In Politics, the Triple Crown Is Even More Elusive

Night falls on the United States Capitol in Washington DC, December 8, 2011
Night falls on the United States Capitol in Washington DC, December 8, 2011 (Architect of the Capitol)

Last year, the horse American Pharaoh became the first since 1978 to achieve the Triple Crown, winning in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

Having a single political party win all three branches in Washington, however — controlling the White House and Congress and having nominated a majority of Supreme Court justices — is even rarer.

The Democrats last did it in 1969 while the Republicans managed it for four and a half years under George W. Bush but had not done it since 1931 until then.

With the recent death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, however, both parties have a shot at doing it this election: the Democrats if they can somehow retake Congress, the Republicans if they can somehow retake the White House. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump then have a chance at making history. One of them could soon become political stud while the other (hopefully Trump) could be sent off to the glue factory. Read more “In Politics, the Triple Crown Is Even More Elusive”

Political Dynasties and Their Discontents

Members of the Bush family watch a sports game at the White House in Washington DC, June 3, 2001
Members of the Bush family watch a sports game at the White House in Washington DC, June 3, 2001 (George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum)

Political dynasties have always been a big part of human civilization and today is no exception.

In the United States, of course, the rise of Donald Trump (and Bernie Sanders) was at least partially a reaction to the dynastic, Clinton-versus-Bush election that only last year most Americans were expecting to get.

Among other things, Jeb Bush’s candidacy split the non-evangelical portion of the Republican establishment in two, preventing it from coalescing around Marco Rubio early on and thus leaving an opening for Trump to force his way into. Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, meanwhile, may even leave the door open for Trump to become president, however unlikely and unappealing that may be. Read more “Political Dynasties and Their Discontents”

Eurozone Economy Could Be Chilled to the Core

A bird sits on top of one of the spires of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, December 31, 2005
A bird sits on top of one of the spires of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, December 31, 2005 (Max Braun)

Since 2001, when Greece adopted the euro as its currency, seven countries have joined the eurozone. Slovenia began using the euro in 2007, Cyprus and Malta in 2008, Slovakia in 2009, Estonia in 2011, Latvia in 2014 and Lithuania in 2015. These countries are small. Together they are home to around 14.5 million people, just 4 percent of the eurozone’s total population.

This is not suprising: from 2001 to 2008, European countries were more focused on expanding the European Union and NATO than expanding the eurozone while, since 2008, the economic slowdown in Europe has limited the ambition of European institutions to expand in a meaningful way. Key economies in the region, like Britain, Poland, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland, not to mention Russia or Turkey, do not appear likely to join the eurozone any time soon, if ever. Read more “Eurozone Economy Could Be Chilled to the Core”

Satellite Geopolitics in Eastern Europe

President Barack Obama speaks with Bob Carr, Australia's foreign minister, as Russian president Vladimir Putin opens an afternoon plenary session of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg, September 6, 2013
President Barack Obama speaks with Bob Carr, Australia’s foreign minister, as Russian president Vladimir Putin opens an afternoon plenary session of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg, September 6, 2013 (White House/Pete Souza)

During the past year, the primary focus of the American-Russian rivalry has centred around Iran. The United States put an end to Western sanctions against Iran and also chose to keep American troops in Afghanistan, who support, among others, many of the tens of millions of Afghans who are Shiite Muslims or who can speak Farsi (as opposed to the Taliban, who are Sunni and typically Pashto-speaking). Russia, meanwhile, intervened to aid Bashar al-Assad in Syria, whose survival diverts Sunni attention away from Iran’s Shiite allies in Iraq.

With Russia now withdrawing most of its forces from Syria and the United States hoping to do so from Afghanistan, the focus of the American-Russian rivalry could revert, perhaps, to Ukraine. By comparison to the Middle East, Ukraine has appeared to be quite quiet of late.

Russia may have dialed back the conflict there partly in order to shift the West’s focus to the Middle East. This of course has not been very difficult to accomplish, given Europe’s influx of Syrian migrants and America’s election-season rhetoric on issues like ISIS, the conflict in Libya and Donald Trump’s proposal to ban, for an unspecified amount of time, all Muslims from traveling to the United States.

