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

No Party or Coalition Wins Majority in Italy

Italian party leaders Matteo Renzi and Silvio Berlusconi
Italian party leaders Matteo Renzi and Silvio Berlusconi (Palazzo Chigi/European Council)
  • Italians elected a new parliament on Sunday.
  • The populist Five Star Movement and Northern League made gains at the expense of mainstream parties. Read more

Rutte Urges EU Pragmatism, May’s Speech Heard Very Differently in Europe

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013 (Bundesregierung)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte called for pragmatism in a speech in Berlin in Friday. The best way to take the wind out of the sails of Euroskeptic parties, he said, is to show results:

Lofty visions do not create jobs or security. Nor does shouting from the ends of the political spectrum. Only hard work […] produces results that benefit people in their daily lives.

The Merkelian rhetoric is a reality check for French president Emmanuel Macron, who has proposed far-reaching reforms in Europe.

With Britain, traditionally an ally, leaving the bloc, the Netherlands is becoming more vocal in resisting what it — and the German right — fear would amount to transfer union: the permanent subsidization of poorer member states by the wealthy.

There was a discrepancy in coverage. Dutch media emphasized the many positive things Rutte said about the EU. Foreign outlets focused on his “red lines”. The reason is that Rutte is considered more of a Euroskeptic at home than he is abroad. Read more

The Party Can Still Decide

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)

“The party decides” theory — which argues that American party elites exert a strong behind-the-scenes influence on who gets nominated for political office — took a blow in 2016, when Donald Trump won the Republican presidential contest despite strong internal opposition.

One exception doesn’t discredit the whole theory, theory. Seth Masket argues at Mischiefs of Faction that this year’s nominating contests show activists and party leaders are still actively shaping the choices voters will get. Read more

Left-Right Coalition Would Be Best Outcome for Italy

Italian Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi visits a police academy in Rome, November 9, 2016
Italian Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi visits a police academy in Rome, November 9, 2016 (Palazzo Chigi)

There are two realistic outcomes to Italy’s election on Sunday: a right-wing government that includes the xenophobic Brothers of Italy and Northern League or a German-style grand coalition between Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the Democrats.

The second would be better for Italy and for Europe. To make that outcome more likely, Italians should vote for the center-left. Read more

Trump Launches Trade War, Berlusconi Confirms Tajani Candidacy

American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017
American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Against the advice of literally all but two of his advisors, American president Donald Trump has announced tariffs on aluminum and steel of 10 and 25 percent, respectively.

The tariffs are not in effect yet, but, citing national-security concerns, the president does have the authority to impose them unilaterally.

The European Commission, which is responsible for EU trade policy, quickly condemned the “blatant intervention to protect US domestic industry” and said it would present countermeasures in a matter of days.

Remember when we were talking about a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership only a few years ago?

Politico has more on the challenge to Europe. Also read my story from July about Trump’s obsession with dying industries at the expense of retail and tech. Read more

Learning the Wrong Lesson from Weimar

President Paul von Hindenburg and Chancellor Adolf Hitler of Germany en route to a May Day celebration in Berlin, May 1, 1933
President Paul von Hindenburg and Chancellor Adolf Hitler of Germany en route to a May Day celebration in Berlin, May 1, 1933 (Bundesarchiv)

Tyler Cowen argues in Politico that fascism cannot happen in America because its government is too large and too complex:

No matter who is elected, the fascists cannot control the bureaucracy, they cannot control all the branches of American government, they cannot control the judiciary, they cannot control semi-independent institutions such as the Federal Reserve and they cannot control what is sometimes called “the deep state.”

Cowen then bases his argument on the size of government relative to the economy, citing estimates that Weimar Germany taxed and spent about a third of GDP.

I think this is misguided. Read more