How Alike Are Corbyn and Sanders?

Britain’s Labour Party suffered its worst electoral defeat since 1935 in December, because it chose to be led by a far-left extremist.

Center-left Democrats in the United States worry their party is about to make the same mistake. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist from Vermont, won the most votes in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary and now places first in national polls. (Although he has yet to get more than 26 percent support.)

James Carville, the architect of Bill Clinton’s 1992 election victory, warned Democrats this week: “if we nominate Jeremy Corbyn, it’s going to be the end of days.”

Andrew Sullivan, a British-born conservative commentator, believes a Republican campaign against Sanders would be brutal:

He’s a man … who sided with a Marxist-Leninist party that supported Ayatollah Khomeini during the hostage crisis in 1979. He loved the monstrous dictator Fidel Castro and took his 1988 honeymoon in the Soviet Union, no less, where he openly and publicly criticized his own country and praised many aspects of the Soviet system.

On the other hand, Sullivan points out Corbyn had a net favorability rating of -40. Sanders is only at -3. Most polls show him beating Donald Trump with between 2 and 8 points.

Corbyn and Sanders are not the same — but they are not completely dissimilar either. There are differences in policy, but worrying similarities in strategy. Read more “How Alike Are Corbyn and Sanders?”

What Is a Brokered Convention? Could It Happen?

Republican National Convention
The Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012 (Think Out Loud)

It’s every political junkie’s dream: a contested convention. When no American presidential candidate wins a majority of the delegates in state-by-state contests before the party’s convention in the summer, the assembly — normally stage-managed for television — will have to go through as many voting rounds as it takes to elect a nominee. Imagine the theater!

It hasn’t happened in almost seventy years, and for good reason.

The last time Democrats needed to “broker” their convention was in 1952. The last time Republicans had one was in 1948. At both times, the parties went on to lose the general election. The spectacle of a party struggling to find a presidential candidate doesn’t inspire much confidence in voters that they’ve made the right choice.

Could the same happen to Democrats this year? Read more “What Is a Brokered Convention? Could It Happen?”

Panic About Sanders Is Premature

Bernie Sanders
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders gives a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, January 9, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Having placed first in both Iowa and New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders can expect stronger opposition from moderate Democrats who fear he would lose to Donald Trump. There are already calls to unite behind a single, center-left presidential candidate. Those calls will grow leader.

This overlearns the lesson of 2016. Trump was able to win the Republican nomination that year with plurality support against several center-right candidates. But most Republican contests are winner-takes-all. The Democrats award their delegates — who will elect the nominee at a convention in July — proportionally. If several centrist and center-left candidates remain in the race, the most likely outcome is not a Sanders nomination but a brokered convention, where the moderates would need to join forces. Read more “Panic About Sanders Is Premature”

Outrage over Right-Wing Alliance in Thuringia Is Overblown

Thuringia Germany state parliament
The state parliament of Thuringia, Germany debates legislation in Erfurt, June 12, 2019 (Thüringer Landtag)

Politicians in Berlin are up in arms about an alliance between the mainstream right and far-right Alternative for Germany in the central state of Thuringia.

Lars Klingbeil, secretary general of the ruling Social Democrats, spoke of a “low point in Germany’s postwar history.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel called the election of a liberal state premier with far-right support “unforgivable”.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and presumptive successor, said it was a “bad day for Thuringia and a bad day for Germany.”

Hitler comparisons are rife, coming even from party leaders in Brussels.

This is all a little over the top. Read more “Outrage over Right-Wing Alliance in Thuringia Is Overblown”

Why Democratic Party Officials Are Reluctant to Take Sides

Hillary Clinton Andrew Cuomo
Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York attend a political event in New York City, April 4, 2016 (Hillary for America/Barbara Kinney)

You may remember that in 2016, we interpreted both the Democratic and Republican primaries in the United States through the prism of “the party decides” theory, which argues that party elites — including elected and party officials, interest group leaders and other partisan figures — coordinate before presidential nominating contests in order to help their preferred candidate win.

Or, as The Economist pithily summarized the argument: parties tell the electorate how to vote, rather than voters telling the party whom to support.

That obviously didn’t happen in the Republican Party, where elites failed to stop Donald Trump.

