Social Justice Can Bring Conservative and Centre-Right Parties to Power

Politics - February 27, 2024

In many countries, new conservative parties are growing and they can also make gains in the European parliamentary elections in June. Cooperation with old Centre-right parties is key to influence. Acting against increased social divides is important in order to jointly push back the red left.

The political landscape of Western nations has changed dramatically over the last decade.

In the past, the traditional left-right scale was completely dominant. Questions about increased or decreased taxes, about state patronage and conflict between the labor market parties – employees against employers – were at the center.

New political dimension

But as a result of a new radical postmodernist challenge to all the norms and values of the Western world, combined with massive immigration, another dimension has increasingly come to the fore ground.

A scale where conservatism/pragmatism stands against utopianism/radicalism. You can put it as a vertical scale over the horizontal left-right dimension.

This dimension has been popularly called GAL-TAN by the CHES project (Chapel Hill Expert Survey). Here GAL stands for green, alternative, and libertarian, while TAN stands for traditional, authoritarian, and nationalist. But those words are partly misleading. Of course, nationalists can be in favor of green nature conservation. And alternative movements can be authoritarian, just look at the climate movement where some want to abolish democracy.

But the point is the same. There is a new dimension in the West. I prefer to call it a battle between conservative pragmatists and radical utopians. It gives a better picture of what the conflict is fundamentally about: that changes to society must take place with care and respect for traditions, customs and norms.

Migration has accelerated the change

The issue that has accelerated the dominance of the political debate for the new dimension has undoubtedly been the consequences of the open national borders and the large uncontrolled migration that it has led to.

In Sweden, the new social conservative party Sweden Democrats (ECR) has grown at record speed, from nothing to the second largest party in parliament, the Riksdagen.

Now migration affects more and more aspects of the Western welfare states. The safety of the streets and squares has deteriorated with increased crime and the security of the economic welfare has eroded for the citizens who worked and paid taxes all their lives.

Here there is an opportunity for the traditional Centre-right parties to cooperate with new conservative parties. The liberal parties must abandon the utopianism they have been caught up in during recent decades.

These parties must return to the pragmatism they once embraced. This is where new conservative parties can help. Strengthening the borders, minimizing migration and strengthening the rule of law are issues that even liberal parties stood for once upon a time.

Increased focus on social justice

The new conservative parties also need to get old liberal parties to accept an increased priority for social justice.

The Swedish Fiscal Policy Council, FRP, warns in a new report that inequality is increasing in the country. Although they conclude that differences in wages have not increased as much in recent decades, the capital income of the wealthy means that differences in living conditions are increasing.

However, it is important that work provides better conditions than living on benefits. Here, the American political scientist Michael Sandel has launched the concept of “contributive justice”. Those who contribute constructively to society should not only be able to receive a reasonable salary, but also be given social recognition and reputation. Emphasizing the importance of the work efforts that even those with a lower salary make, means that they receive the dignity and self-respect they deserve.

The Swedish national economist Magnus Henrekson has pointed out, for example, how a conservative political leader, Ronald Reagan, often took the opportunity to highlight everyday heroes in public appearances.

Here, new conservative parties and older liberal establishment parties can find the key to both safeguarding a strong contributory justice with a morality that rewards hard work and success. By articulating social justice for our time, conservatives and liberals can win over the left’s destructive justice that always seeks to punish the successful.