Democracy Must Be Resistant to the Coronavirus

Washington DC
The skyline of Washington DC at dawn (Shutterstock/Orhan Cam)

In a crisis, calls to do something, quickly, can be hard to resist. Politicians must still try.

On both sides of the Atlantic, governments are planning some of the largest peacetime interventions in the private economy to cope with the outbreak of coronavirus disease.

  • Familiar battle lines have been drawn in Europe, where conservative northern countries, led by Germany and the Netherlands, hesitate to free up EU funds for the crisis.
  • The roles are reversed in America, where once fiscally prudent Republicans are trying to rush through a stimulus twice the size of Barack Obama’s, and Democrats, who traditionally support a larger role for government, are stepping on the brakes.

The stallers are not unreasonable. We can take a few days to debate how to spend trillions of euros and dollars. Read more “Democracy Must Be Resistant to the Coronavirus”

Democrats Don’t Have to Take Sanders’ Delegate Complaints Seriously

Democratic National Convention
Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016 (DNCC/Chris Frommann)

The New York Times asked 93 of the 771 Democratic Party officials who will be automatically seated at the convention in July — the so-called “superdelegates” — if they would vote for Bernie Sanders if the socialist emerged with a plurality, but not a majority, of the pledged delegates.

Only nine said they would.

Sanders’ supporters are predictably up in arms, arguing the party “establishment” is conspiring to overturn “the will of the people”.

Some are threatening to sit out the election in November if their man doesn’t prevail.

Imagine being so safe and comfortable that you could stomach another four years of children being separated from their parents at the border and killed in detention, American citizens of color being harassed by immigration authorities, institutions being demolished, the rule of law turned into a dead letter and the liberal world order torn to shreds in the service of Vladimir Putin if the only alternative is voting for your second-best candidate. I’m not terribly well-versed in the rhetoric of the social-justice left, but I believe this is what they call “privilege”? Read more “Democrats Don’t Have to Take Sanders’ Delegate Complaints Seriously”

A Better Way for Democrats to Elect Their Presidential Candidate

Bill De Blasio Tim Ryan Julián Castro Cory Booker Elizabeth Warren
New York mayor Bill de Blasio, Ohio congressman Tim Ryan, former housing secretary Julián Castro, New Jersey senator Cory Booker and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren participate in a Democratic presidential debate in Miami, Florida, June 26, 2019 (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)

Democrats in the United States need to rethink how they elect their presidential nominees.

The problem with the current system is not just that two of the first four contests are caucuses, in which few voters can and want to participate; the first two states, Iowa and New Hampshire, are so rural and white that they hardly represent the Democratic electorate nationwide.

Iowa’s Democrats needed days to tabulate their votes this year, undermining confidence in the process. Nevada’s did better, but they still needed a full day to incorporate the results of four days of early ranked-choice voting into the outcome of the in-person caucuses.

The result: talented politicians of color, notably Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, felt they had to end their presidential bids before the first votes were even cast. Center-left candidates with little chance of winning the nomination, such Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, did reasonably well in Iowa and New Hampshire and are now making it harder for more viable moderates to break out.

By the time eighteen states and territories will have voted next week, on Super Tuesday, and 1,499 of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination will have been allocated, the socialist Bernie Sanders, the top choice of one in four Democrats nationally, could be close to unbeatable.

Surely there is a better way? Read more “A Better Way for Democrats to Elect Their Presidential Candidate”

Time for Sanders’ Opponents to Put Their Heads Together

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

After the New Hampshire primary, I argued it was too soon for center-left Democrats to panic about a possible Bernie Sanders nomination. Now that it looks like the self-described socialist will walk away with at least half of Nevada’s delegates, it’s time for his opponents to worry.

Unlike Republicans, Democrats don’t award their delegates to whoever receives the most votes in a given state. So there is little risk of Sanders winning a majority of the delegates to the national convention in July against two or three opponents, like Donald Trump was able to prevail with 45 percent support against Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio in 2016.

However, if more candidates split the anti-Sanders vote, each would struggle to meet the 15 percent support required to qualify for delegates. Under those circumstances, Sanders could win a majority. Read more “Time for Sanders’ Opponents to Put Their Heads Together”

Macron’s Idealistic Russia Pragmatism

Vladimir Putin Emmanuel Macron
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France meet outside the Palace of Versailles, May 29, 2017 (Elysée)

The 2020 Munich Security Conference saw French president Emmanuel Macron reaffirm his eagerness to turn Russia into a security partner, suggesting that “we have to restart a strategic dialogue.”

But Russia hasn’t been a part of Europe for a while and doesn’t belong in a conversation about European autonomy. The only thing that ties it to Europe is geography. Read more “Macron’s Idealistic Russia Pragmatism”

Trump Attacks the Rule of Law

Caudillo Donald Trump
The “Yankee caudillo” Donald Trump (The Washington Post)

When Donald Trump pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2017 — before the court even had a chance to sentence him for contempt — it reminded me of that adage of South American dictators: “For my friends, anything. For my enemies, the law.”

Now we know just how far Trump is willing to take America down the path of a banana republic. Read more “Trump Attacks the Rule of Law”

Republicans Are Now the Cult of Trump

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

Donald Trump tried to extort Ukraine into announcing an investigation that would hurt his Democratic rival, Joe Biden. He broke the law by withholding congressionally mandated aid from the country, which is fighting a Russian-backed insurgency in its east, and put his personal interests above the country’s.

These facts are not in dispute. Some of Trump’s Republican allies in the United States Senate have gone so far as to argue that, because they knew exactly what the president had done wrong, they didn’t need to hear from witnesses in what they called a trial.

Yet, with the honorable exception of Mitt Romney, they all voted to acquit the president of abuse on power on Wednesday. Read more “Republicans Are Now the Cult of Trump”

It’s Too Hard to Remove an American President

Donald Trump James Mattis
American president Donald Trump and his defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018 (NATO)

If Donald Trump’s allies in the Senate vote to acquit him next week, they will prove it has become too hard to remove a president in the United States.

Trump withheld congressionally mandated aid from Ukraine to coerce the country into investigating the son of his Democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden. Trump broke the law and abused his power to help his reelection.

Yet not a single Republican member of Congress voted to impeach him. Not a single Republican senator is expected to vote to remove him from office. Read more “It’s Too Hard to Remove an American President”

Why Trumpists Demand Complete Loyalty

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)

Jonah Goldberg wonders in his newsletter why it’s not enough for conservatives like him to accept Donald Trump’s impeachment is an overreach while recognizing that the president did something wrong.

Trump’s supporters demand complete loyalty to an ever-shifting party line — or they’ll accuse you of suffering from “Trump derangement syndrome”.

I suspect the answer depends on whether you’re talking to cowards or fanatics. Read more “Why Trumpists Demand Complete Loyalty”

Don’t Try to Take Politics Out of Important Decisions

Washington DC
View of Washington DC with the United States Capitol in the distance, September 28, 2017 (Ted Eytan)

When politics becomes dysfunctional, there will be a temptation to remove it from important decisions.

This only makes the dysfunction worse.

Politics is what we call decision-making in a democratic society. Taking politics out of some decisions falsely suggests there is a consensus for a certain policy or delegates the decision to technocrats. Either is undemocratic. Read more “Don’t Try to Take Politics Out of Important Decisions”