Sánchez Needs to Show Statesmanship in Catalonia

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018 (La Moncloa)

Demonstrations for Catalan independence have always have been peaceful — until Tuesday, when a sit-in outside the Spanish government delegation in Barcelona led to acts of vandalism and altercations with riot police.

While most separatists, who were protesting the long prison sentences given to their leaders by the Spanish Supreme Court, left around dinner time, some donned masks and threw bottles and firecrackers at police. Later in the evening, trash cans were set on fire and barricades erected on the Passeig de Gràcia, a luxury shopping street. It took until early Wednesday morning to clear the avenue.

The knee-jerk reaction from the Spanish right is to clamp down. Pablo Casado, the leader of the largest right-wing party in Congress, has called on Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a social democrat, to declare an emergency and take command of the Catalan regional police.

That is the worst thing he could do. Tensions are running high. The mossos (troopers) are at least seen as fellow Catalans by most protesters. Send in the National Police or the gendarmerie and the riots are bound to get worse.

Let Sánchez come to Barcelona instead, meet with members of the regional government and start listening to their demands; something he promised to do when he came to power a year ago, but still hasn’t.

This will be seen as weakness in other parts of Spain, where there isn’t a culture of compromise and consensus, but it will signal to Catalans that Madrid is finally taking them seriously. Read more “Sánchez Needs to Show Statesmanship in Catalonia”

How We Talk About Our Opponents Matters

George Bush Dick Cheney
American president George W. Bush speaks with his vice president, Dick Cheney, at the White House in Washington DC, March 3, 2008 (National Archives)

Remember when George W. Bush was a fascist?

When he signed the PATRIOT Act and launched the Iraq War, reasonable left-wing Americans voiced reasonable objections. The far left reached for Hitler.

Republicans dismissed this as over the top, because it was. (And it made it easier for them to dismiss reasonable objections as well.) So when the real thing came along, and this time not only the far left but commentators on the center-right warned that Donald Trump had a lot in common with the worst leaders in European history, many Republican voters once again shrugged.

If anything, it made them support Trump more. As one voter told The Atlantic in 2016:

Give people the impression that you will hate them the same or nearly so for voting Jeb Bush as compared to voting for Trump and where is the motivation to be socially acceptable with Jeb?

The left continues to make this mistake — and so does the right. Read more “How We Talk About Our Opponents Matters”

How to Lose Friends and Influence People

Democratic congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts speaks at an event in Cambridge, September 8, 2018
Democratic congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts speaks at an event in Cambridge, September 8, 2018 (Warren for President)

Social justice warriors can be their own worst enemies.

For the first time, an openly gay man is running for president in America — but queer activists like Greta LaFleur and Dale Peck (whose article was pulled from The New Republic for its obscenity) are still unhappy. Pete Buttigieg is white, married and middle-class, and therefore somehow not gay enough.

The current United States Congress is the most diverse ever, but for Massachusetts congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (one of the Democratic lawmakers President Donald Trump shamefully told to “go back” to their own countries, no matter that she was born in Ohio), this isn’t enough:

We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice. We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice. We don’t need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need queers that don’t want to be a queer voice.

If you thought the point of equality and liberation was that gender, sexual orientation and skin color would one day no longer matter, well, you’re just blind to your own oppression or an Uncle Tom for the patriarchy, heteronormativity, white supremacy — pick your poison. Read more “How to Lose Friends and Influence People”

Italy Is Failing Its Next Generation

View of the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Italy, November 24, 2009
View of the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Italy, November 24, 2009 (Bjørn Giesenbauer)

Italy is creating a lost generation.

