
Despite the smells, I do enjoy Paris, and overall, we had a great trip. It was my first time going to Europe that I didn’t have to do any work. People were very friendly, my French came back fairly quickly, and the boys got to practice their French, too (they’re both taking French at school). Although the security was high, it wasn’t oppressive. I look forward to visiting again, soon.
When we started to plan our trip to Normandy, I knew we had to make a stop in London first. I have been traveling to Europe regularly for 22 years. In fact, our honeymoon anniversary (August 1995) marks my first research trip to Europe after my first study abroad trip in 1986. This trip is my first real vacation only trip to Europe – no classes, no interviews, no library research, just fun with my family.
London is probably my favorite city in Europe, although it’s very hard to compare to Paris, Rome and Berlin. I also love Vienna and Brussels for different reasons. But I love the underground, and the theatre, the parks and the shopping (I didn’t get to do any with the boys around on this trip), the food and the people-watching, the politics and the attitude.
We landed on the 4th of July, definitely not a holiday in London. We started off by trying get over our jet lag with a lot of walking. We did allow ourselves a nap at our apartment. We rented a two-bedroom place right next to Paddington station through VRBO. Our first stop was to grab some sandwiches so we could enjoy lunch in Kensington Gardens. Then we walked through Hyde Park and St. James Park, before checking out the West End. The weather was very warm the whole time we were in London, mostly in the 80s.
We met my friend, Glyn Ford, at his club, the (in)famous Groucho Club, for a drink before dinner. Glyn is a former MEP from Manchester who has been a Labour Party stalwart since the 80s and worked on antidiscrimination policy. He was the focal point of my book, Legislating Equality, and we have been friends for many years, he has hosted me in Brussels many times. We didn’t get into talking about Trump or Brexit much, those topics are too painful for both of us, we talked more about recent household moves and family life. I hope to start working on Glyn’s biography soon…we found a good Indian food place for dinner nearby and tried to sleep in our non-air-conditioned apartment that night….
Wednesday morning, we met my friend Steven Erlanger, currently London bureau chief for the NY Times, soon to be in Brussels as the diplomatic correspondent. I met Steve about 10 years ago when I started going to the Brussels Forum and we have kept in touch over the years. We did talk a lot about Trump and politics, which wasn’t very encouraging. He was headed to the G20 meetings, so I’ll have to check in with him this week to get his personal perspective, but I can read all about his professional perspective in his most recent articles.
The next stop was Westminster Cathedral. Very beautiful and majestic, and a reminder of the schism between Protestants/Anglicans and Catholics in England. We then moved on to Westminster Abby, which is overwhelming in scale with the amazing number of tombs and monuments to historical figures. The audio tour was very helpful in giving context to the many chapels, and we were lucky to have access to all of chapels, sometimes they are closed for various reasons.
After lunch, went the British Museum and saw the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon. We picked up some tickets for a comedy (Tapeface) for Thursday night at the half-price ticket outlet in Leicester square and headed off for dinner at an Italian restaurant (Wildwood) in the West End.
Thursday morning we went to the Churchill War Rooms which were much more extensive than I expected. We spent a lot of time in the Churchill museum section, which had a lot of interactive sections and excerpts from his speeches. It made it easy to imagine being down there during the war and the courage the people must have had to be there during bombardments.
After another quick lunch, we made our way to the Imperial War Museum on the other side of the Thames river. We didn’t have much time there, so we focused on the World War I section which had been recently updated, and also had many new interactive exhibits. It was very sobering to think of the millions of lives lost, and the huge transition from cavalry to more modern styles of warfare including tank warfare. After a quick dinner at Pret a Manger, we made it to our show, Tapeface, which was very funny – the boys really enjoyed it, and it’s nice that they are now old enough to take to these types of shows.
Friday, we stopped at Leicester square and picked up tickets for the show, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery for Friday night before heading back to the British Museum to see the special exhibition on Japanese wood block prints. We also checked out the rooms about the Anglo-Saxons and British history. We then had a nice dinner at a fish restaurant before going to our show, which was also very funny.