If the American-Russian focus does move back toward Eastern Europe, one can perhaps guess the rough outlines of any geopolitical contest that may occur there. Read more “Satellite Geopolitics in Eastern Europe”

Michael Bloomberg and the Power of New York

Manhattan New York
View of Columbus Circle in Manhattan, New York at night, December 15, 2007 (Thomas Hawk)

Last month, a report in The New York Times suggested that Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City from 2002 until 2014, has been thinking about running for president of the United States as a third-party candidate and may be willing to spend as much as a billion dollars of his own money to do so.

Today, on the sole day between the end of football season and the start of ex-Iowa primary season, Bloomberg himself confirmed that report. According to MarketWatch, this is “the first time Bloomberg himself has said [he might run], though his surrogates have told other outlets the former New York City mayor and founder of Bloomberg LP was considering such a move.”

“I find the level of discourse and discussion distressingly banal and an outrage and an insult to the voters,” said Bloomberg.

The Bloomberg strategy is a fairly simple one: first you take Manhattan, then you take DC. The idea would be for him to secure the huge amounts of donor money and media support available in New York City, as well as the 5.4 percent of America’s Electoral College points that you get by winning New York state in the general election, and then use those assets in order to lure Republican-leaning Americans (particularly if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz wins the Republican nomination and if socialist Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination) and/or Democratic-leaning Americans outside New York to vote Bloomberg on election day too. Read more “Michael Bloomberg and the Power of New York”

Europe and Arabia: A Geopolitical Perspective

The Arabian Peninsula on a Norwegian globe from the 1950s
The Arabian Peninsula on a Norwegian globe from the 1950s (Magnus Halsnes)

As different as the Quran is from the New Testament, or the constitution of France is from the constitution of Saudi Arabia (which is, in fact, the Quran), these differences are arguably less important than those which seperate the geography of Europe from the geography of the Arab world. Read more “Europe and Arabia: A Geopolitical Perspective”

Could Canada’s Harper Be On the Way Out?

The last time Canada voted, in 2011, the result was an election of first-in-a-while’s:

  • The first Conservative Party to win a majority government since 1988;
  • The first party in general to win a majority government since 2000;
  • The first time since 1962 that a Conservative Party won three consecutive federal elections;
  • The first time in Canadian history that the Liberal Party won less than forty seats (it got just 34, down from 77 seats in 2008 and 100-plus seats in every other election since 1988);
  • The first time the Liberals were not one of the top two seat-winners in Canada’s largest province of Ontario;
  • The first time the Bloc Quebecois won less than half of Quebec’s parliamentary seats (it won just 5 percent, down from 65 percent in 2008 and an all-time high of 72 percent in 2004 and 1993);
  • The first time the Bloc Quebecois won less than 38 percent of Quebec’s popular vote (it got 23 percent, down from an all-time high of 49 percent in 2004 and 1993);
  • The first time that the New Democratic Party won more than 43 seats nationally (they won 103, 59 of which came from Quebec);
  • The first time that the modern Conservative Party fared decently well with nonwhite voters;
  • The first time that the Green Party won any seats at all (though it only got a single one and received a lower share of the popular vote, 3.9 percent, than any other election since 2000); and finally
  • The first time since 1984, 1958 and the World War elections of 1940 and 1917 that a single political party won either the popular vote or most parliamentary seats in each of the eight Canadian provinces outside of Francophone Quebec and tiny, remote, late-to-Confederation Newfoundland (the Conservatives won the popular vote and most seats in all eight, in spite of winning just 39.6 percent of the popular vote and 54 percent of seats nationally). Read more “Could Canada’s Harper Be On the Way Out?”

Why Israel Won’t Let the West Bank Go

Israeli soldiers patrol along the West Bank barrier near Hebron, June 17, 2014
Israeli soldiers patrol along the West Bank barrier near Hebron, June 17, 2014 (IDF)

Most of Israel’s critics argue that any Israeli claim to the moral high ground is compromised by the fact that the Israeli military has been dominating the West Bank since 1967, thereby denying the Palestinians the ability to ever form their own state. While of course there is truth to this argument, it nevertheless ignores a critical point: Israel believes it must control the West Bank, at least for now, in order to ensure its own continued safety over the long-term.

Even though religion is the key motivator for most of the Jews (and Christians) who have settled or support Jewish settlement within the West Bank, Israel’s desire to control the West Bank is not ultimately rooted in religion, but rather in physical geography and “strategic necessity.” Read more “Why Israel Won’t Let the West Bank Go”