A few years ago, the political obituaries were practically writing themselves. Center-left parties across various countries in the West were teetering toward collapse or, at best, licking their wounds. President Donald Trump's unlikely victory had exposed the failings and complacency of the U.S. Democrats. In France and the Netherlands, among other nations, traditional social democratic factions that had long been mainstays in national political life had shrunk into irrelevance. Germany's Social Democrats, one of Europe's most venerable parties, found itself in steep decline as a junior partner in center-right Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition.
In different contexts, these parties suffered from a shared malaise. In some cases, critics claimed they had grown too disconnected from working-class bases in industrial heartlands that once comprised their prime sources of strength. They had aligned themselves, instead, to policies of neoliberal austerity and the growing economic inequities that followed. In all instances, they appeared to represent a fraying post-Cold War status quo, at risk of being cast adrift by the ruptures of globalization and the shocks of the financial and political crises of the past couple of decades.