What Liberals Can Learn from Donald Trump

Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in front of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, September 9, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in front of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, September 9, 2015 (Joshua M. Hoover)

Some Republicans in the United States have tried to make the case that Donald Trump, their party’s likely presidential nominee, is somehow the left’s fault.

Bobby Jindal, the former Louisiana governor and a failed presidential candidate, blamed Trump’s popularity on Barack Obama in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. After eight years of the Democrat’s cool and nuance, it was little wonder, Jindal argued, that voters longed for bluntness and “strength”.

That was followed by an article in The Daily Beast that said “political correctness” had created Trump. Britain’s The Spectator published something similar. At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum rejecting this thesis, but recognized it was not entirely without merit.

Before blaming others, conservatives should take a long, hard look in the mirror. There is more right- than left-wing complicity in Trump’s rise. I argued back in December that mainstream Republicans had for too long ignored or tried to co-opt the crazies among them. Conor Friedersdorf has made a similar argument in The Atlantic. Jonathan Bernstein argued much the same at Bloomberg View not long after Trump launched his presidential bid.

Even so, we can see that Trump is a reaction to liberal pressures in several ways. That’s not to say the left is to blame. But liberals can learn from this. Read more “What Liberals Can Learn from Donald Trump”

Not Just the Lesser of Two Evils: The Case for Clinton

Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton talks to voters in Iowa, November 22
Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton talks to voters in Iowa, November 22 (Hillary for America/Adam Schultz)

Millions of Americans will probably vote for Hillary Clinton in November because the alternative is worse.

There is no shame in that. Candidate who exhilarate their followers tend to either raise unreasonable expectations, as Barack Obama did, or all the wrong expectations, as Donald Trump is doing.

A two-party system can never satisfy everyone anyway and voting for the lesser of two evils is a perfectly rational choice. As Vice President Joe Biden once again, “Don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative.”

But there is still a case to be made for Clinton — not just against Trump — that speaks to the mood in the country and her long career in government. Read more “Not Just the Lesser of Two Evils: The Case for Clinton”

Middle-Class Americans Need a New Deal

A street in Brooklyn, New York, February 3, 2013
A street in Brooklyn, New York, February 3, 2013 (Thomas Hawk)

When the presidential primary campaign got underway in the United States last year, the Atlantic Sentinel was heartened that Democrats and Republicans were finally talking about the same problem. “Both parties recognize that life has become too hard for Middle America,” we reported at the time.

That was progress from the last presidential election when Republican Mitt Romney infamously dismissed the “47 percent” of Americans who pay no federal income tax as moochers while Democrats spent more time complaining what an out-of-touch plutocrat he was than challenging his laissez-faire policies.

“Whether it is the lack of job security, unaffordable higher education, a health care system that is similarly more expensive than it needs to be or the absence of real wage growth,” we wrote that “the defining question of the next election will likely be how to make life a little easier for those tens of millions of Americans who identify as middle class.”

That was before Donald Trump made the defining question of the next election whether or not America will surrender itself to an ignorant demagogue.

But even Trump, in his own, unhelpful way, is channeling the desperation of millions of Americans who grew up believing they could reach the middle class and didn’t. Read more “Middle-Class Americans Need a New Deal”

What If America Had a Multiparty Democracy?

Scale model of the United States Capitol
Scale model of the United States Capitol (Andy Castro)

Leonid Bershidsky raises an interesting question at Bloomberg View: What if America had a multiparty democracy like most countries in Europe?

Based on the outcome of the first presidential voting contest in Iowa this week, Bershidsky imagines the country could five parties: a center-left one led by Hillary Clinton, a far-left one led by Bernie Sanders, a Christian right one led by Ted Cruz, a populist one led by Donald Trump and a center-right, pro-business party led by Marco Rubio.

The two left-wing parties would have a majority, at least in Iowa. Clinton, placing first, would head the government. Sanders, as leader of the second largest party, would get an important cabinet post: say, minister of the economy.

The right-wing parties would go into opposition, but with a reasonable prospect of returning to government in four years. They could either win a majority between the three of them or perhaps Clinton’s and Rubio’s parties would get enough support to form a government of two parties, like the left-right coalitions that rule in Germany and the Netherlands.

As it is, Clinton will probably win the Democratic nomination as well as the presidency. Both Sanders’ supporters and the entire right of the country will feel left out. The latter “will express their discontent in Congress,” writes Bershidsky, “resulting in continued gridlock.” The former won’t have any power at all. Read more “What If America Had a Multiparty Democracy?”

