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”

Media Bubbles Have Replaced the Blogosphere

Frederik deBoer:

So when I started blogging in 2008, a thing that would happen would be that a conservative writer would publish something on a conservative website, and then liberals at liberal publications would read those conservative websites, write up their own liberal responses and publish them on their liberal websites, and conservatives would write responses to responses, and so a decent number of people got to be employed.

And what I can’t scientifically say but which seems screamingly obvious to me is that this is almost unthinkable today. It just doesn’t happen. Liberals don’t even bother to read conservative publications, and they certainly don’t respond to them. I can’t say what conservatives do because, unlike in 2008, I barely read conservative publications anymore. It was a thing I felt honor-bound to do and now I just… don’t do it.

I remember that time, and it was nice!

But, like deBoer, I’ve stopped reading conservative blogs and websites that have turned into mouthpieces for Donald Trump. Nor do I read Jacobin or The New Republic. I make an effort to read left- and right-leaning publications, from Talking Points Memo and Vox to The Bulwark, The Dispatch and National Review, but they have to fall within what I consider to be parameters of reasonableness. Read more “Media Bubbles Have Replaced the Blogosphere”

To Trump, Blue America Is Expandable

Chicago Illinois
Chicago, Illinois at night (Unsplash/Max Bender)

Asked about riots in America’s major cities, Kellyanne Conway, President Donald Trump’s outgoing political advisor, told Fox News:

These are Democratically-led cities and most with Democratic governors. It’s not Donald Trump’s watch.

(That didn’t stop Trump from deploying federal troops to Portland over the objections of the city’s Democratic mayor and Oregon’s Democratic governor in June.)

The suggestion that the president isn’t responsible for the whole country, but only to those parts that are loyal to him, is outrageous.

But it is how Trump has governed. Read more “To Trump, Blue America Is Expandable”

Don’t Call Your Opponents Traitors

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump attends a World War I memorial in Suresnes, France, November 11, 2018 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

American president Donald Trump and his supporters have learned one lesson of the Iraq War: To quash legitimate concerns about an ill-advised military operation, call the patriotism of your critics into question.

It sometimes works — but only briefly, and it hurts you more than helps in the end. Read more “Don’t Call Your Opponents Traitors”

Spain’s Response to Catalan Separatism Has Failed

View of the Palau Nacional from downtown Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013
View of the Palau Nacional from downtown Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013 (CucombreLibre)

Since I moved to Barcelona and started writing about Catalan independence three years ago, I’ve worried that Spain’s refusal to engage with the movement would radicalize it and hollow out the middle in Catalan politics.

This is now borne out by research. Read more “Spain’s Response to Catalan Separatism Has Failed”

Moderates in America Should Not Give Up on Political Reform

Washington DC
View of Washington DC with the United States Capitol in the distance, February 17, 2015 (Matt Popovich)

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”

What Catalonia Has in Common with the United States

A demonstration for Catalan independence in Perpignan, France, November 10, 2018
A demonstration for Catalan independence in Perpignan, France, November 10, 2018 (ANC)

Asked to judge such dirty tricks as spreading false information about an opponent or removing yard signs, both Democrats and Republicans in the United States are far more forgiving if their own party is to blame — and outraged if such misdeeds are perpetrated by the other side.

Partisanship colors how we interpret events. Catalonia could be another case study. Read more “What Catalonia Has in Common with the United States”

How We Talk About Our Opponents Matters

George Bush Dick Cheney
American president George W. Bush speaks with his vice president, Dick Cheney, at the White House in Washington DC, March 3, 2008 (National Archives)

Remember when George W. Bush was a fascist?

When he signed the PATRIOT Act and launched the Iraq War, reasonable left-wing Americans voiced reasonable objections. The far left reached for Hitler.

Republicans dismissed this as over the top, because it was. (And it made it easier for them to dismiss reasonable objections as well.) So when the real thing came along, and this time not only the far left but commentators on the center-right warned that Donald Trump had a lot in common with the worst leaders in European history, many Republican voters once again shrugged.

If anything, it made them support Trump more. As one voter told The Atlantic in 2016:

Give people the impression that you will hate them the same or nearly so for voting Jeb Bush as compared to voting for Trump and where is the motivation to be socially acceptable with Jeb?

The left continues to make this mistake — and so does the right. Read more “How We Talk About Our Opponents Matters”

Republicans Now Have More in Common with the European Far Right

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

Expect plenty of coverage between now and the 2020 election about how Democrats in the United States have moved to the left.

This isn’t wrong. On everything from health care to transgender rights, Democrats have become more left-wing.

But they’re still more centrist than most center-left parties in Europe while Republicans have moved so far to the right that they now have more in common with Austria’s Freedom Party and the Alternative for Germany than they do with Britain’s Conservative Party and Germany’s Christian Democrats. Read more “Republicans Now Have More in Common with the European Far Right”

Spanish Parties Rule Out Centrist Coalition After Election

Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Albert Rivera speak in Madrid, February 4, 2016
Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Albert Rivera speak in Madrid, February 4, 2016 (PSOE)

Spain’s liberal Citizens have ruled out a pact with outgoing prime minister Pedro Sánchez while the Catalan branch of his Socialist Party has said it will not support a deal with right-wing parties — making a centrist coalition after the election in April impossible. Read more “Spanish Parties Rule Out Centrist Coalition After Election”