Saturday, we made a quick dash to the Victoria and Albert Museum before heading to the train station, but unfortunately we missed our train, so we had to take a later train to Calais, but that meant that Andrew, Mike and Brandon had a chance to visit the British Library and see the Magna Carta and other documents. Then we were off to Calais through the Chunnel!
I must comment that my boys, Andrew (16) and Brandon (13) have been a joy to travel with. They have been traveling with us to Europe since they were infants, and they have always been troopers, but now that they are older and can appreciate things like the theatre it’s really great to see them becoming young men, hear their opinions and see them develop their own ideas. I was so surprised when Andrew wanted to go to San Francisco on his own with some of his friends a few weeks ago and visit the De Young Museum, but it makes sense given that he has spent his life visiting great museums in Europe. They make me proud 🙂
[This blog has been picked up by Inside Higher Ed and posts can be found there]
The news that my friend and colleague Mark Sawyer was gone made me feel like all of the air had left the room. I was suddenly pulled back into memories from over 20 years ago when we were grad students attending conferences, competing to see who would land the top jobs, and supporting each other in our choice to study comparative, rather than “just” American politics. As fate would have it, Mark would start his job at UCLA as I was leaving to start my first job at University of Washington. Over the years our paths would cross, and I could understand the challenges Mark faced in his new department, given that I had so recently worked with many of his colleagues and was truly impressed with his commitment to starting the subfield of Race, Ethnicity and Politics in the department and ultimately UCLA’s African-American studies department. He brought in and mentored students creating a supportive environment that I hadn’t know many years before.
When I started graduate school in UCLA’s poli-sci department in 1993 there were very few black students, including my good friends Vince Hutchings and Maria Niles. Maria moved on to Chicago, where she became friends with Mark, and it’s likely that she was responsible for connecting us when we were still graduate students (my memory of that time is a bit hazy). We created a community of friends who supported each other through the program as we struggled, married, moved to new locations and a few of us finished and got jobs. Vince went to Michigan in 1997 and at that time there was a dearth of black scholars in top poli-sci programs. I always knew I would be an anomaly as a black Europeanist, in any case. We didn’t really remark on it at the time, it’s just the way things were.
We have all faced many stresses and challenges in our careers, whether as academics or other professions. As I have reflected on my experiences, I have wondered how much of my outward success reflects the unseen struggles I have faced as a black woman in a world that wasn’t made for me. In light of Mark’s struggles and his ultimate passing, is it helpful for those who have “made it” to talk about how we have dealt with anxiety, disappointment, department politics, etc.? Not everyone is in a position to share these types of issues and now that I am a provost, I don’t have to worry about department politics. Also, as my friend Josh Busby recently wrote in a blog post “Ideas and understanding the way the world works and how it could be are a noble service. I’m no longer as sanguine that the arc of the moral universe moves in the ways that I want it to, but I’m not going to stop trying from making a contribution. That is the only way to live.” (http://duckofminerva.com/2017/04/lets-talk-about-mental-health.html) – let this be a small contribution…although this is only a very small part of the story.
A quick look at my CV would indicate a very successful career. Books with Cambridge and Oxford university presses, articles in the top comparative politics journals, edited volumes and students who have gotten tenure track jobs. In 2003 I helped start a Center for European Studies at UT Austin and became director in 2004. I worked with my department chair and the Center for African and African-American Studies to recruit new faculty and for a short period of time we had 6 black faculty. I was able to help recruit one black student, Ernest McGowen, who is now a tenured professor at University of Richmond.
In 2006, my first year in rank as an associate professor, I was named Vice Provost for Undergraduate Curriculum and International Affairs. I stepped down from that position in 2009 with the blessing of my dean, department chair and the provost so that I could focus on getting promoted to full professor – and they all pledged their support in that endeavor. I was given a year of sabbatical which allowed me to focus on my research, but it was also the last year of my mother’s life and the year that my brother-in-law was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer. In 2010 my mother passed away, my dean told me that I was losing my research support and couldn’t get it back without an outside offer, and the university began facing a series of budget cuts that would lead to no raises for those of us already in the higher salary ranges, meaning 6 years of no raises for me.