Consider the following statistics, some taken from the Financial Times:

  • 30 percent of Italians between the ages of 15 and 24 are out of work, more or less the same rate as in Spain but almost double the eurozone average.
  • Of those in work, the majority are on temporary contracts.
  • Nearly eight out of ten young Italians are in part-time work and unable to find full-time employment, the highest rate by far among large European economies. In France and Spain, it’s about 50 percent.
  • Italy spends far less on tertiary education that its neighbors. The result: only 27 percent of Italians in their thirties have a university degree, the second-lowest rate in the EU, where the average is 40 percent. Italy does especially poorly in educating migrants: just 13 percent of its foreign-born population has completed university against 36 percent in the EU as a whole.
  • Average real incomes are roughly at the level they were in 1995. In France, Germany and Spain, they have grown about 25 percent.
  • 3.2 percent of working-age Italians now live elsewhere in the EU, up from 2.4 percent in 2008. Read more “Italy Is Failing Its Next Generation”

Conservatives Put Party Before Country. They’ve Harmed Both

Center-right leaders in Britain, Spain and the United States have put the interests of their parties ahead of the good of their countries. Both their parties and their countries have suffered as a result. Read more “Conservatives Put Party Before Country. They’ve Harmed Both”

Republicans Now Have More in Common with the European Far Right

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

Expect plenty of coverage between now and the 2020 election about how Democrats in the United States have moved to the left.

This isn’t wrong. On everything from health care to transgender rights, Democrats have become more left-wing.

But they’re still more centrist than most center-left parties in Europe while Republicans have moved so far to the right that they now have more in common with Austria’s Freedom Party and the Alternative for Germany than they do with Britain’s Conservative Party and Germany’s Christian Democrats. Read more “Republicans Now Have More in Common with the European Far Right”

Spain’s Moment in the Sun

Madrid Spain
The sun rises in Madrid, Spain, June 14, 2011 (Wendy Rauw)

Spain is moving up in Europe.

Italy’s decline and Britain’s imminent exit from the EU have raised its profile by default.

Miguel Otero-Iglesias and Ignacio Molina, both political scientists, write for Politico that Madrid has an opportunity to shape the EU’s agenda for the next five years.

In Pedro Sánchez, Spain has a prime minister who wants to seize that opportunity. His conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, focused more on domestic affairs.

Sánchez’ being the most successful social democratic party in Europe gives him additional leverage. Germany’s Angela Merkel effectively leads the conservative and still-dominant European People’s Party. France’s Emmanuel Macron has allied with the liberals. For the sake of geographical as well as political balance, Sánchez is the logical third person at the table. Read more “Spain’s Moment in the Sun”

What Can Danes Teach Europe’s Social Democrats?

Danish Social Democratic Party leader Mette Frederiksen gives a speech in Allinge-Sandvig on the island of Bornholm, June 16, 2017
Danish Social Democratic Party leader Mette Frederiksen gives a speech in Allinge-Sandvig on the island of Bornholm, June 16, 2017 (News Øresund/Sofie Paisley)

The victory of Denmark’s Social Democrats in the election on Wednesday would some seem to vindicate leader Mette Frederiksen’s lurch to the right. She hardened her party’s policy on immigration and supported such far-right proposals as a ban on prayer rooms in schools and universities.

A closer look at the campaign she ran, as well as the election result, reveals a more nuanced picture. Read more “What Can Danes Teach Europe’s Social Democrats?”

Far Right Fills Gaps Left by Merkel and Rutte

German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in Berlin, May 16
German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in Berlin, May 16 (Bundesregierung)

Mark Rutte has suffered the same fate as his closest ally in Europe, Angela Merkel. Both center-right leaders moved to the middle in a bid for centrist voters only to leave a gap on the right that the far right has filled.

In midterm elections on Wednesday, the Dutch Freedom Party and Forum for Democracy won a combined 21 percent of the votes, their best result to date.

In Germany, support for the Alternative is down a few points in the polls but still at 11-14 percent. Merkel’s Christian Democrats fell from 41.5 to 33 percent between the 2013 and 2017 elections. Read more “Far Right Fills Gaps Left by Merkel and Rutte”