Sánchez Needs to Show Statesmanship in Catalonia

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018 (La Moncloa)

Demonstrations for Catalan independence have always have been peaceful — until Tuesday, when a sit-in outside the Spanish government delegation in Barcelona led to acts of vandalism and altercations with riot police.

While most separatists, who were protesting the long prison sentences given to their leaders by the Spanish Supreme Court, left around dinner time, some donned masks and threw bottles and firecrackers at the police. Later in the evening, trash cans were set on fire and barricades erected on the Passeig de Gràcia, a luxury shopping street. It took until early Wednesday morning to clear the avenue.

The knee-jerk reaction from the Spanish right is to clamp down. Pablo Casado, the leader of the largest right-wing party in Congress, has called on Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a social democrat, to declare an emergency and take command of the Catalan regional police.

That is the worst thing he could do. Tensions are running high. The mossos (troopers) are at least seen as fellow Catalans by most protesters. Send in the National Police or the gendarmerie and the riots are bound to get worse.

Let Sánchez come to Barcelona instead, meet with members of the regional government and start listening to their demands; something he promised to do when he came to power a year ago, but still hasn’t.

This will be seen as weakness in other parts of Spain, where there isn’t a culture of compromise and consensus, but it will signal to Catalans that Madrid is finally taking them seriously. Read more

Macron’s Pension Reforms Are Eminently Reasonable

Then-Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy is received by President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 27, 2017
Then-Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy is received by President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 27, 2017 (Elysée)

Having liberalized labor law to make it easier for companies to hire, reined in labor migration from Eastern Europe to protect low-skilled workers in France and shaken up intercity bus service and the state-owned railway company, President Emmanuel Macron, just fighting his way back from the reactionary Yellow Vests protests, is taking on a reform of France’s sprawling pension system.

You can’t accuse the man of not trying. Read more

Corbyn Has Failed Completely as Opposition Leader

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech in the House of Commons in London, March 16, 2016
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech in the House of Commons in London, March 16, 2016 (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

Boris Johnson had his worst day in the House of Commons yet on Wednesday. Britain’s Supreme Court had just ruled his suspension of Parliament illegal, in effect accusing the prime minister of lying to the country and the queen. He was taking questions on everything from his shambolic Brexit strategy to his shameful rhetoric, using words like “surrender” and “betrayal” to describe the policy of his opponents.

If there was ever a moment for Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to rise to the occasion.

Instead, he reliably underwhelmed. In the same breath as he accused Johnson of steering the United Kingdom toward a disastrous no-deal exit from the EU, he blamed the ruling Conservatives for not bailing out tour operator Thomas Cook. Apparently under his government, no business would be allowed to fail. Read more

Italy’s Problem Is Not Its Electoral System

The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament, in Rome
The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament, in Rome (Shutterstock)

Alberto Mingardi of the libertarian Bruno Leoni Institute in Milan argues in Politico that the “deep roots” of Italy’s coalition chaos lie in an electoral system that makes it hard for any one party to govern.

I think the roots actually go deeper than that. Read more

Democrats Back Away from Abolishing Private Health Insurance

Democratic senator Kamala Harris of California listens to voters during a town hall meeting in Los Angeles, April 21, 2017
Democratic senator Kamala Harris of California listens to voters during a town hall meeting in Los Angeles, April 21, 2017 (Office of Senator Kamala Harris)

Good news: Democratic presidential candidates are coming to their senses on health care.

Senators Cory Booker, Kirstin Gillibrand and Kamala Harris have all backed away from abolishing private health insurance in favor of Medicare-for-all.

Even Senator Elizabeth Warren has given herself wiggle room, saying “there are a lot of different pathways” to achieving universal coverage.

The exception is Bernie Sanders, the author of Medicare-for-all and a self-declared democratic socialist. Read more

Kosovo Must Come to Terms with Reality

President Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo visits Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, September 29, 2017
President Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo visits Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, September 29, 2017 (US Army/Elizabeth Fraser)

Last month, the president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, dropped a bombshell, calling for unification with Albania.

Kosovo is majority ethnic Albanian, but unification would actually hinder the progress of both countries. Here’s why. Read more

How to Lose Friends and Influence People

Democratic congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts speaks at an event in Cambridge, September 8, 2018
Democratic congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts speaks at an event in Cambridge, September 8, 2018 (Warren for President)

Social justice warriors can be their own worst enemies.

For the first time, an openly gay man is running for president in America — but queer activists like Greta LaFleur and Dale Peck (whose article was pulled from The New Republic for its obscenity) are still unhappy, because Pete Buttigieg is white, married and middle-class, and therefore somehow not gay enough.

The current United States Congress is the most diverse ever, but for Massachusetts congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (one of the Democratic lawmakers President Donald Trump shamefully told to “go back” to their own countries, no matter that she was born in Ohio), this isn’t enough:

We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice. We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice. We don’t need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need queers that don’t want to be a queer voice.

If you thought the point of equality and liberation was that gender, sexual orientation and skin color would one day no longer matter, well, you’re just blind to your own oppression or an Uncle Tom for the patriarchy, heteronormativity, white supremacy — pick your poison. Read more