What Trump Says Matters

Donald Trump
Donald Trump gives a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

The one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s presidency has seen some relief. The republic still stands. NAFTA and NATO survive. There is no border wall, no war with Iran or North Korea. Trump’s biggest accomplishments so far — tax cuts, energy deregulation, repealing the Obamacare mandate — are pretty conventional right-wing stuff.

Ignore the rhetoric and norm-breaking, the argument goes, and Trump is just like any other Republican.

Except the rhetoric and norm-breaking are precisely the point. Read more “What Trump Says Matters”

Nationalist Right and Identitarian Left Feed Off Each Other

Dalibor Rohac of the American Enterprise Institute argues in The American Interest that two intolerant communities have emerged in Western democracies:

  1. A nationalist right, whose overarching ambition is to return ethnic homogeneity and reverse the decline of status enjoyed by whites.
  2. An identitarian left, whose goal is to rectify the injustices caused by the historic domination of white heterosexual men.

We don’t have to accept a moral equivalence between the two to see that they have things in common.

Nor does either side need to be in the majority (neither is) to pose a danger to our democracy. Read more “Nationalist Right and Identitarian Left Feed Off Each Other”

A Third Way for Catalonia

Barcelona Spain
Skyline of Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Anastasiia Tarasova)

Catalonia is split down the middle.

In regional elections on Thursday, parties that want to break away from Spain got 47 percent support against 44 percent for those that oppose independence. (The balance going to a party that refuses to take sides.)

These figures are line with the latest government survey, which found almost 49 percent of Catalans in favor of independence and 44 percent opposed.

Clearly neither side has a convincing mandate and with turnout at 82 percent — the highest in living memory — it’s also clear that more voting, whether in the form of a referendum or another election, will not break the deadlock.

There is another way out. Read more “A Third Way for Catalonia”

An Old Conflict in New Form

I used to think that the rise of far-right populism, the crisis of social democracy and growing divides along class and educational lines were creating a new political reality in the West.

In a 2016 report for the consultancy Wikistrat, I argued that the political spectrum was shifting from left-right to cosmopolitan-nationalist.

Others made similar observations:

  • Andrew Sullivan observed in 2014 that America’s blue-red culture war had come to Europe: “Blue Europe is internationalist, globalized, metrosexual, secular, modern, multicultural. Red Europe is noninterventionist, patriotic, more traditional, more sympathetic to faith, more comfortable in a homogeneous society.”
  • Stephan Shakespeare, a British pollsters, argued a year later that people were either “drawbridge up” or “drawbridge down”.
  • The Economist characterized the divide as between open and closed: “Welcome immigrants or keep them out? Open up to foreign trade or protect domestic industries? Embrace cultural change or resist it?”
  • David Goodhart divided people into “anywheres” — mobile and open-minded — and “somewheres” — attached to country, community and family.

I still think this is broadly correct, but now I wonder how new this split really is. Read more “An Old Conflict in New Form”

Surely This Is Rock Bottom for Republicans?

United States Capitol Washington
United States Capitol in Washington DC at night, September 18, 2014 (Thomas Hawk)

I thought Republicans hit rock bottom when they elected a president with neither knowledge of nor interest in world affairs, a man who confessed to groping women, mocked a war hero despite himself dodging the Vietnam draft and who disparaged all Mexican immigrants as murders and rapists — but clearly I was wrong.

In Alabama, they have nominated for the Senate a man who was removed as the state’s chief justice for refusing to recognize the supremacy of the law over his own religious beliefs, who perpetuated the racist lie that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, who believes homosexuality should be illegal, that Muslims can’t serve in government and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were God’s punishment for America’s heathen ways.

And that’s not even the worst about Roy Moore. Read more “Surely This Is Rock Bottom for Republicans?”

The American Culture Wars Are Officially a Strategic Threat

Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump campaign people are going to jail.

This isn’t quite the fall of the Trumpian house of cards. Paul Manafort’s indictment is very specific to him and his work in Ukraine. More information must come out before we can be certain this will lead to the White House. While the revelations of George Papadopoulos create the strongest link yet, they have not produced an indictment to date.

Yet there is an essential tale here: for the first time in modern American history, a foreign power has substantially interfered with a political campaign. It’s not that others haven’t tried. The Soviet Union tried several times to back favored candidates, especially in the turbulent 1960s and 70s. But in those Cold War cases, American candidates refused the help.

This is the first time it looks like someone said yes.

What changed? Read more “The American Culture Wars Are Officially a Strategic Threat”

Election Reveals Brexit- and Trump-Like Cleavages in Germany

German parliament Berlin
Reichstag in Berlin, Germany (Unsplash/Fionn Große)

Germany’s federal election revealed many of the same cleavages we have seen in America, Britain and France, Alexander Roth and Guntram B. Wolff report for the Bruegel think tank:

  • Urban-rural split: Support for the far-right Alternative for Germany party was low in the cities but high in the countryside.
  • Old versus young: Districts with a higher share of elderly voters were more supportive of the Alternative.
  • Education: There is a strong correlation here. The better educated Germans are, the less likely they were to vote for the Alternative.
  • Income: Higher disposable household income is associated with lower support for the Alternative, however, areas with high unemployment were also less likely to vote for the far right. Read more “Election Reveals Brexit- and Trump-Like Cleavages in Germany”

Trump Is Taking Over Republican Party, Making Realignment More Likely

Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump is splitting America’s Republican Party in two — and his side is winning.

NBC News and The Wall Street Journal asked Republican voters if they consider themselves to be a supporter of the president first or a supporter of the Republican Party. 58 percent said Trump, 38 percent the party.

The Trump supporters are more likely to hail from rural areas and to be men while Republican Party supporters are more likely to be women and residents of the suburbs.

CNN found a similar divide: Trump’s support is strongest among old white voters without a college education. Republicans under the age of fifty with a degree are disappointed in him.

These trends portend a realignment of America’s two-party system in which the Democrats become the party of the affluent and the optimistic and the Republicans a coalition of the left behind.

Before such a realignment can happen, though, the Republicans need to break up. Read more “Trump Is Taking Over Republican Party, Making Realignment More Likely”

Democrats, Republicans Split on Diversity and Immigration

Americans overall have very liberal views of immigration, but there is a partisan divide:

  • An NBC News-The Wall Street Journal poll found that more than three-quarters of Democrats, but less than one-third of Republicans, feel comfortable with societal changes that have made the country more diverse.
  • Democrats, only 29 percent of whom are white and Christian anymore, embrace ethnic and religious diversity as central to the American idea. Republicans, nearly three quarters of whom are white and Christian, see these changes as eroding what they believe America to be about.
  • Not surprisingly, Donald Trump’s supporters worry the most. The Pew Research Center found (PDF) that only 39 percent of them agree diversity makes America stronger.
  • Analysis of post-election survey data by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic found that 79 percent of Americans who agree with the statement “Things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country” voted for Trump. Read more “Democrats, Republicans Split on Diversity and Immigration”