The Sources of Populist Rage — And What To Do About It

Yellow Vests protest in Avignon, France, December 1
Yellow Vests protest in Avignon, France, December 1 (Sébastien Huette)

Add France to populism’s list of victims.

A year ago, Emmanuel Macron’s election victory was hailed as a setback for the transatlantic reactionary movement that began with Brexit and has since led to Donald Trump in America, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and an anti-EU government in Italy.

The outbreak of nationwide anti-tax protests, which quickly morphed into an anti-government movement, makes clear the same forces that gave us Brexit and Trump live in France.

The consequences could be calamitous. Read more

Give Superdelegates More, Not Less, Power

Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016
Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016 (DNCC/Chris Frommann)

California, Illinois, New York and Texas have 30 percent of the American population between them. Yet because they are late in the primary calendar, they have almost no say in the selection of presidential candidates.

Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have only 3 percent of the population, yet because they are first in line to vote they have disproportionate power in the process. If a candidate fails to win at least one of the first three primary states, he or she usually drops out.

How is that democratic? Read more

Now the Battle for the Democratic Party Begins

Voters listen to a speech by Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016
Voters listen to a speech by Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016 (Hillary for America/Alyssa S.)

Up until now, I think rumors of a Democratic civil war have been exaggerated. Democrats have wisely nominated center-left candidates, like Ralph Northam, in Republican-leaning territory, such as Virginia, and progressive candidates, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in safe Democratic districts, for example in New York.

But as Democrats will need to coalesce around a single candidate for the 2020 presidential election next, the battle between the center and left could burst out into the open. Read more

Four Alternatives for America

Flags of the United States in Washington DC, February 17, 2015
Flags of the United States in Washington DC, February 17, 2015 (Matt Popovich)

Political violence is rising in America. A man has been arrested for mailing over a dozen pipe bombs to prominent liberal figures and CNN. Hate crimes are up since 2016. The country is sharply divided between Democrats and Republicans. With the midterm elections likely to produce divided government, tension could continue to mount.

It is starting to look like the political system that has existed in America since 1789 is no longer tenable. American political culture has become too divided, Americans’ priorities are too conflicted, and the system is unable to satisfy anyone or get things done.

What are the alternatives? Read more

Donald Trump’s Strategy of Tension

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Matthew Yglesias argues in Vox that there is method to the right-wing madness in the United States.

The violence, and threats of violence, are the result of a Republican strategy, he argues, to foster a political debate that is centered on divisive questions of personal identity rather than on potentially unifying themes of material advancement.

The downside of this strategy is that it pushes American society to the breaking point. The upside for Republicans is that it facilitates policies that serve the interests of their wealthiest supporters. Read more

The Remarkable Thing About Europe Is Not That It Has Problems

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016
The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016 (European Parliament)

I’m used to American and British commentators dismissing the EU, but when even a Harvard professor misses the point it warrants a rebuttal.

Imagining a post-American world, Stephen M. Walt doesn’t see Europe playing much of a role. He argues in Foreign Policy that the EU project is deeply troubled.

  • The outcome of the Brexit process is uncertain.
  • Economic growth on the continent is uneven.
  • Extremist parties are flourishing in several countries.
  • The refugee issue, which has convulsed domestic politics throughout Europe, is not going away.

His bottom line:

The EU has become too large and heterogeneous to make rapid and bold decisions, and it faces opposition from illiberal and xenophobic elements within.

Read more

Kavanaugh Nomination Erodes Supreme Court’s Legitimacy

Building of the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC, June 12, 2014
Building of the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC, June 12, 2014 (Wikimedia Commons/Laura Choate)

Republicans’ determination to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court marks an escalation of the politicization of the judiciary in the United States.

Kavanaugh faces unanimous opposition from Democrats due to allegations of sexual assault, his extreme views on presidential power (Kavanaugh does not believe a sitting president can be indicted or tried) and his partisanship. Read more