It was at that point that I knew the research I was completing would be my last. As I was working to finish my book and other research with my students I explored the possibility of staying in Austin but working in the community. I joined nonprofit boards, started my own organization and explored the business world, but I hit many “cement” ceilings in Austin (my friend Ellen Sweets captures much of what I won’t miss about Austin here). The possibility for other faculty jobs was limited with a weak job market and a CV that made me a prime candidate for a quick move into an admin position. I worked hard to complete my book so that I could be promoted to full professor (and I should note that I’m pretty sure I was the first black person to get tenure and full professor in the Government dept. at UT) – despite the skepticism of my departmental colleagues who wanted me to wait (for what?). In the end my only goal was to get promoted so I could get out.
Part of my desire to move on was the fact that I was tired of the “hamster wheel” of having to constantly work on that next book or article and never feeling like you had the time to develop long-term projects. I decided I might as well go back into admin where there were leadership opportunities and the possibility of a raise for the first time in many years. My husband didn’t really want to move, so I consulted with my former provost, dean and other mentors and all agreed that my best opportunities were going to be anywhere but Austin. It was telling to me that when I was promoted to Vice Provost in 2006 there were at least 9 black women in leadership positions at UT Austin. When I left there was 1.
I felt like I was pushed out of poli-sci, and had few options outside of administration for furthering my career, despite my accomplishments in the study of European politics, immigration and populism. However, I’m living where I want to live, in a job that I love, and I’m present with my family. I don’t miss the rat-race of research, or the departmental politics, where the work that I did wasn’t valued.
I will be writing about my perspective on the political implications of the November, 2016 election in other outlets, but the shift in the country is having many personal impacts that I will be writing about in the coming months. I have been dismayed by the racism, xenophobia, misogyny and anti-lgbtq sentiment on display in the last few months, the blatant use of power by ICE and CBP agents, stopping individuals from places like Australia and even the former Prime Minister of Denmark at airports (not that these types of stops are new). The weekend that the first executive order on immigration was released I barely slept – but quickly realized that I couldn’t keep up that kind of pace. We are in a marathon not a sprint. I’ll have to pick my battles carefully and not get caught up in every issue where I have some expertise.
My last trip to D.C. was in 2013 for Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Since then, the country has, of course, gone through some major changes that I could not have foreseen at that time. I expected a very different place when I took a quick trip to Washington D.C. in late February. This trip was for a meeting at the American Political Science Association, and I was curious to see what the atmosphere would be like under the new administration.
I arrived early evening to my hotel and immediately headed to one of my favorite restaurants near Dupont Circle for some dinner. I rarely watch TV news, I tend to listen to NPR, but CNN seemed much more relevant as I sat at the restaurant bar in our nation’s capital. CNN was reporting on the breaking news that Reince Priebus had asked the FBI to discount the reports that Trump’s campaign had contacts with Russian officials. As I sat enjoying my meal, I couldn’t help but overhear a group of twenty-somethings discussing the political situation. I chatted with them for a bit, sharing our interest in politics, and the need to understand populism and racism in the current climate.
The next day I made my way to the White House and was surprised to find it surrounded by fencing and no trespassing signs.
The obstructions are there ostensibly because of the inauguration, but this is the longest it has ever taken to tear down the stands and construction after the inauguration. It also conveniently keeps protestors away from the White House. I did find the peace protestors who have had a long-standing presence near the White House and they explained the situation – the Park Service has been accommodating, but they are subject to the dictates of the White House. It does not feel like the people’s house anymore. I’m glad I was able to visit with my boys while Obama was still President.
Later I met with friends who talked about how the helicopters used by Trump and Pence would “buzz” the bike paths and I even noticed how the helicopters would fly low over residential areas – under Obama the helicopters would do their best to fly over the Potomac and avoid residential areas and the park. Friends who work in government agencies are concerned that they still don’t have agency heads, don’t know what will happen to their funding, and are concerned that programs that provide a lot of bang for the buck will no longer be funded, hurting the U.S,’s standing in the world.
These are the small changes that don’t get into the news – but they have great impact on those who work and live in DC, and ultimately, the way our government functions. We need to pay attention to all of these changes.
