EU Must Hold Firm in Rule-of-Law Dispute with Hungary, Poland

Viktor Orbán Giuseppe Conte
Prime Ministers Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Giuseppe Conte of Italy attend a European Council meeting in Brussels, February 21 (European Council)

Hungary and Poland are holding up approval of the EU’s seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery fund, worth a combined €1.8 trillion, vowing to jointly veto so long as the rest of the bloc insists on tying funds to compliance with the rule of law.

The countries’ far-right governments, which are already being probed by the EU for politicizing their judicial systems, claim they are defending national sovereignty from foreign interference.

Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, said he would not “subject Hungary to a situation where a simple majority imposes issues upon the Hungarian people they do not want.”

The problem with that statement: 25 of the EU’s 27 member states support the proposed rule-of-law conditionality, as do 72 percent of Hungarians and Poles.

EU-wide support is as high as 77 percent, according to a poll commissioned by the European Parliament. Read more “EU Must Hold Firm in Rule-of-Law Dispute with Hungary, Poland”

Democratic Recriminations Argue for Switch to Multiparty System

United States Capitol
View of the United States Capitol in Washington DC in the early morning, January 15, 2017 (DoD/William Lockwood)

Democrats in the United States were hoping for more than a simple victory over Donald Trump. Polls had suggested they could win in a landslide.

That didn’t happen. Joe Biden decisively beat the president by more than six million votes, or a margin of 4 points, but Democrats lost seats in the House of Representatives and failed to take the majority from Republicans in the Senate.

Democrats also lost seats in state houses, giving Republicans control of redistricting in most states; a power they could use to make it even harder for Democrats to win a majority of the seats even when they win a majority of the votes. (Districts are withdrawn every ten years following the Census.) Read more “Democratic Recriminations Argue for Switch to Multiparty System”

Close Election Result Won’t Convince Republicans to Change

Paul Ryan Mike Pence Donald Trump
Republican officials, including then-House speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, speak with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 20, 2017 (White House/Benjamin Applebaum)

My hope was that Republicans would lose Tuesday’s election decisively and decide they had no future as a far-right movement. (Donald Trump’s Republican Party has more in common with the European far right than with Britain’s Conservative Party or Germany’s Christian Democrats.)

That now seems unlikely.

Trump and Joe Biden could be neck and neck in the Electoral College. Not enough university-educated and suburban voters, who have been trending away from the Republican Party, supported Democrats in the Sun Belt to color Florida, Georgia and North Carolina blue. (Arizona could be the exception.)

White voters without a college degree in the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin may once again decide the outcome of the presidential election, validating the strategy of Trump and Trumpists, which is to appeal to working-class grievances. Read more “Close Election Result Won’t Convince Republicans to Change”

English-Language Media Blame France for Islamic Terrorism

Nice France
The sun sets on Nice, France (Unsplash/Marcus Löfvenberg)

You would think the murder of three Christian worshippers in Nice — a 60 year-old woman, the 55 year-old sexton and a 44 year-old Brazilian-born mother of three — coming on the heels of the beheading of a schoolteacher in a Parisian suburb, would convince American and British journalists and opinion writers that France really has an Islamic terrorism problem, and it’s not a figment of President Emmanuel Macron’s imagination.

But no. Read more “English-Language Media Blame France for Islamic Terrorism”

Criticism of Macron’s Islam Policy Is Over the Top

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 17, 2018 (European Parliament)

Emmanuel Macron is the most liberal president France has had since the 1970s, when Valéry Giscard d’Estaing legalized abortion and made contraceptives commercially available. Yet there has been a tendency on the left to blow every hint of Macronist illiberalism out of proportion.

Macron did not, on balance, cut public spending. He raised welfare benefits, extended unemployment insurance to the self-employed and penalized companies that made excessive use of short-term contracts. But he also liberalized labor law, to make it easier for firms to hire and fire workers, and abolished a wealth tax few millionaires paid, which earned him the moniker “president of the rich”.

Police largely tolerated the so-called Yellow Vests protests against Macron in 2018, but left-wing critics seized on a few instances of police violence to argue the president couldn’t stand criticism.

Now that Macron is taking a harder line against Islamic extremism, following the beheading of a French teacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils, John Lichfield reports for Politico Europe that the same tendency is rearing its head on the (American) left.

The New York Times claims Macron has ordered a “broad government crackdown against Muslim individuals and groups.” The World Socialist Web Site, in a widely retweeted story, accuses Macron of “whipping up … anti-Muslim hysteria.” An American sociologist who researches white supremacists laments that French officials “respond to violent extremism with violent extremism.”

