Democrats Should Look to the Middle, Not to the Left

Hillary Clinton supporters listen to a speech in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016
Hillary Clinton supporters listen to a speech in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016 (Hillary for America/Alyssa S.)

Since last year’s presidential election, the American left has been calling on Democrats to adopt a program of economic populism in order to lure back working-class voters.

This would be a mistake.

A lurch to the left may not bring back working-class whites but would disappoint middle-class voters who have been joining the Democratic Party in far greater numbers. Read more

Canceling South Korean Trade Deal Would Be a Mistake

South Korean president Moon Jae-in attends a military ceremony in Quantico, Virginia, June 28
South Korean president Moon Jae-in attends a military ceremony in Quantico, Virginia, June 28 (USMC/Rachel Ghadiali)

Various American media report this weekend that President Donald Trump is thinking of canceling a trade agreement with South Korea.

This may be bluster: an attempt to force the South Koreans to make concessions. It’s the way Trump “negotiates”.

But if he makes good on this threat, it would be another self-inflicted wound for American commerce and a setback for America’s strategy in East Asia. Read more

Catalan Nationalists Are Not Campaigning “On Backs of the Dead”

A Catalan woman takes part in a demonstration against terrorism in Barcelona, Spain, August 26
A Catalan woman takes part in a demonstration against terrorism in Barcelona, Spain, August 26 (Adolfo Lujan)

Ramón Pérez-Maura has a blistering op-ed in Politico, where he takes the Catalan independence movement to task for “campaigning on the backs of the dead” of the recent terrorist attacks.

This is ludicrous. Read more

“For My Friends, Anything. For My Enemies, the Law.”

The "Yankee caudillo" Donald Trump
The “Yankee caudillo” Donald Trump (The Washington Post)

Donald Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff who was found guilty last month of criminal contempt of court, reminds me of that adage of South American dictators: “For my friends, anything. For my enemies, the law.”

The president can grant clemency to anyone, but Trump’s predecessors used this power carefully.

David Frum writes in The Atlantic that Barack Obama only issued his first round of pardons two years into his presidency. George W. Bush waited until May 2004, six months before his reelection.

Trump, by contrast, appears to have put no formal deliberation into Arpaio’s pardon. He didn’t even wait until the former sheriff could be sentenced! Read more

Two Arguments for a More Proportional Voting System

The United States Capitol building in Washington DC, August 4, 2013
The United States Capitol building in Washington DC, August 4, 2013 (Jeffrey Zeldman)

Democrats could win 54 percent of the votes in next year’s congressional elections and still fall short of a majority.

G. Elliott Morris reports for Decision Desk HQ that because Democrats are clustered in America’s cities and face harsh gerrymanders, they aren’t likely to win a proportionate share of the seats.

We can debate at length whether this is unfair or by design, but that discussion isn’t changing Republican minds.

Advocates of a more proportional system should try two different arguments:

  1. Politics should not be reduced to two options. There is no major party for Americans who are economically as well as socially liberal (“libertarian”). Nor was there, until recently, a party for nativists. Republicans are turning into one, but that will leave conservative internationalists on the outside.
  2. Proportional representation would discourage regional factionalism. Jason Willick argues in The American Interest that if one region of the country drifts too far from another politically, and the minority region is out of power at the federal level, that could set the stage for secession or civil war. At a time when political violence in the United States is rising, it’s not hard to understand the perils of balkanized political coalitions. Read more

Macron’s Liberalization Has Made Travel More Affordable in France

View of the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, December 5, 2012
View of the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, December 5, 2012 (Chris Chabot)

Emmanuel Macron’s liberalization of intercity public transport in France is paying off.

Until 2015, railroads had a monopoly on domestic ground routes of 100 kilometers or more. Macron — then economy minister, now president — wrote legislation that allowed busses to compete.

Bloomberg reports that 6.2 million passengers took a long-distance bus in 2016 and bookings are up another 25 percent this year.

That’s still a fraction of the more than 100 million annual high-speed train passengers, but competition from busses is forcing the state-owned railway to cut rates. Read more

Repression Is the Wrong Approach to America’s Opioid Epidemic

American president Donald Trump is seen in Washington DC, January 20
American president Donald Trump is seen in Washington DC, January 20 (DoD/Marianique Santos)

One of the few silver linings to last year’s presidential election in the United States was that candidates from both major parties recognized that opioid addiction should be treated as a public-health, rather than a law-enforcement, problem.

Which makes it all the more disheartening that Donald Trump is taking exactly the wrong approach to this crisis.

Politico reports that the new president believes in a “tough law-and-order approach” to arrest the rise in drug overdose deaths.

142 Americans die from opioid abuse every day. That is more than die in car accidents or from guns.

The crisis is concentrated in postindustrial states like Kentucky and West Virginia: the heart of Trumpland. Read more