Democracy Must Be Resistant to the Coronavirus

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

In a crisis, calls to do something, quickly, can be hard to resist. Politicians must still try.

On both sides of the Atlantic, governments are planning some of the largest peacetime interventions in the private economy to cope with the outbreak of coronavirus disease.

  • Familiar battle lines have been drawn in Europe, where conservative northern countries, led by Germany and the Netherlands, hesitate to free up EU funds for the crisis.
  • The roles are reversed in America, where once fiscally prudent Republicans are trying to rush through a stimulus twice the size of Barack Obama’s, and Democrats, who traditionally support a larger role for government, are stepping on the brakes.

The stallers are not unreasonable. We can take a few days to debate how to spend trillions of euros and dollars. Read more “Democracy Must Be Resistant to the Coronavirus”

Time for Sanders’ Opponents to Put Their Heads Together

Bernie Sanders
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders gives a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, January 9, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

After the New Hampshire primary, I argued it was too soon for center-left Democrats to panic about a possible Bernie Sanders nomination. Now that it looks like the self-described socialist will walk away with at least half of Nevada’s delegates, it’s time for his opponents to worry.

Unlike Republicans, Democrats don’t award their delegates to whoever receives the most votes in a given state. So there is little risk of Sanders winning a majority of the delegates to the national convention in July against two or three opponents, like Donald Trump was able to prevail with 45 percent support against Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio in 2016.

However, if more candidates split the anti-Sanders vote, each would struggle to meet the 15 percent support required to qualify for delegates. Under those circumstances, Sanders could win a majority. Read more “Time for Sanders’ Opponents to Put Their Heads Together”

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”

Dutch Parties Haven’t Lost Popularity in Pollution Crisis

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte makes a speech in parliament in The Hague, November 13, 2012 (Rijksoverheid)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte appears to be weathering what he describes as the worst political crisis of his nine years in power.

Rutte’s four-party government has seen protests by builders and farmers against far-reaching plans to reduce nitrogen oxide pollution.

Now motorists are angry too. To cut emissions, the coalition has agreed to lower the daytime speed limit on Dutch highways from 130 to 100 kilometers per hour. The measure is hugely unpopular in Rutte’s car-friendly liberal party.

Yet it remains faraway the largest in the polls and hasn’t lost support since the pollution crisis began. Read more “Dutch Parties Haven’t Lost Popularity in Pollution Crisis”

Spain Better Get Used to Multiparty Democracy

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez greets Albert Rivera, leader of the Citizens party, outside his residence in Madrid, October 16
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez greets Albert Rivera, leader of the Citizens party, outside his residence in Madrid, October 16 (La Moncloa)

With no party or bloc winning a majority in Spain’s Congress on Sunday, the country’s politicians need to finally come to grips with coalition politics.

The center-left Socialists and center-right People’s Party are used to alternating in power. They split 80 percent of the votes as recently as 2011. But Spain hasn’t been a two-party system since 2015, when Podemos (“We Can”) on the far left and the Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) on the center-right took one out of three votes between them.

This pattern has now been confirmed in four elections in as many years and still the old parties continue as though nothing has changed. Read more “Spain Better Get Used to Multiparty Democracy”

Romney-to-Clinton Voters Prefer Biden

Joe Biden
Former American vice president Joe Biden campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa, August 8 (Gage Skidmore)

In the six states that could decide the outcome of the 2020 election in America, Joe Biden outpolls his Democratic rivals, in particular among minority voters and white voters with a college degree.

The New York Times reports that middle-income voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin prefer the relatively centrist former vice president over the more left-wing Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The head-to-head figures against Donald Trump are mostly within the margin of error and probably not predictive a year out from the election.

But they do give Democratic primary voters vital information as they make up their minds about whom to nominate. Read more “Romney-to-Clinton Voters Prefer Biden”

Portugal’s Costa Cruising to Victory on Back of Strong Economy

Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal meets with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in Berlin, February 5, 2016
Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal meets with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in Berlin, February 5, 2016 (Bundesregierung)

Portugal’s António Costa is almost certain to win reelection on Sunday. Polls give his Socialist Party in the range of 37 percent support against 26-28 percent for the center-right Social Democrats.

Costa won’t have enough for an absolute majority, but he is expected to continue to govern with the support of the far left. Read more “Portugal’s Costa Cruising to Victory on Back of Strong Economy”

Happy Little Country

View of the Netherlands from the air
View of the Netherlands from the air (Skitterphoto)

The Dutch are happier than ever. Austerity is over. The immigration crisis has receded from the headlines. The government this week announced €3 billion in tax cuts and is planning a long-term investment fund worth up to €50 billion. Support for anti-establishment parties is down. Just 16 percent want to leave the EU anymore. Read more “Happy Little Country”

Democrats Are Closer to the Center Than Republicans

Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010
Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010 (Jerome Vial)

In a recent column, I argued Democrats in the United States have moved to the left but Republicans have moved farther to the right. The former, at least in their policies, are still more centrist than most center-left parties in Europe while the latter now have more in common with far-right populists than they do with Britain’s Conservative Party and Germany’s Christian Democrats.

Centrists (myself included) still worry that Democrats might become too left-wing for voters in the middle — who, the turnout fantasies of partisans on either side notwithstanding, tend to decide the outcome of national elections. Read more “Democrats Are Closer to the Center Than Republicans”