What is this “broad crackdown”? Macron’s government has closed a mosque, which was run by a radical imam. A number of arrests have been made. “Anti-Muslim hysteria”? 51 more Islamic organizations are being investigated for alleged extremist sympathies. What about “violent extremism”? There are plans to take away the French passports of 231 foreign-born criminals.

Some of this may be an overreaction. Expelling dual citizens will be difficult if their countries of origin refuse to take them back. The rhetoric of Macron’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, has not been helpful. He believes France is fighting a “civil war” against Islamists.

But — the convictions of the woke American left notwithstanding — words are not violence, and anyway Macron himself hasn’t gone so far. Read more “Criticism of Macron’s Islam Policy Is Over the Top”

Biden Would Pull America from the Brink

Joe Biden
Former American vice president Joe Biden campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa, August 8, 2019 (Gage Skidmore)

The rest of the free world will never look at America the same way again.

Donald Trump’s election in 2016, coming on the heels of a disastrous Iraq War few Canadians and Europeans supported, disillusioned even the most fervent Atlanticists. The land of the free was no longer impervious to the dark forces of nativism that necessitated the Atlantic alliance in the first place.

A restoration under Joe Biden may be unlikely. America is drawn to Asia and Europe must take responsibility for security in its own neighborhood. But four more years of Trump could shatter even pragmatic cooperation between nations that are still committed to an open and just world. Biden would pull America from the brink and rejoin the West. Read more “Biden Would Pull America from the Brink”

British Conservatives Shouldn’t Root for Trump

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump gives a speech in Paris, France, July 12, 2017 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

Like in 2016, there are those on the British right who are rooting for Donald Trump’s reelection.

Like in 2016, they are deluding themselves if they think the Republican will be better for Britain than his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Read more “British Conservatives Shouldn’t Root for Trump”

How to Restore American Democracy After Trump

United States Capitol
The United States Capitol in Washington DC (Shutterstock/Brandon Bourdages)

Donald Trump’s presidency has exposed and exacerbated fundamental weaknesses in American democracy. He must be voted out in November, but that won’t be enough.

If Democrats gain power, they must make five reforms to restore fairness, restore balance between the three branches of government and reverse the polarization that has made it impossible for the two parties to compromise on everything from climate change to gun laws to health care to immigration:

  1. Abolish the Electoral College.
  2. Add states.
  3. Put Congress first.
  4. Make it easier to remove the president.
  5. Abolish the two parties. Read more “How to Restore American Democracy After Trump”

Stakes in Supreme Court Nominations Are Too High

United States Supreme Court
Mourners gather outside the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, September 19 (Ted Eytan)

The death of one Supreme Court justice shouldn’t plunge the whole country into crisis. The fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s has is more proof that America’s top court is too powerful.

In no other democracy does the highest court feature so prominently in the public imagination.

Here in Catalonia, Spain’s Supreme Court is controversial for consistently ruling against Catalan interests, but I doubt many Catalans know the names of individual Supreme Court justices. Certainly the average Dutch person or Italian doesn’t.

Even in Poland, where the ruling far-right party has created a parallel legal system to sideline a Supreme Court it considers to be dominated by liberals, the fate of individual justices doesn’t provoke such strong emotions as in the United States.

American justices have been aware of the danger. Antonin Scalia, a conservative, cautioned a year before his death in 2016 that America could find itself governed by a “black-robed supremacy” unless its rediscovered its tradition of “self-rule”. Read more “Stakes in Supreme Court Nominations Are Too High”

Trump Deserves Praise for Ending the Palestinian Veto

Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani Benjamin Netanyahu Donald Trump
Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, join Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American president Donald Trump at the White House in Washington DC, September 15 (White House/Tia Dufour)

I haven’t been Donald Trump’s greatest fan, but for once he deserves praise: for facilitating the normalization of ties between Israel and two of its Arab neighbors.

In a treaty signed at the White House on Tuesday, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates entered into diplomatic relations with the Jewish state for the first time.

Only Egypt and Jordan had so far. Other Arab states do not accept Israeli passports and do not exchange embassies with Tel Aviv.

We don’t know how involved Trump was in the negotiations, and the agreements fall short of what he calls a “peace deal”. The countries weren’t at war.

But it’s a significant step and a welcome departure from previous presidents, who allowed the Palestinians a veto over Arab-Israeli relations. Read more “Trump Deserves Praise for Ending the Palestinian Veto”