Democrats Have Early Advantages, Berlusconi Backs Hard Right

Democrats are well-positioned to win in November. Silvio Berlusconi honors his pact with the Northern League.

View of the United States Capitol in Washington DC in the early morning, January 15, 2017
View of the United States Capitol in Washington DC in the early morning, January 15, 2017 (DoD/William Lockwood)

How good are Democrats’ chances for the midterm elections in November? Jonathan Bernstein argues in Bloomberg View that it’s too soon to tell, but that the party’s early advantages, in terms of candidates, money and volunteer commitments, could make the difference.

We like to think of voters as the key players in elections, write Bernstein. However, “voters are strongly influenced by the choices of others within the political system and by the general electoral context.”

This is where the “party decides” theory comes in: party elites (including activists who probably don’t think of themselves as “elite”) actively shape the choices voters get.

Voters may not consider themselves partisans, but they tend to vote for a party — and the same party — rather than the candidate.

The president’s job approval and the state of the economy play a huge role as well. There are political scientist who argue these factors alone determine the outcome.

For more, read my story from last month about what we already know about the midterm elections in the United States.

Berlusconi confirms support for League

Silvio Berlusconi has confirmed his support for a right-wing government led by the (Northern) League’s Matteo Salvini.

The two made a pact before the election with the smaller Brothers of Italy: whoever placed first would become prime minister.

Berlusconi and many observers expected his Forza Italia would prevail, as it did in the past. But on Sunday, the League beat Forza Italia with 17-18 to 14 percent support.

The combined center-right does not have a majority in either chamber, however, so Berlusconi may not need to make good on his promise. The more likely outcome is an accord between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the mainstream left or a presidential-appointed technocratic government.

Why businessmen make poor politicians

Simon Kuper explains why businessmen often make poor politicians:

  • It is a lot simpler to run a company — especially one without shareholders — than a country.
  • The businessman-turned-politician is blinded by hubris. This stems from the “money delusion”: the idea that life is a race to make money and that rich people (“winners”) possess special wisdom.
  • The businessman imagines he is a generalist: he made money (at least his father did), so he can apply his skills to any political problem. The truth is, he is a specialist: he knows New York real estate, not Iraq.
  • Anyone running a long-standing family company almost inevitably enters government with conflicts of interest.
  • Many businessmen believe politicians get to blunder with impunity while in business (“real life”) only the best survive. This belief has outlived Donald Trump’s six corporate bankruptcies and Jared Kushner’s purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue for a record price at the market peak in 2007.