American Election Blog

Viktor Orbán’s Authoritarian Playbook

Viktor Orbán
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán arrives for a European Council meeting in Brussels, October 16 (European Council)

For too long has the European Union tolerated the formation of a self-proclaimed “illiberal democracy” in its midst. A recent European Court of Justice ruling underscores that Hungary not only breaches the rule of law, but violates the very rights and values on which the EU is founded.

The court ruled earlier this month that restrictions imposed on foreign universities — which forced the George Soros-funded Central European University to relocate from Budapest to Austria — were “incompatible” with the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, a French member of the European Parliament and its rapporteur on the situation in Hungary, commented that the ruling “should send a warning to Viktor Orbán: that it’s time to step back from the brink of autocracy and reverse the Hungarian government’s undemocratic path.”

Orbán, prime minister since 2010, has come a long way. He started his political career as a liberal anticommunist and ended up the most right-wing, authoritarian government leader in the EU.

If the rest of the bloc is to rein him in, it must first understand how he has been able to gain, and keep, his power.

This is Viktor Orbán’s authoritarian playbook. Read more “Viktor Orbán’s Authoritarian Playbook”

Biden Would Pull America from the Brink

Joe Biden
Former American vice president Joe Biden campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa, August 8, 2019 (Gage Skidmore)

The rest of the free world will never look at America the same way again.

Donald Trump’s election in 2016, coming on the heels of a disastrous Iraq War few Canadians and Europeans supported, disillusioned even the most fervent Atlanticists. The land of the free was no longer impervious to the dark forces of nativism that necessitated the Atlantic alliance in the first place.

A restoration under Joe Biden may be unlikely. America is drawn to Asia and Europe must take responsibility for security in its own neighborhood. But four more years of Trump could shatter even pragmatic cooperation between nations that are still committed to an open and just world. Biden would pull America from the brink and rejoin the West. Read more “Biden Would Pull America from the Brink”

Demographics of the American Election

Donald Trump supporters
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump has lost support across demographics since 2016. The president is down with white voters and voters of color; men and women; Catholics and Jews; millennials and boomers.

National polls give the Republican an average of just 42 percent support against 52 percent for Joe Biden.

However, because Democrats cluster in big cities, which are underrepresented in the Electoral College, Biden needs to win by 3 points nationally to have an even chance of winning the election.

Trump’s hope is to keep his losses among four (partially overlapping) constituencies in the states which hold the balance in the Electoral College to a minimum: white voters with and without a college degree, women and Latinos. Read more “Demographics of the American Election”

Everything You Need to Know About the American Elections

White House Washington
Aerial view of the White House in Washington DC (Shutterstock/Vivvi Smak)

Presidential and congressional elections will be held in the United States on November 3. Democrats have nominated former vice president Joe Biden against Republican incumbent Donald Trump. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate will also be contested.

Here is everything you need to know. Read more “Everything You Need to Know About the American Elections”

Why the Left Hasn’t Been More Successful

Frans Timmermans Nicola Zingaretti Pedro Sánchez
Dutch, Italian and Spanish socialist party leaders Frans Timmermans, Nicola Zingaretti and Pedro Sánchez meet in Brussels, March 21, 2019 (PES)

The 2008-09 financial crisis. Climate change. The coronavirus pandemic. Rising inequality in the United States. Stagnant middle wages.

It shouldn’t be difficult for left-wing parties to make the case for bigger government, and yet they are out of power in most Western countries.

Ruy Teixeira, who argued in 2002 that demographic changes would give Democrats in the United States an “emerging majority”, and who later criticized those same Democrats for forgetting about working-class white voters, believes there are five reasons the left has been unable to build durable mass support.

His perspective is American, but the European left has committed some of the same what he calls five “deadly sins”. Read more “Why the Left Hasn’t Been More Successful”

Trump’s Geopolitical Madness

Donald Trump James Mattis
American president Donald Trump and his then-defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018 (NATO)

Defenders of Donald Trump’s foreign policy confuse his lack of sentimentality for realism. In fact, his disinterest in America’s decades-old alliances in Europe and the Far East defies a century of geopolitical wisdom.

Strategists from Halford Mackinder to Zbigniew Brzezinski understood that only a united Eurasia, which has two-thirds of the world’s population and resources, can pose a threat to the Americas, while Robert Kagan and Henry Kissinger recently warned, in The Jungle Grows Back (2018) and World Order (2014), respectively, that the long peace since World War II has owed as much to American “hard” power as to the world’s belief that Americans will, by and large, do the right thing.

These assumptions were widely shared in Washington — until Trump became president. Read more “Trump’s Geopolitical Madness”

British Conservatives Shouldn’t Root for Trump

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump gives a speech in Paris, France, July 12, 2017 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

Like in 2016, there are those on the British right who are rooting for Donald Trump’s reelection.

Like in 2016, they are deluding themselves if they think the Republican will be better for Britain than his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Read more “British Conservatives Shouldn’t Root for Trump”

Caribbean, European Netherlands Close In on Bailout Deal

Eugene Rhuggenaath Raymond Knops
Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao and Dutch state secretary Raymond Knops answer questions from reporters in The Hague, June 14, 2019 (ANP/Lex van Lieshout)

Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are closing in on a deal with the European Netherlands for hundreds of millions of euros in support to cope with the impact of COVID-19.

The sticking point in negotiations has been the Netherlands’ insistence that Dutch officials would carry out and monitor economic reforms on which the bailout is conditioned; a demand Caribbean leaders argue is incompatible with their autonomy.

Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao, the largest of the three self-governing islands, told lawmakers this week that a compromise is at hand.

The Dutch supervisors would remain, but any decisions they take that affect spending and taxes would need to be ratified by the island legislatures.

The government of Curaçao would also be consulted on the appointment of one of the three supervisors.

Antilliaans Dagblad reports that a majority of lawmakers on Curaçao could agree to those terms.

But Raymond Knops, the Dutch state secretary for the interior, sounded less optimistic on Tuesday, when he told parliamentarians in The Hague that the three islands are currently unable to “bear” their autonomy. Read more “Caribbean, European Netherlands Close In on Bailout Deal”

Trump Can’t Count on Another October Surprise

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump attends a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

President Donald Trump’s (not so) shocking coronavirus diagnosis had all the markings of the fabled “October surprise” American election-watchers look for every four years.

In the world of geopolitical forecasting, you would call an October surprise a “Red Dragon”: something rare, highly impactful, yet to an extent foreseeable. This contrasts with a “Black Swan”, which comes out of nowhere.

Trump getting COVID was certainly a Red Dragon: wandering around campaign events without wearing a mask and taking only the barest precautions, it was more surprising that it took him so many months to contract the disease.

From the standpoint of who will win the election, the diagnosis seems to only have reinforced Joe Biden’s lead, not undercut it. Polls suggest Americans have little sympathy for the president, and his maskless bravado on Monday on the White House balcony surely won’t convince them that this is a man who takes the pandemic, and his own health, seriously.

Could another October surprise flip the script for Trump?

Probably not. Here’s why. Read more “Trump Can’t Count on Another October Surprise”