As results from European Parliament elections poured in from across the continent Monday, the major takeaway from pundits was that the big winners were the Green parties on the Left, and the anti-mass immigration parties on the Right, with the traditional centrist parties – especially the center-left – taking a beating.
For the most part this was true.
On the Right: In Italy, Deputy Prime Minister and Eurosceptic Matteo Salvini won victory with over one-third of the vote, based on his solid track record of causing illegal immigration to Italy to plummet. Britain's Brexit Party, which is just six weeks old and headed by Brexiteer Nigel Farage, won as many votes as Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined. In France, nationalist Marine Le Pen's National Rally (formerly National Front) edged out President Emmanuel Macron's party, after having handily lost the presidential election to him just two years prior.
On the Left: The European Free Alliance (made up of primarily Green parties) expanded its seat distribution from 52 to 69 seats. These gains came from various regional Green parties, particularly in the UK, Ireland, Germany, and France, based on a message of combating climate change and solid support from the youth.
There was, however, one country which glaringly bucked the trend. In Denmark, the centrist parties and especially the center-left performed surprisingly well. The Social Democrats scored an impressive 21.5 percent of the vote, gaining a seat and coming in only slightly below the governing center-right Liberal Party, which maintained its lead. The right-wing Danish People's Party, which campaigned on slashing immigration, completely collapsed and scored just 10.7 percent compared to 26.6 percent last election. The far-left party also collapsed, scoring just 3.7 percent compared to 8.1 percent last election.
The reason for this is that in Denmark, the mainstream parties showed voters they were serious about reducing immigration and promoting integration. The center-right Danish government has led a "crackdown" on immigrant ghettos, and passed a law to make all "ghetto children" spend at least 25 hours per week from the age of 1 learning Danish values. Criminals from ghetto areas will be given harsher sentences, and public housing will be used as a tool to break up immigrant ghettos. The right-wing Danish People's Party backed the plan, but they were not in the coalition, and the center-right Liberal Party was in the driver's seat.
Even the center-left Social Democrats moved drastically toward a low-immigration philosophy, led by the charismatic Mette Frederiksen. Under her leadership, the Social Democrats have called for a cap on non-Western immigrants, rules changes to make it significantly easier to expel asylum seekers to North Africa, and mandatory work for all immigrants. She even hosted joint interviews with Kristian Thulesen Dahl, the leader of the Danish People's Party—something that would have been unthinkable to prior Social Democrat leaders.
Her party went beyond campaign rhetoric, and actually backed many restrictionist laws in Parliament. The Social Democrats recently backed a ban on burkas and niqabs, and resisted pressure from the Left to oppose a law that would house criminal asylum seekers on an island.
There is an obvious lesson here for mainstream politicians here in America who are concerned about the rise of fringe politics: The best way to keep voters from defecting is by showing them that you are serious about controlling immigration.
As David Frum argued in The Atlantic in a recent article, if liberals won't enforce borders, fascists will.