America Needs a de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle
French president Charles de Gaulle gives a speech in Montréal, Canada, July 24, 1967 (Archives de Montréal)

Charles de Gaulle’s great achievement, to paraphrase his British biographer, Julian Jackson, was that he reconciled the French left to patriotism and the French right to democracy.

The history of France since 1789 has been a constant struggle between a universalist left and the conservative right; between republic and monarchy; the Enlightenment and Catholicism; labor and capital; Paris and La France profonde.

History hasn’t ended. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen embody opposite visions of France today. But de Gaulle narrowed the divide and helped Frenchmen and -women think of each other as opponents rather than enemies.

That America could use a whiff of Gaullism isn’t my idea. Ross Douthat, the conservative columnist of The New York Times, called for an American de Gaulle two years ago.

I suspect he envisaged an authority figure on the right. Instead we have Joe Biden. Can he play the same role? Read more “America Needs a de Gaulle”

There’s Only So Much Race Can Tell Us

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

American journalists continue to parse the November electorate, specifically the Latino vote.

Matthew Yglesias, formerly of Vox, has a good newsletter about Donald Trump’s gains with Latino voters in which he links to Harry Enten’s analysis for CNN. It turns out Trump didn’t appeal to just Latinos of Cuban, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan descent, who may have been alarmed by Democratic flirtations with socialism given the experience in their home countries; he did better with Latinos of all backgrounds compared to four years ago.

This is fascinating to political junkies like us, but having just moved back to the Netherlands, where the campaign for the general election in March is slowly getting underway, I’m reminded that this sort of demographic analysis is almost entirely absent in Europe. Read more “There’s Only So Much Race Can Tell Us”

Race Is a Poor Predictor of How Americans Will Vote

Miami Florida
The skyline of Miami, Florida (Unsplash/Ryan Parker)

For years, it looked like Republicans were becoming the party of white, left-behind America and Democrats the party of upper-class whites and racial minorities.

Tuesday’s election hasn’t upended that narrative, but it has put a dent in it.

If you had to pick one characteristic to predict party affiliation, it would be education. The better educated Americans are, the more likely they are to vote Democratic.

Gender is another fair predictor. Women historically vote more Democratic than men. But relatively fewer men voted for Trump this year than in 2016, according to exit polls. Read more “Race Is a Poor Predictor of How Americans Will Vote”

One Clear Verdict from 2020 is That Trumpism Is Here to Stay

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump arrives in Greenville, South Carolina, October 15 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Former vice president Joe Biden could still win America’s presidential election, but Donald Trump’s performance in the wake of a deadly pandemic, hugely negative polls and a mainstream media almost universally hostile to him shows that cultural and political elites in the United States keep getting things wrong. Read more “One Clear Verdict from 2020 is That Trumpism Is Here to Stay”

Viktor Orbán’s Authoritarian Playbook

Viktor Orbán
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán arrives for a European Council meeting in Brussels, October 16 (European Council)

For too long has the European Union tolerated the formation of a self-proclaimed “illiberal democracy” in its midst. A recent European Court of Justice ruling underscores that Hungary is not only in beach of the rule of law, but violates the very rights and values on which the EU is founded.

The court ruled earlier this month that restrictions imposed on foreign universities — which forced the George Soros-funded Central European University to relocate from Budapest to Vienna — were “incompatible” with the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, a French member of the European Parliament and its rapporteur on the situation in Hungary, commented that the ruling “should send a warning to Viktor Orbán: that it’s time to step back from the brink of autocracy and reverse the Hungarian government’s undemocratic path.”

Orbán, prime minister since 2010, has come a long way. He started his political career as a liberal anticommunist and ended up the most right-wing, authoritarian government leader in the EU.

If the rest of the bloc is to rein him in, it must first understand how he has been able to gain, and keep, his power.

This is Viktor Orbán’s authoritarian playbook. Read more “Viktor Orbán’s Authoritarian Playbook”

Demographics of the American Election

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

Donald Trump has lost support across demographics since 2016. The president is down with white voters and voters of color; men and women; Catholics and Jews; millennials and boomers.

National polls give the Republican an average of just 42 percent support against 52 percent for Joe Biden.

However, because Democrats cluster in big cities, which are underrepresented in the Electoral College, Biden needs to win by 3 points nationally to have an even chance of winning the election.

Trump’s hope is to keep his losses among four (partially overlapping) constituencies in the states which hold the balance in the Electoral College to a minimum: white voters with and without a college degree, women and Latinos. Read more “Demographics of the American Election”

Why the Left Hasn’t Been More Successful

Frans Timmermans Nicola Zingaretti Pedro Sánchez
Dutch, Italian and Spanish socialist party leaders Frans Timmermans, Nicola Zingaretti and Pedro Sánchez meet in Brussels, March 21, 2019 (PES)

The 2008-09 financial crisis. Climate change. The coronavirus pandemic. Rising inequality in the United States. Stagnant middle wages.

It shouldn’t be difficult for left-wing parties to make the case for bigger government, and yet they are out of power in most Western countries.

Ruy Teixeira, who argued in 2002 that demographic changes would give Democrats in the United States an “emerging majority”, and who later criticized those same Democrats for forgetting about working-class white voters, believes there are five reasons the left has been unable to build durable mass support.

His perspective is American, but the European left has committed some of the same what he calls five “deadly sins”. Read more “Why the Left Hasn’t Been More Successful”

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”

Spain’s Judicialization of Catalan Separatism Has Failed

Quim Torra
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14, 2018 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Successive Spanish governments have treated Catalan separatism as a legal, rather than a political, problem. This has done nothing to weaken support for independence. It has radicalized Catalans.

The dismissal of Catalan president Quim Torra is the latest episode in a decade-long legal drama. Spain’s Supreme Court removed him from office on Monday for hanging a “partisan” banner from the balcony of his government’s medieval palace in the center of Barcelona during the 2019 election.

The banner didn’t express support for a political party, but rather called for the release of the nine separatists who were imprisoned for leading a failed breakaway from Spain in 2017.

Torra’s removal triggers early elections, which polls predict the separatists will win.

He is the second Catalan president in three years to be unseated by the Spanish judiciary. His predecessor, Carles Puigdemont, was ousted after leading the 2017 independence bid. He fled to Belgium to escape prosecution. Read more “Spain’s Judicialization of Catalan Separatism Has Failed”

How Trump Will Try to Steal the Election

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump enters a limousine at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, September 17 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

America could be heading into its worst political crisis since the Civil War.

If, as the polls predict, Joe Biden wins more votes in November but Donald Trump refuses to leave, there is no template for how to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power.

Asked on Wednesday if he would commit to one, the president said, “We’re going to have to see what happens.”

You know that I have been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster. … Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer frankly. There’ll be a continuation.

He also explained why he’s in a rush to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court:

I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.

Ginsburg, a liberal justice appointed by Bill Clinton, died a week ago. The Court now has five conservative and three liberal members.

In 2016, Trump told supporters he would only accept the outcome if he won.

When he did win, Trump claimed — without evidence — that three million people had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton, the very margin by which she won the popular vote. Trump prevailed in the Electoral College.

If Trump loses this year and refuses to concede, that alone could throw the period between the election on November 3 and the inauguration on January 20 into chaos.

But there’s more Trump and his party could do to stay in power. Read more “How Trump Will Try to Steal the Election”