The Politics of Guilt: Austria's Bigot, Europe's Burden

Courtesy Reuters

The uproar surrounding the entrance of Jörg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party into Austria's coalition government illustrates how a discredited past can prove an erroneous guide to present political behavior. In Haider's case, the politics of guilt -- portraying his popularity as the result of his appeal to neo-Nazi sentiments -- obscures the real reasons for his rise. Whatever Haider's supporters may feel about his much-publicized 1991 comment praising Third Reich labor policies -- which he subsequently disavowed and apologized for -- and however crude his anti-immigrant rhetoric, Haider owes much of his success to the widespread disillusionment with the Austrian political establishment. Austria's two major parties, the Socialists and the People's Party, ruled in a "grand coalition" from 1945 to 1966 and again from 1986 to 1999, shamelessly dividing the spoils of jobs and contracts in a still heavily state-dominated economy.

Imagine if U.S. Democrats and Republicans decided to share power -- with

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