Republicans End Russia Probe, Italian Democrats Choose Opposition
Republicans in the House have wrapped up their Russia investigation and declared there was no collusion with the Donald Trump campaign.
Just like that.
I don’t suppose anyone was expecting House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes to release an unbiased report. He has been doing Trump’s bidding from the start. But to simply declare the investigation over, without Democratic consent, is particularly brazen.
This isn’t the first time Republicans have put party before country. When evidence of Russian meddling in the election emerged in late 2016, Senate leader Mitch McConnell warned President Barack Obama that he would consider it an act of partisan politics if his administration publicized the information.
When intelligence agencies finally did tell the public Russia was tampering with the election, on the same day (such a coincidence!) WikiLeaks published stolen emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, John Podesta. Read more
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
“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
What We Know About the Midterm Elections in the United States
The map is biased against Democrats, but don’t overestimate the Republican turnout advantage. It wouldn’t take that much for a Democratic wave to turn into a tsunami. White women and college graduates are likely to decide the outcome.
Here is what we know about the upcoming congressional elections in the United States. Read more
Unconvinced Germans and Unconservative Republicans
Germany’s Christian Democrats and Social Democrats are both fending off grassroots rebellions against their decision to form another grand coalition government.
On the right, there is dismay that Angela Merkel gave away the powerful Finance Ministry. Der Spiegel reports that the decision has stirred her erstwhile catatonic party into a potentially revolutionary fury. The liberal Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung can already see the “twilight” of the Merkel era.
On the left, there is disappointment that Martin Schulz broke his word not to team up with Merkel and fear that the party will be punished at the next election. Wolfgang Münchau — prone to exaggeration, but maybe not far off this time — writes that we may be in for a Brexit-style surprise on March 4, when Social Democratic Party members vote on the coalition deal. Read more
Merkel Pays High Price, Dutch Intervene in Caribbean
Germany’s Social Democrats have played a losing hand extraordinarily well, the Financial Times reports.
Despite winning only 20 percent support in the election — their worst result in postwar history and 13 points behind the Christian Democrats — the center-left will have six ministries in the new government, including finance, foreign affairs and labor, and it extracted significant spending concessions from the conservatives. Expect the pro-business Free Democrats, as well as rightwingers in Merkel’s own party, to pounce.
And yet it may not be enough. Among the 460,000 Social Democratic Party members who need to approve the deal before it can go through, there is reluctance to partner with Merkel a third time. Their fear is that the two centrist parties are becoming indistinguishable. Read more
Damon Linker wonders what’s worse: that Republicans believe the FBI was doing the bidding of the Democratic Party by using opposition research funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign to get a court order to approve surveillance of a Donald Trump campaign advisor, Carter Page — or that they are only pretending to believe it in order to whip the Republican electorate into a conspiracy-addled froth of indignation against the legitimacy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation? Read more