Reality Check for Macron, Trump’s Emptying Administration

Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017
Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017 (DoD/Dominique Pineiro)

EurActiv reports that European reform is facing a reality check.

French president Emmanuel Macron has, with support from Germany, called for a common eurozone budget, harmonizing corporate tax and social security rates across Europe and merging national asylum procedures.

Two recent developments have poured cold water on his ideas:

  1. The Italian election, which saw gains for Euroskeptic parties.
  2. The Dutch organizing a resistance of deficit hawks.

The Dutch, Balts and Nordics fear that further risk-sharing in Europe will discourage high-debt countries from controlling spending. As if on cue, the same Euroskeptic parties that won the election in Italy now argue for relaxing the bloc’s 3-percent deficit rule.

These fears are shared in Germany, where conservatives have long been wary of transfer union: the permanent subsidization of the south by the north. Read more

Le Pen Unveils New Name, Trump Toes NRA Line

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, February 24, 2016
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, February 24, 2016 (European Parliament)

Marine Le Pen has proposed to change the name of her far-right party from Front National to Rassemblement National (National Rally).

The rebranding follows a disappointing performance in last year’s presidential election, when Le Pen placed a distant second with 34 percent support to Emmanuel Macron’s 66 percent.

“Originally, we were a protest party,” Le Pen told delegates in the northern French town of Lille on Sunday. ”There must be no doubt in the eyes of all that we are now a governing party.”

To accomplish that, the Front must change more than its name; it must change its beliefs.

I argued after the 2017 election that the Front stood most to gain from becoming a socially, as opposed to a national, conservative party. With the defection of center-right, pro-market Republicans to Macron, there is even more of a vacuum on what in American terms could be called the “Christian right”.

But Republicans know it. They have made Laurent Wauquiez their leader, a social conservative and hardliner on immigration, in order to woo those same voters. If the Republicans turn into Front-lite, does is still make sense for the Front to become Republicans+?

Somebody who is definitively not helping: Steve Bannon, the far-right American firebrand who this weekend urged the Front to wear accusations of racism and xenophobia as a “badge of honor”. Read more

Democrats Should Keep Superdelegates, Salvini Calls for Anti-EU Budget

Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016
Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016 (DNCC/Chris Frommann)

BuzzFeed reports that Democrats in the United States are considering eliminating superdelegates from their presidential nominating contest.

That would be a mistake.

Superdelegates — governors, members of Congress and party officials — are a failsafe, to prevent a Democratic Donald Trump.

Opponents consider them undemocratic, but this fetishizes democracy. The point of the primary process is — or should be — to find the best candidate possible who can then go on to win in a democratic contest. Read more

Democrats Have Early Advantages, Berlusconi Backs Hard Right

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. Read more

Five Stars Eye Coalition, Dutch Form Anti-Macron Pact, Cohn Resigns

The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament in Rome, October 23, 2010
The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament in Rome, October 23, 2010 (Stefano Maffei)

Italy’s Five Star Movement may go into coalition after all. Having placed first in the election on Sunday, the populist movement is reportedly eying an accord with the left.

The Five Stars, center-left Democrats and left-wing Free and Equal would have a majority in the new parliament.

The Five Stars and Free and Equal share views. Free and Equal was formed last year by Democrats critical of Matteo Renzi’s market reforms.

Renzi has come out against a deal, calling the Five Star Movement “anti-European”. But he is on his way out as leader. The rest of the party may be willing to reverse his signature labor reforms in return for staying in power.

For the rest of Europe, a Five Star pact with the left would be better than a Five Star pact with the right. The worst-case outcome would be a government of the Five Stars, (Northern) League and Brothers of Italy — parties that are anti-EU, anti-immigration and pro-Putin. Read more

Renzi Resigns, Italy Split Down the Middle, War on the Spanish Right

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy answers questions from reporters in Modena, September 17, 2015
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy answers questions from reporters in Modena, September 17, 2015 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s center-left leader, Matteo Renzi, has stepped down after his Democratic Party fell from first to fourth place in the election on Sunday.

I argued here in January that Renzi had two challenges: uniting the left and convincing voters he could still deliver reforms.

He failed at both. He watered down labor reforms in an attempt to appease the left wing of his party, but they walked out anyway. He didn’t secure a supermajority for constitutional reforms, necessitating a referendum to which he then foolishly tied his own political career.

Renzi did get important things right, not in the least recognizing that the future of the Democratic Party lies not with old working-class voters but with the young and college graduates. Yet he failed to dissuade them from supporting the Five Star Movement. Read more

Grand Coalition Wins Vote in Germany. Next Problem: Italy

European Council president Donald Tusk listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting of conservative party leaders in Brussels, July 12, 2015
European Council president Donald Tusk listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting of conservative party leaders in Brussels, July 12, 2015 (EPP)

In the end, it wasn’t even close. Nearly twice as many German Social Democratic Party members voted in favor of another grand coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservatives as voted against it. The results of the internal poll were announced on Sunday.

Parliament is due to confirm Merkel for a fourth term as chancellor next week. If she sits this one out, she will be Germany’s longest-ruling leader since Helmut Kohl.

Neither of the two major parties is out of the woods yet. The Social Democrats have fallen in the polls, losing support to, well, everyone. Merkel’s Christian Democrats are facing competition from the Free Democrats on the right and the Alternative on the far right. The party will debate in the coming years whether to continue Merkel’s centrist line or lurch to the right.

For now, though, the center can still hold. Read more