Europe's left is in trouble. In the 1990s the third way—the center-left of Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder and Lionel Jospin—governed almost everywhere. Now, it is out of office or struggling almost everywhere. Britain's Gordon Brown has a mountain to climb in the polls. The German Social Democrats hang on as junior coalition partners. Only the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, re-elected in Spain, bucks the trend in Western Europe. Indeed, for a generation of social democrats heavily influenced by Bill Clinton's New Democrats in the United States, an era has drawn to a close.
If the many policy lessons they promoted about governance and how to prosper in an era of globalization remain relevant, they are now failing as politics. "We know what we must do to govern, but we do not know how to be elected, having done it," one senior European ex-minister says of the fragmenting electoral base for social democracy.