The election of Donald Trump in the November 2016 election came as a surprise to many, and I couldn’t help but think of how the issues were similar to those I had been tracking for many years in Europe. In particular, there were echoes of pronouncements from the 1990s by France’s Jean Marie Le Pen saying “French first” or the Austrian Freedom Party vilifying ethnic minority migrants as taking jobs from hard-working natives. However it was clear that by 2016 these sentiments had made their way into mainstream party discourse.
In October of 2010, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced in a speech that multiculturalism had failed in Germany. In February of 2011, her remarks were echoed by British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in separate remarks declaring the failure or “death” of multiculturalism. These remarks were clearly coordinated, and in many ways were a harbinger of recent events. These speeches came when mainstream right politicians were concerned about the rise of populist far right parties, and the development of a backlash against anti-discrimination measures that had been promulgated in the wake of the success of the Austrian Freedom Party in 1999. I describe those developments in my book Legislating Equality.
I began following the rise of populist anti-immigrant parties in Europe in the early 1990s. What I have come to realize in the wake of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, is that my research was tracking a phenomenon that is culminating in an undermining of democratic institutions not only in Europe, but in the U.S. Van Jones famously called it a “white lash” although there is evidence that other forces were at play. It’s a phenomenon that I referred to as the “losers of globalization” supporting anti-immigrant parties in my first book on the radical right. Although alarm bells have been ringing, it’s not clear that there has been a decline in support for democracy (article), but support for far right parties does seem to be increasing, as noted in this chart from the New York Times:
I have also argued that it is important that mainstream politicians play closer attention to those who are voting for and supporting far right parties. Much has been written in the U.S. media about the need for the Democratic Party to connect with Trump voters who feel left out, and it has been clear in France, for example, that many former left-wing voters have shifted to supporting the far right. The loss of manufacturing jobs, the impact of technology, and the shift to a more service oriented economy have had an impact, and it’s also clear that race and immigration are playing an important role in attitudes. Many white voters feel that they are losing out to immigrants, or that they are being discriminated against in favor of other ethnic groups. They see the economy as a zero-sum game, and as women and minorities begin to play a more visible role, they see themselves losing out. Rising inequality, a declining middle class, and stagnant wages are objective signs of a decline that leads them to worry that their children may end up worse off than they were. They also rebel against what they see as a “political correctness” that requires them to police the way the speak about women and minorities, religion or LGBTQ issues.
Mainstream politicians like Merkel have responded to the far right by often taking on the issues or rhetoric in areas such as immigration. Although Angela Merkel has been a supporter of Syrian refugees in Germany, she recently announced support for a headscarf ban in Germany. It has been clear that positions that the far right were taking in the 1990s have moved into the mainstream, as politicians attempt to gain back support from voters who were attracted by the anti-immigration, nationalist and frankly racist positions of far right parties.
Recent reports that Trump’s National Security Advisor has met with representatives of the Austrian Freedom Party are worrying. I argue in my book that one of the factors that has kept far right parties from being more successful in Europe is the fact that people would vote against them strategically because the mainstream parties would make it clear that they could not be part of government. This is often referred to as a cordon sanitaire or a barrier to the far right making their way into government. The Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) did become part of the Austrian government in 2000, but the party has been through many changes since then, which complicates an analysis of where they are now. Being part of government seemed to moderate at least the leaders of the party at the time, but it has shifted back to a more strident tone in recent years.
The fact that the FPO candidate, Norbert Hofer, was defeated by independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen in the Austrian Presidential Election in December is a sign that support continues for the EU, but Brexit and support for far right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in France indicate that there is much work to do. Mainstream candidates on both sides of the Atlantic must find a way to support the growing ethnic minority populations in their countries, while acknowledging the concerns of voters who see those groups as threats. Although we have clearly taken a step backwards on these issues in the U.S., it is not a given that European countries like France and Germany will inevitably move in the same direction. It will take smart leadership and grass-roots support for progressive policies that will help all, like healthcare and economic development that supports the lower and middle classes. Unfortunately, in the U.S., the incoming administration appears poised to increase disparities that have led to high rates of inequality. How this will impact voting behavior remains to be seen.