Democratic elites (everyone from the chair of the Democratic National Committee to local union bosses) did coalesce around Hillary Clinton, but many voters didn’t listen: 43 percent backed Bernie Sanders.

This year, public endorsements from Democratic Party figures are slower than usual, suggesting that — like Republicans four years ago — “the” party is reluctant to decide. Read more “Why Democratic Party Officials Are Reluctant to Take Sides”

In Minsk, Pompeo Is All Talk

Mike Pompeo Alexander Lukashenko
American secretary of state Mike Pompeo meets with President Alexander Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials in Minsk, February 1 (State Department/Ron Przysucha)

Tensions between Belarus and Russia prompted American secretary of state Mike Pompeo to pay Alexander Lukashenko a visit this weekend. He told the Belarusian leader that the United States could fulfill all of his country’s oil needs if he wants to become “independent” from Russia.

This shouldn’t be taken seriously. Besides the hypocrisy — how “independent” would Belarus be if it traded its dependence on Russia for a dependence on the United States? — it would be logistically and financially almost impossible for America to meet the complete oil needs of Russia’s closest ally.

Pompeo’s remarks do suggest America is willing to help Belarus from being absorbed by Russia. But how much can it really do? Read more “In Minsk, Pompeo Is All Talk”

No, Project Fear Wasn’t Wrong

United Kingdom European Union flags
Flags of the United Kingdom and the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29, 2016 (European Commission)

Brexit is due at midnight. Cue the inevitable glee from Brexiteers when the sky doesn’t fall. “Project Fear”, they will claim, was wrong all along.

No thanks to them. The very mandarins who warned against the consequences of leaving the EU have been working for the last three years to prevent their own predictions from coming true. Read more “No, Project Fear Wasn’t Wrong”

Trump’s Middle East Plan Is Not About Peace

Benjamin Netanyahu Donald Trump
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American president Donald Trump step down from the podium in the East Room of the White House in Washington DC, January 28 (GPO/Kobi Gideon)

Donald Trump has finally unveiled his “deal of the century” for peace and prosperity in the Middle East — and set the region ablaze with criticism.

The president’s plan recognizes Israeli control over most, if not all, of the settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), excludes most of Jerusalem from a future Palestinian state and accepts Israel’s position that “refugees” (the descendants of Palestinians who were displaced in the 1948 war) will be resettled outside Israel.

In return for accepting these conditions and renouncing terrorism and incitement, the Palestinians would receive a municipality-sized, demilitarized and completely dependent “state.” Read more “Trump’s Middle East Plan Is Not About Peace”

Who Is Russia’s New Prime Minister?

Mikhail Mishustin
Mikhail Mishustin, then director of Russia’s Federal Tax Service, meets with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, November 20, 2018 (Kremlin)

Mikhail Mishustin was largely unknown both in- and outside Russia until two weeks ago. The head of the Federal Tax Service since 2010, he was unexpectedly promoted to prime minister, replacing Vladimir Putin’s longtime deputy, Dmitri Medvedev.

Yet it was probably because, not in spite of, this political inexperience that Mishustin was chosen. Read more “Who Is Russia’s New Prime Minister?”

Catalan Ruling Parties Fall Out

Quim Torra
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14, 2018 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Catalan president Quim Torra’s suspension as a parliamentarian has divided the Spanish region’s ruling separatist parties.

In a session of the regional parliament on Monday, Speaker Roger Torrent of the Republican Left warned Torra, who leads the center-right Together for Catalonia, that his vote would not be counted in accordance with a ruling by the Spanish electoral commission. The entire Together for Catalonia delegation then abstained from all parliamentary business in protest.

The electoral commission has ordered Torra to resign as lawmaker for violating regulations on political neutrality. The Catalan leader refused to remove a banner from the regional government palace in Barcelona during the last election that called for the release of nine separatists who are in prison for leading a failed independence push in 2017. Among them is Republican Left leader Oriol Junqueras.

Torra argued only the Catalan parliament could remove him. Its presidium has now sided with the electoral commission, although it believes Torra can continue to serve as president. Torra is appealing the electoral commission’s decision to the Supreme Court in Madrid. It is unlikely to rule in his favor. Read more “Catalan Ruling Parties Fall Out”