Polish Ruling Party Forces Through Reforms to Defang Supreme Court

Polish prime minister Beata Szydło speaks with members of her cabinet in parliament in Warsaw, January 29, 2016
Polish prime minister Beata Szydło speaks with members of her cabinet in parliament in Warsaw, January 29, 2016 (PiS)

Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party is forcing through judicial reforms that the Supreme Court’s president, Małgorzata Gesdorf, has said would “end” the Supreme Court and “break” the Constitution.

The changes are expected to be enacted next week after a parliamentary committee voted for the legislation on Thursday.

During a hearing, lawmakers from the ruling party rejected all amendments from the opposition, refused to hear independent legal counsel and ignored warnings from parliament’s own lawyers, who said the reforms might be unconstitutional.

Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of the opposition Civic Platform, has called for demonstrations in the streets.

“This is no longer a creeping coup,” he told Polish television. “This coup begins to strike.” Read more

Europeans Can Be Sorted Into Six Tribes

A couple and the stars of a European Union flag are reflected in a window in Paris, France
A couple and the stars of a European Union flag are reflected in a window in Paris, France (Mark Notari)

Europeans can be sorted into six “tribes”, argues Chatham House based on a survey of public opinion in ten different countries:

  1. Hesitant Europeans: The largest group (36 percent), they sit in the middle on many issues but tend to vote center-right. They are ambivalent about the EU and worry about high immigration.
  2. Contented Europeans: Often young, socially liberal and unperturbed about immigration, this group (23 percent) is happy with the way things are. They want neither a federal Europe nor disintegration. Many young Central Europeans fall in this category.
  3. EU Rejecters: Feel the EU is undemocratic and are angry that politicians aren’t doing enough to stop immigration. This group (14 percent) is disproportionately rural and overrepresented in Austria and the United Kingdom.
  4. Frustrated Pro-Europeans: Want closer EU integration driven by “progressive values” but don’t themselves feel the benefits of membership. Relatively many Belgians, French and Italians are in this group (9 percent).
  5. Austerity Rebels: Want a looser, “more democratic” EU, but — unlike EU Rejecters — do believe wealthy member states should help out the poor. This group (9 percent) is generally middle-aged, possibly unemployed and likely to live in Greece or Italy.
  6. Federalists: Highly educated, wealthier and more likely to be urban than the other tribes, this group (8 percent) dreams of a United States of Europe. Read more

The Trends That Gave Us Trump — And What to Do About Them

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Shocking though Donald Trump’s victory was, looking back we can see how his presidency is the culmination of trends, some of which have been decades in the making:

  • Polarization: The sorting of American voters into two ideologically homogenous parties.
  • Urban-rural split: The Electoral College and Senate give more power to the conservative countryside at the expense of liberal cities.
  • Imperial presidency: The executive has accumulated power at the expense of other branches of government, raising the stakes in presidential elections.
  • Politicization of the courts: Presidential appointments of federal and Supreme Court judges undermine the perceived impartiality of the courts, which in turn weakens the rule of law.
  • Overreliance on the military: Foreign policy is now run by generals, not diplomats. The military has its own hospitals. It plays a crucial role in disaster relief. It may not be long before the Army Corps of Engineers is asked to fix America’s broken infrastructure. Read more

French Right Struggles to Unite Against Macron

French Republican leader Laurent Wauquiez attends a memorial ceremony in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, November 9
French Republican leader Laurent Wauquiez attends a memorial ceremony in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, November 9 (Facebook)

France’s two right-wing parties are struggling to remain united in the era of Emmanuel Macron.

  • Lawmakers friendly to the president have split from the center-right Republicans to form a new party, Agir (Act).
  • Prominent Republicans, like Bruno Le Maire and Édouard Philippe, have joined Macron’s government.
  • More centrists are expected to defect if the hardliner Laurent Wauquiez prevails in a party leadership vote next month.
  • The far right is also divided: Marine Le Pen’s former right-hand man, Florian Philippot, has created a new party to appeal to blue-collar workers in the rust belt of northern France while the rest of the National Front is focused on its heartland in the socially conservative southeast. Read more

Russians Were All Over Trump’s Campaign

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Back in March, I wondered if anybody in Donald Trump’s inner circle wasn’t in touch with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The answer, we know now, is no. The Russians were all over Trump’s team.

Whether this was collusion or a case of collective and massive misjudgment is something Robert Mueller, the special counsel, must find out, but clearly the Russians were trying to influence the outcome of the election.

The fact that none of Trump’s underlings disclosed their Russian contacts, and when first asked about them lied, suggests they knew they were doing something wrong. Read more

The Republican Tax Plan Is Awful. It Will Probably Pass Anyway

View of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, January 20, 2009
View of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, January 20, 2009 (Wikicommons/Bgwwlm)

The Republican tax plan looks like a left-wing caricature of conservative tax reform. It cuts rates for businesses and high incomes, leaves poor Americans worse off and explodes the deficit in the process.

Yet it will probably pass. Read more

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!

A Donald Trump yard sign in Taylorville, Illinois, June 18, 2016
A Donald Trump yard sign in Taylorville, Illinois, June 18, 2016 (Jason Matthews)

The votes for Brexit, European populism and Donald Trump weren’t working-class revolts.

Ta-Nehisi Coates and Adam Serwer have argued that mostly-white elites are drawn to the “economic anxiety” thesis because it absolves them of responsibility for more intractable problems, like racism, xenophobia and self-delusions about both.

If nativists are motivated by stagnating wages, then there are policy solutions for bringing them back into the mainstream.

But what if their grievances aren’t so concrete? Read more