Don’t Count on Republicans to Suddenly See the Light

United States Capitol
The United States Capitol in Washington DC (Shutterstock/Brandon Bourdages)

American centrists are optimistic. With Republicans likely to retain control of the Senate for at least the first two years of Joe Biden’s presidency — unless Democrats manage to flip not one, but two Georgia Senate seats in January — a new era of bipartisanship may be on the horizon.

Joe Manchin, the conservative Democratic senator from West Virginia, tells The New York Times he sees a “golden opportunity to bring the country back together and for us to work in the middle.”

James M. Curry and Frances E. Lee of the moderate center-right Niskanen Center argue unified government is overrated. Most legislation is passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Scott Lincicome of the conservative anti-Trump website The Dispatch finds that the economy tends to perform better when the parties split Congress and the presidency. Fortune magazine agrees.

This is the triumph of hope over experience. Read more “Don’t Count on Republicans to Suddenly See the Light”

Consensus Among Major Dutch Political Parties

The Hague Netherlands
Dutch government buildings in The Hague, March 29, 2015 (Pixabay/Unsplash)

Earlier this month, I took an in-depth look at the draft election manifesto of the Netherlands’ ruling liberal party (VVD), which is likely to win the next election. (Disclosure: I’m a party member.)

Now that most other parties have released their manifestos as well, it’s possible to make a comparison. Read more “Consensus Among Major Dutch Political Parties”

Aruba, Curaçao Agree to Terms of Dutch Coronavirus Aid

Oranjestad Aruba
Aerial view of Oranjestad, Aruba (iStock/Darryl Brooks)

Aruba and Curaçao have agreed to liberalize their economies in order to qualify for continued financial support from the European Netherlands, without which the islands would almost certainly have gone bankrupt.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought tourism, on which the islands depend for their income, close to a standstill.

Sint Maarten, the third autonomous Dutch island in the Caribbean, has yet to meet the terms of Dutch aid, which include cutting public-sector salaries by 12.5 to 25 percent. Read more “Aruba, Curaçao Agree to Terms of Dutch Coronavirus Aid”

EU Must Hold Firm in Rule-of-Law Dispute with Hungary, Poland

Viktor Orbán Giuseppe Conte
Prime Ministers Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Giuseppe Conte of Italy attend a European Council meeting in Brussels, February 21 (European Council)

Hungary and Poland are holding up approval of the EU’s seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery fund, worth a combined €1.8 trillion, vowing to jointly veto so long as the rest of the bloc insists on tying funds to compliance with the rule of law.

The countries’ far-right governments, which are already being probed by the EU for politicizing their judicial systems, claim they are defending national sovereignty from foreign interference.

Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, said he would not “subject Hungary to a situation where a simple majority imposes issues upon the Hungarian people they do not want.”

The problem with that statement: 25 of the EU’s 27 member states support the proposed rule-of-law conditionality, as do 72 percent of Hungarians and Poles.

EU-wide support is as high as 77 percent, according to a poll commissioned by the European Parliament. Read more “EU Must Hold Firm in Rule-of-Law Dispute with Hungary, Poland”

Sánchez Does Budget Deal with Left-Wing, Separatist Allies

Pedro Sánchez
Prime Ministers António Costa of Portugal, Pedro Sánchez of Spain and Stefan Löfven of Sweden attend a meeting of European socialist party leaders in Brussels, October 15 (PES)

I doubt Pedro Sánchez reads this blog, but I’m glad he’s taken my advice.

Almost three months ago, I urged the Spanish prime minister to remember who his friends were. The social democrat was trying to do a spending deal with center-right parties. The far-left Podemos (We Can) and Basque and Catalan parties that voted him into office were starting to feel overlooked.

It is with those parties Sánchez has now reached agreement on next year’s budget, which includes major tax increases to finance deficit spending and investments in health and unemployment insurance.

The liberal-nationalist Ciudadanos (Citizens), despite moving back to the center following a disappointing election result, balked at joining a deal with Catalonia’s Republican Left, a separatist party. The Citizens are fiercely opposed to Catalan independence.

