Everything You Need to Know About the Electoral College

New York State Capitol
Electors gather in the New York State Capitol in Albany, December 19, 2016 (New York City Mayor’s Office/Edwin J. Torres)

Americans don’t elect their president and vice president on November 3. Rather, they elect 538 members of the Electoral College, who in turn elect the president and vice president on December 14.

Why are elections held this way? Who are the electors, and what happens if they can’t agree on a winner?

Here is everything you need to know about the Electoral College. Read more “Everything You Need to Know About the Electoral College”

Statism Makes a Comeback in the United Kingdom

London England
The British flag flies over the Cabinet Office in London, England (Shutterstock/Willy Barton)

Two months ago, I argued Britain was once again the sick man of Europe. It had the second-highest per capita COVID death rate among major countries. Economic output had fallen 20 percent from the year before.

The crisis wasn’t lost on policymakers. The dual shock of coronavirus and Brexit — Britain formally left in 2019 but still applies EU rules and regulations this year — has led to something of a quiet revolution in Whitehall: the potential rebirth of the interventionist state.

There is still much wrong with how the British government has handled both events, the poster child for COVID being the decimation of the British aviation and travel industry as well as the arts. Not since the closing of the coal mines has an entire industry shrunk so dramatically.

Yet the seeds of a new statism have been sown — by a Conservative government. Read more “Statism Makes a Comeback in the United Kingdom”

Allegations of Russian Meddling Resurface in Catalonia

Barcelona Spain
Aerial view of the the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Carles Rabada)

Allegations of Russian interference have swirled around the Catalan independence movement for the last three years.

I cautioned against exaggerating Russia’s role in 2017, when two million Catalans voted in a referendum that had been deemed illegal by the Spanish state to break away.

I still believe what I did then: that Russia is a convenient scapegoat for Spaniards who don’t want to understand why nearly one in two Catalans prefer their own republic.

“Easier to blame foreign manipulation than examine the root causes of Catalan separatism and the events which led to the current crisis,” I wrote — from the 2010 Constitutional Court ruling that overturned parts of Catalonia’s autonomy statute to former prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s years-long refusal to negotiate a revision of the charter to current prime minister Pedro Sánchez slow-walking his promise to do just that. Read more “Allegations of Russian Meddling Resurface in Catalonia”

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 is not only in beach of 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 Vienna — 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”

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”

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”

“Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals

Angela Merkel Ursula von der Leyen Emmanuel Macron Mark Rutte
German chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and French president Emmanuel Macron watch Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte walk into a European Council meeting in Brussels, July 18 (European Council)

Emmanuel Macron and Mark Rutte belong to the same European liberal family, but they take different views on the future of the liberal world order.

The French president believes Europe should become less reliant on the United States and foreign trade. He argues for “strategic autonomy” in everything from the digital economy to defense to environmental policy.

The Dutch prime minister has doubts, rooted in decades of Dutch Atlanticism and centuries of overseas trade.

Both have allies.

Macron has the support of German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, a former German defense minister.

Rutte is backed by smaller countries in Central and Northern Europe as well others in the European Commission. The Financial Times reports that plenty suspect “strategic autonomy” is a fancy way to dress up French protectionism; are wary of formally endorsing the principle if it means undermining NATO and open trade; and are skeptical of the push for reshoring of industry and supply chains.

They have reason to be. Read more ““Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals”