The elites everywhere are having a hard time. When the peasants no longer salute, tug a forelock and obey with a whimper, even if with a snarl and a whine, you know you’ve lost your mojo.
The elites in America continue a deep snit, and Donald Trump can’t give up his game of provoking them just to watch. It’s a sorry way to run the world, a railroad or a country, but the world, like America, has to get used to the Donald, because it’s clear by now that the Donald is not capable of getting used to the long-established way of doing things.
And now a 31-year-old whiz kid who doesn’t know his place has terrorized the stuffy European elites by becoming the boy chancellor of Austria, placing a strong first in the Austrian elections.
“Many people have placed great hopes in our movement,” Sebastian Kurz told his giddy followers on election night in Vienna, where he waltzed to a stunning triumph. “It’s time to establish a new political style. I accept this result with great humility.”
If that were not enough to make the European elites wet their pants, more bad news is on the way. Another faux Trump, a billionaire industrialist named Andrej Babis, 63, is expected to lead his ANO party to victory late this week in the Czech Republic. He is sometimes called “the Czech Trump” or “the new Berlusconi.” The traditional Czech parties are braced to take the thrashing that is becoming a ritual in the West.
Right-wing parties in Europe are not the same, nor even close kin, to the Republican Party in America, though the liberal establishment media always says they are, and even a moderately right-wing party in Germany or Austria rings a fire bell in the night, particularly for those with long memories. Herr Shicklgruber was born in Austria, after all, and flowered in Germany.
Herr Kurz’s People’s Party (formally the OeVP) ran first with 31.5 percent of the vote, close enough but not enough to win the biggest cigar, and now to form a government he must choose whether to give up a coalition with the respectable establishment Social Democrats or forge an alliance with the far-right, not so respectable Freedom Party.
Herr Kurz is called “the Austrian Trump,” and not, to celebrate his youth, “the Austrian JFK,” which illustrates just how far time has marched on. Two generations have been birthed in Europe that can barely recognize the late president by his mere initials.
But the new Austrian chancellor, youthful as he is, represents just the kind of new blood that Kennedy brought to the fore in the new world. He has achieved something close to rock-star status. He took over a fading political party whose party colors were black and black, replaced them with turquoise, rebranded the party as “a movement,” promised to get tough on runaway immigration, go easy on new taxes but to stay in Europe and “put Austria first.”
Sometimes campaigning with his longtime girlfriend Susanne, Herr Kurz is mobbed by young people (and old ones, too) in turquoise T-shirts. Women ask, politely, whether they can hug him. (They can.) He dresses in well-tailored dark suits and crisp white shirts with no tie, unusual among the European elites (and more’s the pity), and submits to selfie sessions with friendly mobs that typically run over an hour.
He was the only child of a teacher and a secretary, and joined the party’s youth wing when he was 17 and made his first political campaign as a candidate for a town council, featuring the slogan “Schwarz macht geil,” or “Black makes you hot,” reflecting the party’s grim colors. He rode through villages and towns atop a black Hummer called the Hotmobile, surrounded by young women in bikinis, and tossed black condoms to the crowd.
But he matured quickly, rose through the party ranks like a shot, and became foreign minister at 27. Last year Politico, the Washington political daily, called him “one of the most influential Europeans.” Now, at 31, he replaces Emmanuel Macron of France, 39, as the youngest world leader. (The Rocket Man, 33, doesn’t count.) Herr Kurz and the party he rebuilt promises, like Donald Trump in America, to enforce his country’s borders. Open borders have fallen out of favor all across Europe, and with polls showing that 7 of 10 of the earth’s billions want to emigrate north, there’s no time to waste in getting seriously to work on regularizing immigration. No more Mr. Stupid Guy.
This should be a wake-up call to the elites in America, lying still agog in Donald Trump’s wake. Polls show his policies to be more popular than he is, and that’s bad news for elites everywhere.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.