The conservative People’s Party and far-right Vox (Voice) were never going to give Sánchez a win.

Podemos, the Republican Left, the centrist Basque Nationalist Party and the left-wing EH Bildu give Sánchez a majority of 179 out of 350 seats in Congress. Read more “Sánchez Does Budget Deal with Left-Wing, Separatist Allies”

Democratic Recriminations Argue for Switch to Multiparty System

United States Capitol
View of the United States Capitol in Washington DC in the early morning, January 15, 2017 (DoD/William Lockwood)

Democrats in the United States were hoping for more than a simple victory over Donald Trump. Polls had suggested they could win in a landslide.

That didn’t happen. Joe Biden decisively beat the president by more than six million votes, or a margin of 4 points, but Democrats lost seats in the House of Representatives and failed to take the majority from Republicans in the Senate.

Democrats also lost seats in state houses, giving Republicans control of redistricting in most states; a power they could use to make it even harder for Democrats to win a majority of the seats even when they win a majority of the votes. (Districts are withdrawn every ten years following the Census.) Read more “Democratic Recriminations Argue for Switch to Multiparty System”

Dutch Far-Right Forum for Democracy Implodes

Geert Wilders Thierry Baudet Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte answers questions from far-right politicians Geert Wilders and Thierry Baudet in parliament in The Hague, November 27, 2019 (ANP)

Sorry for the lack of new posts in recent weeks. I’ve moved back to the Netherlands from Barcelona and finding and furnishing an apartment has taken up most of my time.

Good news was awaiting me here, though. Forum for Democracy, a Putin-friendly, far-right upstart that only a year ago looked like a credible challenger to Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right liberal party, is on the verge of collapse. Thierry Baudet, the party’s co-founder and leader, has stepped down.

Baudet — one of the few Donald Trump admirers in Dutch politics — broke with other party leaders to defend Forum’s youth wing, which for the second time this year was revealed to be a hotbed of far-right extremism. Het Parool of Amsterdam reported this weekend that multiple members had shared neo-Nazi content in the movement’s WhatsApp group.

In May, the party ejected three members for sharing similar content.

Baudet has winked at the alt-right with calls to defend “boreal” (northern) civilization from cosmopolitan liberal elites, who would “dilute” Dutch society by allowing immigration.

He claimed on Monday that the youth wing had been the victim of a “trial by media”. Read more “Dutch Far-Right Forum for Democracy Implodes”

Japan’s F-35 Struggles Help Inspire Domestic Fighter Program

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, April 4, 2013 (USAF/Brett Clashman)

Major Akinori Hosomi vanished on a cool evening in April 2019 while flying one of the world’s most modern and deadliest aircraft — the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.

When the 41 year-old pilot took off from Misawa Air Base in northern Japan on the night of April 19, there was little sign of trouble. An experienced pilot with sixty hours on the F-35A, the multirole jet he was flying was state-of-the-art and the mission profile was to be another routine night-training exercise. Yet his plane fell into the Pacific Ocean without so much as a distress call on the part of the pilot.

Akinori Hosomi’s remains were recovered from the seabed months later leaving behind a mystery about the first fatal crash for the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons system. Read more “Japan’s F-35 Struggles Help Inspire Domestic Fighter Program”

Biden Wins American Presidency, Trump Refuses to Concede

Race Is a Poor Predictor of How Americans Will Vote

Miami Florida
The skyline of Miami, Florida (Unsplash/Ryan Parker)

For years, it looked like Republicans were becoming the party of white, left-behind America and Democrats the party of upper-class whites and racial minorities.

Tuesday’s election hasn’t upended that narrative, but it has put a dent in it.

If you had to pick one characteristic to predict party affiliation, it would be education. The better educated Americans are, the more likely they are to vote Democratic.

Gender is another fair predictor. Women historically vote more Democratic than men. But relatively fewer men voted for Trump this year than in 2016, according to exit polls. Read more “Race Is a Poor Predictor of How Americans Will Vote”