Political Change Takes More Than a Charismatic Leader

Barack Obama
American president Barack Obama looks out a window during the G8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 18, 2013 (White House/Pete Souza)

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Paul Krugman, who often conflates his political beliefs with economic theory, makes a good argument in The New York Times about political change.

There is a persistent delusion in the United States on both ends of the political spectrum, he writes, that a “hidden majority” of voters either supports or can be persuaded to support radical policies, “if only the right person were to make the case with sufficient fervor.” Read more “Political Change Takes More Than a Charismatic Leader”

Between the Crazy, Serious Ideas in Republican Debate

Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate hosted by CNBC was easily the worst so far this year. The moderators seemed more interested in catching the candidates in hypocrisies and discrediting their looniest proposals than encouraging a substantive debate — but at the same time let some of the most outlandish claims go unchallenged.

Between the crazy, though, there were glimmers of a reform-minded conservative platform taking shape. Read more “Between the Crazy, Serious Ideas in Republican Debate”

Sometimes Blandness Is a Good Thing

Prime Ministers David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Pedro Passos Coelho of Portugal meet in Lisbon, September 4
Prime Ministers David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Pedro Passos Coelho of Portugal meet in Lisbon, September 4 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Adam Brown)

British prime minister David Cameron’s pitch for stability on Wednesday did not impress everyone.

The Guardian‘s Michael White, for one, found the Conservative Party leader’s annual conference speech wanting. The promise of more of the same “is pretty flimsy stuff,” he writes.

White believes that Cameron’s record pales in comparison to Margaret Thatcher’s, the Conservative prime minister who thoroughly liberalized Britain’s economy in the 1980s and decidedly shifted the center ground in British politics to the right. “The Tories’ current crop of leaders looks feeble by comparison.”

He may be underestimating Cameron’s radicalism. Read more “Sometimes Blandness Is a Good Thing”

Democrats and Republicans Finally Talking About the Same Problem

A street in Charlotte, North Carolina, November 12, 2008
A street in Charlotte, North Carolina, November 12, 2008 (Steve Minor)

Florida senator Marco Rubio struck a familiar chord on Monday when, in a speech announcing his candidacy for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, he argued that too many Americans were starting to question whether the “American Dream” is still within their reach.

Those Americans include “hard-working families, living paycheck to paycheck, one unexpected expense away from disaster,” Rubio said; “young Americans, unable to start a career, a business or a family, because they owe thousands in student loans for degrees that did not lead to jobs”; and “small businessowners, left to struggle under the weight of more taxes, more regulations and more government.”

In a speech in Detroit in February, Rubio’s most formidable contender for the Republican nomination, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, similarly lamented, “Tens of millions of Americans no longer see a clear path to rise above their challenges.”

Democrats see the same problem. Read more “Democrats and Republicans Finally Talking About the Same Problem”

Powerful Mayors Could Mend English Democratic Deficit

The sun rises over London, England
The sun rises over London, England (Uncoated)

With the Scottish referendum on independence drawing closer, the one certain thing is that, no matter how the region votes, British or English politics will be irreversibly changed.

The history of tension between England and the parliament in Westminster can be traced back to the Scotland Act of 1998, which gave Scotland its own legislature.

Since then, affairs that affect only Scotland have been dealt with in Edinburgh. Lawmakers in Westminster have no say anymore in issues to do with transportation or the National Health Service north of the border.

Because affairs that affect only England are still settled in Westminster, however, this has led to the curious situation in which Scottish lawmakers can influence English policy but English lawmakers have no say over Scottish policy.

This, in turn, has led to some resentment when unpopular measure end up being adopted in England but rejected in Scotland, an example being the tuition fee increase from £3000 to £9000. Read more “Powerful Mayors Could Mend English Democratic Deficit”

A Government by the People

Scale model of the United States Capitol
Scale model of the United States Capitol (Andy Castro)

Just a few days ago, President Barack Obama and his staff announced their Open Government Directive. In a memo, beginning with the lines, “My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government,” the White House announced its intentions to work toward a form of “collaborative democracy,” in which citizens would be able to input their ideas and contributions toward governance.

With programs like Peer-to-Patent already around, collaborative government seems closer than ever. Its tool? The Internet. Or, the “tubes,” as disgraced former senator Ted Stevens referred to them.

The directive lays out a specific timetable that can be found online and that orders all executive departments to create “open government” websites within ninety days of December 8, 2009.

It seems quite clear that this is a major change in how citizens will be able to deal with government. What is the nature of the change? As Clay Shirky tells us, “the impulse to share important information is a basic one, but its manifestations have often been clunky.” Read more “A Government by the People”