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 (Districts are withdrawn every ten years following the Census.)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 his 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

  • Former vice president Joe Biden has defeated incumbent Donald Trump in the American presidential election.
  • Biden won 5.5 million more votes nationwide and an Electoral College majority by flipping Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
  • Trump has yet to concede and falsely accused Democrats of “stealing” the election.
  • Most Europeans preferred Biden, but Trump had fans in Central Europe.
  • Democrats defended their majority in the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats were contested. Control of the Senate, where 35 out of 100 seats were contested, is still in the balance. Democrats have gained one seat. Two elections in Georgia, which could give Democrats a majority, go to a runoff in January. Read more “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”

If Trump Is Trying to Steal the Election, It’s Not Working

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump boards Marine One outside the White House in Washington DC, July 31, 2020 (White House/Tia Dufour)

More than a month ago, I warned Donald Trump would try to steal the American election by depressing Democratic turnout, discounting postal ballots, changing the outcome in the Electoral College and possibly throwing the election to Congress.

Now that he has lost, and few elected Republicans are repeating his lie that Democrats stole the election, it seems that — hopefully for the last time — I overestimated Trump’s ability to put autocratic words into action. Read more “If Trump Is Trying to Steal the Election, It’s Not Working”

What Biden’s Victory Means for the World

Nguyễn Phú Trọng Joe Biden
Then-American vice president Joe Biden listens as Nguyễn Phú Trọng, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, makes a speech in Washington DC, July 7, 2015 (State Department)

Joe Biden, who was declared the winner in America’s presidential election on Saturday, would return the United States to the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization; rejoin the Iran nuclear deal if Iran complies with its terms; extend the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia; and end America’s support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Read more “What Biden’s Victory Means for the World”

Rutte’s Liberal Party Shifts to Center in Netherlands

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte joins a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20, 2016 (European Parliament)

The Netherlands’ ruling liberal party has further moved to the center in its manifesto for the upcoming election, arguing that the coronavirus, climate change, American disengagement and instability in the European periphery call for a stronger state and a stronger EU.

It’s not sudden shift. The traditionally anti-statist and mildly Euroskeptic liberals have become more middle-of-the-road during the ten-year prime ministership of Mark Rutte, who will be seeking a fourth term in March.

They have overtaken their traditional rivals on the right, the Christian Democrats, who are polling at a mere 8-10 percent compared to 25-28 percent for the liberals — faraway in first place, but short of an absolute majority.

The manifesto therefore won’t be implemented in full, but it is telling the party is already signaling a willingness to move to the left in a future coalition.

The draft has yet to be approved by members. There are liberals who complain Rutte has been too willing to compromise with left-wing parties and left a space on the right for Forum for Democracy and Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, which are polling at a combined 15-19 percent. But liberal rebellions against the party leadership are rare.

Here are the manifesto’s highlights. Read more “Rutte’s Liberal Party Shifts to Center in Netherlands”

One Clear Verdict from 2020 is That Trumpism Is Here to Stay

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump arrives in Greenville, South Carolina, October 15 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Former vice president Joe Biden could still win America’s presidential election, but Donald Trump’s performance in the wake of a deadly pandemic, hugely negative polls and a mainstream media almost universally hostile to him shows that cultural and political elites in the United States keep getting things wrong. Read more “One Clear Verdict from 2020 is That Trumpism Is Here to Stay”