Merkel’s Party Doesn’t Need More Ideology

Angela Merkel
German chancellor Angela Merkel attends the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019 (Bundesregierung)

Saturday’s election for the leadership of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is also a debate over the future identity of the party.

Friedrich Merz, the darling of the right, would arrest Angela Merkel’s twenty-year slide to the center and take the fight to the far right with small-government and law-and-order policies.

Armin Laschet, the prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, and Norbert Röttgen, a parliamentarian, fear that would risk throwing away Merkel’s gains with younger and women voters. They argue for continuity (critics might say muddling through), with Röttgen proposing a slightly more modernizing program.

Waiting in the wings are Jens Spahn, the ambitious health minister, and Markus Söder, the prime minister of Bavaria. They are not in the running for the party leadership, but they may yet hope to be nominated for the chancellorship. Spahn is a younger version of Merz, Söder a more solid version of Laschet. Read more “Merkel’s Party Doesn’t Need More Ideology”

Dutch Government Falls Over Child Benefits Scandal

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte addresses parliament in The Hague, September 17, 2020 (Tweede Kamer)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has tendered his government’s resignation to King Willem-Alexander.

With only two months to go before elections, and the government remaining in a caretaker capacity to manage the coronavirus crisis in the Netherlands, the resignation is largely symbolic.

But smaller parties in Rutte’s coalition felt they had to take responsibility for what an inquiry described as an “unprecedented injustice” in the tax service, which wrongly accused more than 20,000 families of fraud.

Lodewijk Asscher, who was the responsible minister in charge of social affairs in the last government, stepped down as leader of the now-opposition Labor Party on Thursday. Read more “Dutch Government Falls Over Child Benefits Scandal”

Biden Plans $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Rescue Program

United States Capitol
Workers drape a flag from the facade of the United States Capitol in Washington DC for Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, January 9 (Victoria Pickering)

Joe Biden is planning to ask Congress for $1.9 trillion in the first weeks of his presidency to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Matthew Yglesias and Punchbowl News, a new Capitol Hill-focused newsletter, have the details:

  • $400 billion for health, including $50 billion for testing, $30 billion for protective gear and $20 billion for vaccinations.
  • Hire 100,000 public health workers.
  • A mandatory paid sick leave program.
  • $1,400 cheques to all Americans on top of the $600 cheques sent in December.
  • Extend federal unemployment benefits at $400 per week.
  • Extend the eviction moratorium.
  • $30 billion in rental assistance.
  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
  • Raise the child tax credit to as much $3,600 per year for families with young children.
  • $350 billion in financial relief for local, tribal and state governments. Read more “Biden Plans $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Rescue Program”

German Christian Democrats to Elect Merkel’s Successor

Friedrich Merz
Friedrich Merz, then chairman of the Supervisory Board of BlackRock Germany, attends a bankers conference in Berlin, April 5, 2017 (Bankenverband)

1,001 party delegates will elect the next leader of Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in a digital congress on Saturday.

The winner will succeed Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the defense minister, who succeeded Angela Merkel in 2018. Merkel stepped down as party leader, but not chancellor, that year.

Kramp-Karrenbauer quit two years later. She never approached Merkel’s popularity in the polls, nor her authority in the party.

Merkel’s approval rating is approaching 90 percent, but she is not seeking a fifth term. Whoever is elected CDU leader on Saturday will be the party’s presumptive chancellor candidate for the election in September (the Christian Democrats are polling at 35-37 percent), but that is not a given. Read more “German Christian Democrats to Elect Merkel’s Successor”

Renzi Picks the Wrong Fight — Again

Matteo Renzi
Then-Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers questions from reporters in Rome, December 10, 2015 (Palazzo Chigi)

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi has pulled the plug on the country’s ruling center-left coalition.

Renzi, now a senator, has withdrawn his 48 lawmakers and three ministers (one junior) from the coalition ostensibly over a spending dispute. He wants to use Italy’s €200+ billion share of the European Union’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund to invest in infrastructure and the green economy. The other ruling parties prefer to use the bulk of the money for short-term stimulus.

Renzi has also proposed to tap into the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), set up in the wake of the euro crisis, to help pay for Italy’s increased health care expenses, something Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has resisted. ESM funding would come with strings attached. Countries are free to spend their share of the coronavirus recovery fund however they see fit.

Renzi’s proposals have merit. Italy is failing its next generation. It needs structural reforms — which ESM support would require — to catch up with the rest of Europe. Spending €200 billion to prop up the Italian economy in the short term is a wasted opportunity.

But expecting the other ruling parties to meet his terms, when Renzi’s is by far the smallest of the three, is unreasonable. Throwing Italy into a political crisis when it is still suffering one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus disease in the world is irresponsible.

Conte must now try to find a new majority in parliament, perhaps with members of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, or call early elections. Read more “Renzi Picks the Wrong Fight — Again”

Is the Republican Dam Breaking?

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)
  • Liz Cheney, the number-three Republican in the House of Representatives, will vote to impeach Donald Trump for inciting an attack on the United States Capitol to overturn the election of Joe Biden.
  • So will Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington; Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio; John Katko of New York, a former federal prosecutor; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran; and Peter Meijer and Fred Upton of Michigan.
  • Charlie Baker, Larry Hogan and Phil Scott, the Republican governors of Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont, support impeachment.
  • So does Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate. Read more “Is the Republican Dam Breaking?”

Cabinet Coup Would Give Trump His Own Dolchstoßlegende

1924 German National Peoples Party poster
1924 German National People’s Party election poster promotes the myth that socialists stabbed soldiers fighting in World War I in the back

Democrats in the United States are urging Vice President Mike Pence and members of the cabinet to remove Donald Trump from power under the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

This could be a mistake.

It would be constitutionally dubious. The Twenty-fifth Amendment allows a majority of the cabinet to replace a president who has become incapacitated. It wasn’t designed to topple a president who is still technically able to carry out his duties.

It can be argued Trump has proved himself “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” by inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election. But I can think of a dozen more examples of Trump’s behavior from the last year alone that proved his unfitness for office.

More worrisome than potentially setting a bad precedent is that a cabinet coup would add fuel to the fire of the stab-in-the-back myth Trump and his supporters are already writing. It could give the outgoing president just the pretext he needs to lead an insurgency against the next government of the United States. Read more “Cabinet Coup Would Give Trump His Own Dolchstoßlegende”

This Is a Putsch

Paris France riot
Rioters attack police in the Place de la Concorde of Paris during the attempted overthrow of the French government on February 6, 1934 (Wikimedia Commons)

I’m not sure how to describe what’s happening in Washington DC today as anything other than an attempted coup.

It’s like Berlin 1920 or Paris 1934. Right-wing militias, egged on by conservative politicians, storm parliament in an attempt to topple a democratically elected government. In this case, a president-elect: Joe Biden. Read more “This Is a Putsch”

Trump Supporters Storm Capitol During Readout of Election Results

United States Capitol protest
Donald Trump supporters demonstrate outside the United States Capitol in Washington DC, January 6 (Tyler Merbler)
  • Donald Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol on Wednesday as Congress was debating the outcome of November’s presidential election.
  • Lawmakers were evacuated from their chambers. Shots were fired inside the House of Representatives. Four people died.
  • Police used teargas and pepper spray to disperse the mob.
  • Lawmakers had been debating a challenge to Arizona’s Electoral College votes for Joe Biden.
  • President Trump encouraged the riot in a speech outside the White House, saying, “Our country has had enough and we will not take it any more.” He later called on supporters to leave the Capitol grounds. Read more “Trump Supporters Storm Capitol During Readout of Election Results”