Standing Up to Cancel Culture

Empire State Building New York
The Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York (Unsplash/Gaurav Pikale)

You wait for three years for the center-left and center-right to make common cause against the extremists on either side and in the course of a week it all happens at once:

  • Yascha Mounk has created a community and newsletter in defense of liberal democracy called Persuasion, which includes left-wing thinkers, such as Sheri Berman and Thomas Chatterton Williams, as well as Never-Trump conservatives Jonathan Haidt, David French and David Frum.
  • Seventeen academics have started the blog Radical Classical Liberals.
  • The Neoliberal Project has launched the Center for New Liberalism, a center-left think tank and pressure group.
  • The conservative Lincoln Project is putting out the most effective ads against Donald Trump.
  • 153 intellectuals of the left and right, including Anne Applebaum, Margaret Atwood, David Brooks, Ian Buruma, Noam Chomsky, Richard T. Ford, David Frum, Francis Fukuyama, Jonathan Haidt, Michael Ignatieff, Garry Kasparov, Mark Lilla, Yascha Mounk, Jonathan Rauch, J.K. Rowling, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Gloria Steinem, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Matthew Yglesias and Fareed Zakaria, have signed “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” warning that cancel culture is getting out of hand and stifling free debate. Read more “Standing Up to Cancel Culture”

Center-Left and Center-Right Need to Team Up Against Extremists

Washington Monument
View of the Washington Monument from the General Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington DC, July 3, 2018 (DoD/Reese Brown)

John F. Harris argues in Politico that the center-right anti-Trump movement could outlive the president and make common cause with the center-left.

Both oppose efforts to stifle free thinking and the bullying of those who dissent from ideological or racial orthodoxy, he writes.

James Bennet was recently fired as opinion editor of The New York Times for publishing an incendiary op-ed by Republican senator Tom Cotton. A Boeing spokesman resigned over an article he wrote 33 years ago, as a young Navy lieutenant, in which he argued against women in combat. There are countless other examples of Americans losing their jobs for holding the “wrong” opinion or for merely giving a platform to the wrong opinion.

“If we lived under some fickle absolutist king, who arbitrarily decided what was offensive, outrageous or even criminal, we’d all recognize the illiberalism of it,” Jonah Goldberg writes in his newsletter. “But when a mob arbitrarily rules the same way, we call it social justice.”

The pro-Trump right loves to hate on left-wing cancel culture, yet they have purged many Trump critics from conservative media, organizations and think tanks. Under the guise of free speech, Trump wants the federal government, not social-media companies, to decide what the likes of Facebook and Twitter can publish. So much for free enterprise. (And have Republicans considered what a Democratic administration might do with such power?)

Traditional conservatives and liberals also share an interest in propping up institutions, which the Bernie Sanders left and the Trump right agree are beyond repair. The far left wants to abolish the Electoral College, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and in some cases the police. The far right wants to uproot the media, universities and the Washington “deep state”. The center-left and center-right argue for reform.

Harris wonders if the alliance will endure beyond the election:

Once Trump leaves, so too will the incentives that drove liberals and conservatives together in opposition.

But defeating Trump in November will not necessarily defeat the authoritarian right. Read more “Center-Left and Center-Right Need to Team Up Against Extremists”

Left-Wing Criticism of Macron Isn’t Grounded in Reality

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron chats with a guard at the Elysée Palace in Paris, December 19, 2017 (Elysée/Ghislain Mariette)

Seventeen left-wing lawmakers have quit President Emmanuel Macron’s party in France and started their own group, called Ecology, Democracy and Solidarity.

The defections have deprived Macron of his absolute majority in the National Assembly. His La République En Marche is down to 288 out of 577 seats, although it still has the support of the centrist Democratic Movement (46 seats) and the center-right Agir (9).

The defectors accuse Macron of shifting to the right and neglecting income inequality and climate change.

That has more to do with perception than reality. Read more “Left-Wing Criticism of Macron Isn’t Grounded in Reality”

Democracy Must Be Resistant to the Coronavirus

Washington DC
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 Support in Pollution Crisis

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte attends the state opening of parliament in The Hague, September 18, 2018 (Ministerie van Financiën/Valerie Kuypers)

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 lowered 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 Support 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”