Sanders Wins in New Hampshire, Biden Places Fifth

  • Bernie Sanders has won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, the second state to vote in the presidential nominating contest.
  • The socialist from neighboring Vermont won 26 percent support.
  • Center-left candidates Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor, and Amy Klobuchar, a senator from Minnesota, won 24 and 20 percent, respectively.
  • Former vice president Joe Biden and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren did not meet the 15 percent threshold to quality for delegates. Read more “Sanders Wins in New Hampshire, Biden Places Fifth”

Kramp-Karrenbauer Quits, Throwing Race to Succeed Merkel Wide Open

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer
Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of Saarland attends a session of the Bundesrat in Berlin, Germany, July 10, 2015 (Bundesrat/Henning Schacht)

Angela Merkel’s heir apparent, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has unexpectedly quit, throwing the race to succeed the German chancellor wide open.

Kramp-Karrenbauer is stepping down as leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a position she has held since 2018. She will remain as defense minister.

Merkel elevated Kramp-Karrenbauer from the prime ministership of Saarland, on the border with France, to national politics in order to prepare her for a run in 2021. Although Kramp-Karrenbauer is socially more conservative than Merkel (she opposed marriage equality), she was seen as likely to defend the chancellor’s centrist legacy.

Merkel has said she will not serve a fifth term. Read more “Kramp-Karrenbauer Quits, Throwing Race to Succeed Merkel Wide Open”

Judicial Reforms Create Parallel Legal System in Poland

Mateusz Morawiecki
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki gives a speech at the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, April 11, 2019 (KPRM/Adam Guz)

Poland’s ruling conservative party’s obsession with bending the legal system to its will is creating what the Financial Times calls a parallel legal system: one set of judges are loyal to Małgorzata Gersdorf’s still-independent Supreme Court while another obey the government-friendly Constitutional Tribunal. Read more “Judicial Reforms Create Parallel Legal System in Poland”

Democratic Primary News

Bernie Sanders
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders attends the Comanche Nation Fair Powwow near Lawton, Oklahoma, September 29, 2019 (Bernie 2020)
  • Bernie Sanders is now the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to FiveThirtyEight, which takes into account the Iowa caucus results and recent polls. The runner-up: no one. FiveThirtyEight believes there is a one-in-four chance no candidate will have a majority of the delegates by the time Democrats convene in Milwaukee in July. (Those odds will change.)
  • Joe Biden‘s support in New Hampshire, which votes on Tuesday, has collapsed from a high of 22-23 percent a month ago to 13 percent.
  • Biden did benefit the most in terms of fundraising from the departure of Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris from the race.
  • Michael Bloomberg could benefit the most from the inconclusive Iowa caucuses. He is up to an average of 10-11 percent support in national polls, has surpassed Sanders in the endorsement primary, doubled his spending on television commercials and doubled his field staff to more than 2,000 (the biggest of any campaign).
  • But Sanders raised the most money in January: $25 million.
  • South Carolina Republicans are plotting to vote for Sanders in the February 29 primary.
  • California, the biggest state voting on March 3, Super Tuesday, with 415 pledged delegates at stake, is making it easier for non-Democrats to vote. Read more “Democratic Primary News”

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis cover
Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis (2019)

Jared Diamond’s latest book, Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis (2019), is clearly written for a lay audience.

I took only introductory courses in Australian and Japanese history in university, but I learned almost nothing new from Diamond’s respective chapters on those countries. The chapters on postwar Germany and the 1973 coup in Chile taught me nothing I hadn’t picked in high school or from watching documentaries. The remaining chapters on Finland’s Winter War with the Soviet Union and Indonesia’s dictatorship were more informative, but only because I never investigated either.

Even by the standard of an undergraduate textbook, Upheaval falls short. Footnotes, endnotes and references are completely lacking. Anecdotes abound. If it wasn’t for a list of further reading at the back — which contains barely more than a dozen titles per country — one could be forgiven for thinking Diamond relied entirely on personal experience and the opinions of a handful of international acquaintances to arrive at his conclusions. Read more “Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis”

Outrage over Right-Wing Alliance in Thuringia Is Overblown

Thuringia Germany state parliament
The state parliament of Thuringia, Germany debates legislation in Erfurt, June 12, 2019 (Thüringer Landtag)

Politicians in Berlin are up in arms about an alliance between the mainstream right and far-right Alternative for Germany in the central state of Thuringia.

Lars Klingbeil, secretary general of the ruling Social Democrats, spoke of a “low point in Germany’s postwar history.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel called the election of a liberal state premier with far-right support “unforgivable”.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and presumptive successor, said it was a “bad day for Thuringia and a bad day for Germany.”

Hitler comparisons are rife, coming even from party leaders in Brussels.

This is all a little over the top. Read more “Outrage over Right-Wing Alliance in Thuringia Is Overblown”

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”

Why Democratic Party Officials Are Reluctant to Take Sides

Hillary Clinton Andrew Cuomo
Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York attend a political event in New York City, April 4, 2016 (Hillary for America/Barbara Kinney)

You may remember that in 2016, we interpreted both the Democratic and Republican primaries in the United States through the prism of “the party decides” theory, which argues that party elites — including elected and party officials, interest group leaders and other partisan figures — coordinate before presidential nominating contests in order to help their preferred candidate win.

Or, as The Economist pithily summarized the argument: parties tell the electorate how to vote, rather than voters telling the party whom to support.

That obviously didn’t happen in the Republican Party, where elites failed to stop Donald Trump.

Democratic elites (everyone from the chair of the Democratic National Committee to local union bosses) did coalesce around Hillary Clinton, but many voters didn’t listen: 43 percent backed Bernie Sanders.

This year, public endorsements from Democratic Party figures are slower than usual, suggesting that — like Republicans four years ago — “the” party is reluctant to decide. Read more “Why Democratic Party Officials Are Reluctant to Take Sides”

Buttigieg, Sanders Share First Place in Iowa

  • Democratic presidential hopefuls Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders tied in the Iowa caucuses on Monday.
  • Sanders won the popular vote but split the delegates with the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
  • Elizabeth Warren placed third, followed by former vice president Joe Biden. Read more “Buttigieg, Sanders Share First Place in Iowa”

In Minsk, Pompeo Is All Talk

Mike Pompeo Alexander Lukashenko
American secretary of state Mike Pompeo meets with President Alexander Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials in Minsk, February 1 (State Department/Ron Przysucha)

Tensions between Belarus and Russia prompted American secretary of state Mike Pompeo to pay Alexander Lukashenko a visit this weekend. He told the Belarusian leader that the United States could fulfill all of his country’s oil needs if he wants to become “independent” from Russia.

This shouldn’t be taken seriously. Besides the hypocrisy — how “independent” would Belarus be if it traded its dependence on Russia for a dependence on the United States? — it would be logistically and financially almost impossible for America to meet the complete oil needs of Russia’s closest ally.

Pompeo’s remarks do suggest America is willing to help Belarus from being absorbed by Russia. But how much can it really do? Read more “In Minsk, Pompeo Is All Talk”