Social Democrats in Germany Make Same Mistake as Dutch

German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz makes a speech in Munich, September 14
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz makes a speech in Munich, September 14 (Bayern SPD)

Germany’s Social Democrats are making the same mistake as the Dutch Labor Party, I argue in the Netherlands’ NRC newspaper this week.

Like Labor, which went down from 25 to 6 percent support in the most recent election, the Social Democrats are trying to appeal to both working- and middle-class supporters. It is that indecision that is turning both groups away from them.

College-educated voters in the city see the benefits of open borders in Europe and free trade with the rest of the world. Low-skilled workers and small towns feel the downsides. Progressives obsess about gay rights and gender issues that animate few blue-collar voters. Read more

Partisan Divide in German Views on Catalan Referendum

A bird sits on top of one of the spires of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, December 31, 2005
A bird sits on top of one of the spires of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, December 31, 2005 (Max Braun)

German views on Catalonia’s independence bid break down along partisan lines. Left-wing commentators sympathize with Catalan pleas for self-determination and blame Spain for the impasse. Conservatives focus on the illegality of the planned October 1 vote. Read more

Boris Johnson Makes One More Bid for Relevance

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson gives a speech at Chatham House in London, England, December 2, 2016
British foreign secretary Boris Johnson gives a speech at Chatham House in London, England, December 2, 2016 (Chatham House)

When Theresa May named Boris Johnson foreign secretary last year, she wisely took the Brexit and international-trade portfolios away from him. This way, she contained the damage the buffoonish Johnson could do to both British foreign policy and her premiership.

But the former mayor of London’s appetite for higher office and publicity is never satisfied.

This week, he rattled Conservatives with a long opinion piece in The Telegraph (a right-wing newspaper he used to work for) that can only be read as a challenge to May. Read more

Democrats Should Campaign for Dutch-Style Health Reforms

Dutch girls cycling in Amsterdam, June 13, 2014
Dutch girls cycling in Amsterdam, June 13, 2014 (Shirley de Jong)

The other day, I explained that the reason Americans can’t get a European-style health-care system is not opposition from insurance companies but the fears of 155 million Americans who currently get health insurance through their employers. They worry that a single-payer system, like Britain’s, would mean higher taxes and lower-quality care.

Such fears — largely unfounded — would undoubtedly be amplified by drug companies, health providers and insurance companies if the Democrats campaigned for “Medicare for all”.

So instead of having an abstract, and probably pointless, debate about which health-care system is superior, why not look at what advocates of single-payer hope to achieve and see if this can’t be done without eliminating private insurance? Read more

Center-Right Voters Eager to Govern in Germany, Center-Left Unsure

German chancellor Angela Merkel addresses parliament in Berlin, September 6, 2016
German chancellor Angela Merkel addresses parliament in Berlin, September 6, 2016 (Bundesregierung)

Center-right voters in Germany hope Angela Merkel’s next coalition government will unite her Christian Democrats and the liberal Free Democrats. But if the Greens are needed for a majority, they could live with that, the latest Deutschlandtrend poll shows.

Green party voters are less interested in a three-party coalition but surprisingly supportive of a deal with the right: 68 percent would join a Merkel-led administration.

The Christian Democrats are almost certain to remain the largest party, but it’s unclear from the polls if the Free Democrats will win enough seats to form a two-party government.

The Social Democrats, the second largest party, aren’t desperate for another “grand coalition”. Half their voters would prefer to go into opposition rather than share power with Merkel for another four years. Read more

Spanish Far Left Takes Rajoy to Task for Catalan “Repression”

Spanish Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias listens to a speech in Barcelona, September 11
Spanish Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias listens to a speech in Barcelona, September 11 (Podemos)

Pablo Iglesias, the head of Spain’s far-left Podemos movement, has criticized Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for his handling of the Catalan separatist challenge.

In a series of tweets, Iglesias takes Rajoy and his government to task for their “fear of democracy”.

Defending Spain requires providing political solutions to historical problems. Prison and repression will only compound the problems.

Iglesias accuses Rajoy of aggravating support for independence by refusing to negotiate with the Catalans and argues that the only way out of the crisis is to let them vote. Read more

Why Americans Can’t Have European-Style Health Care

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders takes part in a protest in Washington DC, November 17, 2016
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders takes part in a protest in Washington DC, November 17, 2016 (Lorie Shaull)

Sixteen Democratic senators, led by the 2016 presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, have called for reforms that would make all Americans eligible for public health care.

Such a system — the Americans call it “single-payer” — would be uncontroversial in Europe, where most countries guarantee health care to their citizens.

But it seems impossible to get done in America. Why? Read more