Liberal Democrats Are Least Bad Option in British Election

Jo Swinson unveils the Liberal Democratic manifesto at a party conference in London, England, November 20
Jo Swinson unveils the Liberal Democratic manifesto at a party conference in London, England, November 20 (Liberal Democrats)

British politics hasn’t given liberals hope in recent years.

In 2015, we called for another Conservative-Liberal coalition. When the Conservative Party won an outright majority that year and veered to the right, embracing Brexit with a gusto, we switched to the Liberal Democrats. We still supported Ruth Davidson’s Conservatives in Scotland in 2017, but she is gone and with her any hope of moderation on the right.

Boris Johnson, who once described himself as a liberal, has made common cause with the reactionaries in his party to take power; forced out 21 principled moderates who opposed his Brexit policy, including ten former cabinet ministers, two former chancellors and one former deputy prime minister; and unlawfully suspended Parliament in an attempt to prevent debate on his Brexit deal, which, for all his bluster, is essentially the deal the EU offered two years ago.

Worst of all, Johnson frames this election as a choice between “the people” and Parliament. That is the sort of insidious rhetoric which paves the way for the erosion of liberal democracy. Read more “Liberal Democrats Are Least Bad Option in British Election”

Macron the Secret Islamophobe

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with Renaud Muselier, president of the Regions of France, in Paris, November 15 (Elysée/Kadidia Nimaga)

French president Emmanuel Macron has startled observers with a number of policies that might seem to contradict his previously held beliefs.

Despite being pro-EU, he blocked membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Once clear-eyed on the Russian threat, Macron now argues for dialogue with Moscow and calls Islamic terror NATO’s number-one enemy. He even made a point of attacking political Islam.

Some hear dog whistles to the far right, assume bad faith and call Macron an Islamophobe. That is unfair to the most liberal president France has had since Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Read more “Macron the Secret Islamophobe”

Moderates in America Should Not Give Up on Political Reform

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

Regular readers know I believe the two-party system in America is one of the root causes of the country’s many political problems: extreme partisanship (but weak parties), polarization, a politicization of the judiciary and an unwillingness by lawmakers to rein in presidents of their own party, to name the four most urgent.

What are moderates to do? I propose reform.

Ideally, these various changes would break up the Democratic-Republican duopoly. Countries in Northwestern Europe prove that multiparty democracy produces better outcomes. Read more “Moderates in America Should Not Give Up on Political Reform”

Europe Needs to Pay Attention to What’s Happening in Moldova

Maia Sandu, leader of Moldova's Party of Action and Solidarity, attends the European People's Party congress in Malta, March 29, 2017
Maia Sandu, leader of Moldova’s Party of Action and Solidarity, attends the European People’s Party congress in Malta, March 29, 2017 (EPP)

After five months in power, Maia Sandu’s pro-European government in Moldova has collapsed. President Igor Dodon, whose sympathies are with Russia, has appointed Ion Chicu, a Euroskeptic, as interim prime minister.

The situation worries Moldovans — but it should also worry the EU. Read more “Europe Needs to Pay Attention to What’s Happening in Moldova”

Leftists Denounce “Coup” Against Vote-Rigging Autocrat in Bolivia

Let’s take a break from the right-wing apologists of a would-be autocrat in the United States to check in with the left-wing apologists of an actual autocrat in Bolivia.

In the face of mass protests, the Bolivarian military has forced the left-wing populist Evo Morales to step down.

Morales served an unconstitutional third term as president from 2014 to 2019. He called and lost a referendum in 2016 on whether he should stand for a fourth term, but the Supreme Court canceled that result, arguing that “American imperialism” had influenced the outcome.

In his latest bid for reelection, observers from the Organization of American States found clear manipulations, including a 24-hour freeze in the vote count, before which Morales was losing and after which he suddenly won.

You wouldn’t know it from reading British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders or New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading light of the American new left, who have all denounced Morales’ removal as a “coup” and are calling for “free and fair elections” — no matter that’s the very thing Morales wouldn’t allow. Read more “Leftists Denounce “Coup” Against Vote-Rigging Autocrat in Bolivia”

EU Breaks Promise to Balkan States

German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron speak privately while entering a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, March 22
German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron speak privately while entering a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, March 22 (Bundesregierung)

Last week, French president Emmanuel Macron blocked the start of EU accession talks for Albania and North Macedonia, arguing that the Balkan states haven’t made enough progress to qualify and that the EU must reform internally before admitting new members.

His concerns were shared by the leaders of Denmark and the Netherlands.

They are not without merit. It would be naive to assume that decades of institutionalized corruption and crime, particularly in Albania, have been washed away over the course of a few years.

That said, progress has been made. North Macedonia’s name change is far from trivial. It represents a willingness to move on from the past. Albania has reformed its judicial system, encouraged by the prospect of membership.

If the French were so adamant about halting enlargement, they should never have made promises to Albania and North Macedonia in the first place.

Poland’s Andrzej Duda said it best: “Western Balkans states are taking part in a race that does not have a finishing line.” Read more “EU Breaks Promise to Balkan States”

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 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 “Sánchez Needs to Show Statesmanship in Catalonia”

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 “Macron’s Pension Reforms Are Eminently Reasonable”

Corbyn Has Completely Failed 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 “Corbyn Has Completely Failed as Opposition Leader”