Republicans Are Destroying Institutions to Save Their Party

The United States Capitol in Washington DC at night, September 18, 2014
The United States Capitol in Washington DC at night, September 18, 2014 (Thomas Hawk)

Republicans in the United States are ramping up their attacks on norms and institutions in pursuit of partisan interest. That is a danger to the whole country.

The media and universities have for decades been disparaged by the right as hopelessly biased to the point where only 15 percent of Republicans trust the mass media anymore, down from 46 percent two decades ago, and 73 percent believe higher education is going in the wrong direction.

Now the party has its eyes on the Justice Department, the FBI, the courts and arguably the Constitution. Read more

What Went Wrong for Britain’s Liberal Democrats?

Jo Swinson unveils the Liberal Democratic manifesto at a party conference in London, England, November 20, 2019
Jo Swinson unveils the Liberal Democratic manifesto at a party conference in London, England, November 20, 2019 (Liberal Democrats)

Britain’s Liberal Democrats were polling as high as 20 percent in September, when it seemed just possible they might beat Labour into third place. The projection now is they will end up with 11 percent support in the election on Thursday, up from 7-8 percent in the last two elections but still a far cry from the 22-23 percent Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg won in 2005 and 2010.

Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, even lost her seat in Dunbartonshire East to the Scottish Nationalists by a margin of 149 votes. It means her party will need to find a fourth new leader in five years.

What went wrong? Read more

Conservatives Learned the Lesson of the 2017 Election

Boris Johnson, then the mayor of London, visits Hampstead Heath, April 15, 2012
Boris Johnson, then the mayor of London, visits Hampstead Heath, April 15, 2012 (i-Images/Andrew Parsons)

Britain’s Conservative Party learned the lesson of the 2017 election, when then-Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority on the back of some rather limp campaigning.

This year, under the more charismatic, if perhaps less reliable, Boris Johnson, the Conservatives have been in an optimistic mood, emphasizing hoped-for possibilities of economic, political and social renewal after Brexit.

The mantra of their campaign was to “get Brexit done” after three years of back-and-forth negotiations with the EU. The calculation was that this would appeal to working-class Labour voters in constituences that want to leave the EU. The exit poll released by the three major broadcasters after polling places closed on Thursday night appears to bear this out. Read more

Swedish Center-Right Adjusts to Rise of Far Right

Swedish Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson attends a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 13, 2018
Swedish Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson attends a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 13, 2018 (EPP)

Sweden’s center-right Moderates have broken ranks with other mainstream parties by holding talks with the far-right Sweden Democrats.

The Moderates, who most recently governed Sweden from 2006 to 2014, had until now backed a cordon sanitaire around the Sweden Democrats, who are still seen as beyond by pale by centrists and leftists.

But years of political isolation haven’t made the Sweden Democrats less popular. On the contrary. They have risen from 13 percent support in last year’s election to 25 percent in the opinion polls, tying with the ruling Social Democrats and ahead of the Moderates, who are at 17-19 percent. Read more

China-Russia Gas Pipeline Should Concentrate Minds in Brussels

The Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline in Russia's Far East
The Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline in Russia’s Far East (Gazprom)

Russia has started piping gas to China through a new pipeline, called Power of Siberia. After five years of construction, it will be able to send up to 38 billion cubic meters of gas to China per year.

The pipeline marks a reorientation of Russian energy policy away from the European market, which should give European policymakers some concern. Read more

Breakthrough Unlikely at Normandy Four Meeting

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France meet outside the Palace of Versailles, May 29, 2017
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France meet outside the Palace of Versailles, May 29, 2017 (Elysée)

For the first time in three years, the “Normandy Four” are due to meet in Paris on Monday.

This negotiation format, consisting of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, brought about the Minsk I and Minsk II ceasefire agreements in 2014 and 2015. Even though their implementation was incomplete, the Normandy Four was still seen as a somewhat successful example of multilateral cooperation.

Its usefulness may have expired. Experts doubt the upcoming meeting will accomplish much for the simple reason that neither Russia nor Ukraine is ready to capitulate. Read more

Britain’s Health Care Debate Is Broken

London, England at night, February 14, 2012
London, England at night, February 14, 2012 (Warren Chrismas)

When it was revealed last week that the British government had not ruled out giving American pharmaceutical companies more generous patent rights under a post-Brexit trade agreement with the United States, the opposition Labour Party was up in arms, accusing the ruling Conservatives of putting the National Health Service (NHS) “up for sale”.

The Conservatives rushed to deny it.

“The NHS is not on the table,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock. “We are absolutely resolved that there will be no sale of the NHS, no privatization,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The episode was emblematic of the British health care debate: Labour mischaracterizes any proposed change as a step toward privatization while the Conservatives, rather than make the case for choice and competition, try to convince voters they care about the NHS even more. Read more