Bombings Heighten Sense of Crisis in Turkey

Turkish authorities said on Monday they suspected Islamic State sympathizers were responsible for two suicide bombings in Ankara on Saturday that killed more than one hundred pro-Kurdish demonstrators.

Coming only three weeks before parliamentary elections that could make or break Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ambitions to turn Turkey into a presidential republic, the terrorist attacks heightened a sense of crisis and polarization in the NATO member state. Read more “Bombings Heighten Sense of Crisis in Turkey”

Denmark’s Election Result Reflects European Trend

Copenhagen Denmark
Skyline of Copenhagen, Denmark (iStock/Spooh)

The results from last week’s Danish elections were in some ways emblematic of a European trend: parties that clearly appealed to the “winners” and “losers” of globalization won while almost all the others lost.

Denmark bucked the trend in one way: the ruling Social Democrats did not lose seats. They gained two. But it was not enough to keep Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and her left-wing coalition in power.

For months, polls had shown the Social Democrats bleeding support to the far left as well as the nationalist Danish People’s Party. A well-run campaign staved off defeat, but only because Thorning-Schmidt effectively cannibalized her coalition partners. Both the Radikale Venstre and the far-left Socialists — who left the government a year early — lost more than half their seats each. Read more “Denmark’s Election Result Reflects European Trend”

Erdoğan Victory Reinforces Turkey’s Islamization

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is almost certain to win his country’s first direct presidential election on Sunday.

A victory for Erdoğan, who has ruled Turkey for more than a decade, would likely reinforce the NATO member state’s Islamization and exasperate opponents who have proven unable to thwart what they perceive as a drift toward authoritarianism. Read more “Erdoğan Victory Reinforces Turkey’s Islamization”

It’s Not Just Republicans Who Have Abandoned the Center

America’s Republicans are typically believed to have moved to the right in recent years, resisting any tax increases and liberal social policies, from gay marriage to immigration reform. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary election defeat to a more reactionary opponent this week seemed to confirm the theory. Cantor warmed up to immigration reform and was promptly voted out by his constituents.

In this view, President Barack Obama’s Democrats are the only pragmatic and “responsible” party left in Washington. That makes this a very attractive theory for leftists. If Republicans are “far right,” they are centrists by default and can claim to represent Middle America.

The problem with this theory is that Democrats have become just as intransigent as Republicans. Read more “It’s Not Just Republicans Who Have Abandoned the Center”

Britain’s Economic Divide Could Yet Be Mended

Since the recession hit in 2008, Britain’s north-side divide has become a “chasm,” with the split growing at its fastest rate since the Second World War.

The divide does not stop at politics. It transcends through living standards, education and economics.

Take, for instance, the news that for this year’s round of university admissions, more Cambridge and Oxford applications were accepted from Surrey than the whole of North East England and Wales combined. One home county had more students sent to the two most prestigious universities in the United Kingdom than a region and constituent country together.

Not all students who attend the two universities are from the most affluent parts of the south of England but if things continue as they are, the only accent you will ever hear on the Cambridge and Oxford quads will be that generic southeastern brogue with no lilting Welsh or friendly Yorkshire. Read more “Britain’s Economic Divide Could Yet Be Mended”

Turkey Doesn’t Need More Democracy

Istanbul Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey at dawn, November 11, 2012 (Brendan Corey Benson)

Critics of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government rightly point out that his ruling Islamist party seems under the impression that democracy means calling an election every four years. This narrow definition of democracy is not unique to Turkey and the solution probably isn’t democratization in a political sense.

Secular dissatisfaction with Erdoğan’s supposedly “authoritarian” governing style and a perceived slide into Islamism through his ten years in office had long shimmered in Turkey but came to the forefront in Istanbul earlier this month when a protest against plans to build a shopping mall in one of the last remaining green spaces in the heart of the city sparked nationwide unrest.

Erdoğan seemed unimpressed. “We’ve been patient for far too long,” he lamented on Sunday. In a speech to lawmakers on Tuesday, he called on the demonstrators to leave. “It’s over,” he said. “As of now we have no tolerance for them.”

Hours later, riot police deployed tear gas and water cannons against the remaining protesters in Istanbul. Read more “Turkey Doesn’t Need More Democracy”

German Ideological Revival Polarizes Western Politics

“Now Europe speaks German,” declared Volker Kauder, a member of Germany’s ruling conservative party, in late 2011. Despite the scolding he earned for his remarks, he was only slightly off. Not only Europe, indeed the world speaks increasingly with a German voice. Not literally, of course, but philosophically. German ideas are emerging as powerful forces all around the globe, ringing the bell for the end of the Anglo-Saxon moment in history.

Critics and defenders of contemporary capitalism in the United States both speak the language of German history. Those who seek to emulate the European welfare state regularly invoke the German model while those who condemn these leftist ideas emphasize the necessity of self-reliance and labor as the fundamental glue of society and the indispensable source of individual dignity.

The irony of this debate is that while the former claim to be ideological descendants of Karl Marx, it is the latter who use his arguments in the truest sense. For Marx, labor was the essence of human existence. Men could only be men through work which enabled him to interact with nature and create a world according to his imagination. Read more “German Ideological Revival Polarizes Western Politics”

Democratic, Republican Parties Both More Extreme

Democrats believe that Mitt Romney’s troubled presidential campaign is at least in part to blame on his struggle with his own party. The pragmatic former governor of Massachusetts would be hard pressed to persuade right-wing voters that he is conservative as they are.

To an extent, that is true. Romney is less ideologically and perhaps more instinctively conservative than many Republicans. He seems incapable of making the philosophical argument for limited government. But Romney’s problem is only part of a bigger and more radical shift in American politics. Read more “Democratic, Republican Parties Both More Extreme”