Is there a Democratic Counter-Wave this November?

This November 2018 it seems – paradoxically – that the Democrats have started to push back the Populists in the Western World. Let me bring three examples:

  1. The Polish local elections, run-off on 4 November
    Law and Justice (PiS), the ruling populist, introvert, Eurosceptic party won the local and general elections, but they did not won as much as expected or anticipated. Their own expectations were compromised. Opposition was ecstatic about their – unexpected – performance. The performance saw a massive mobilisation of the urban vote against the Law and Justice candidates. Mayors of the big Polish cities – all of them – have defeated PiS candidates. The biggest town PiS rules has a population of 65,000. This was a manifestation of strength of the educated, open-minded populace. The signal the cities send was a major blow to the ruling party.The Law and Justice has two options. Option no. 1: move to the centre, open up to the urban vote. The party had done such a tactical move in the past; but today the hard-liners seem to control the core of the party. This is why there is the Option no. 2: keep the hard-line direction. The problem with this approach is that PiS has a glass ceiling support: it is virtually impossible for the party to move over 3,5 million supporters with a hard-line approach. In 2015 3.5 million votes produced a small populist miracle: 37% of the vote gave over 50% of the seats in the Sejm. In 2018 3.0 million votes gave the party power in 7 regions (województwo, out of 16), and no city of over 100,000 population. If 3-3.5 million people votes for PiS in 2019 parliamentary elections again, and the turnout is higher by 10% than back in 2015 (it was higher by 8% in 2018, compared with the local elections in 2014), I am afraid/happy Law and Justice is going to either lose power and move to opposition or – form a coalition government.
    The decision is with the party leader alone, Jarosław Kaczyński.
    For now the Polish cities population shown the Law and Justice a yellow card. If the government does not change its policies, a red card can follow 2019.
  2. The US mid-term elections, 6 November
    It has been widely reported, so I will shortly recap: Democrats won with Republicans. They took over the control of the House of Representatives by 232 to 198 (with 5 seats still in competition).
    In the Senate the post-electoral set up is pro-Republican (who control at least 51 mandates), but the 2018 vote was more nuanced. 26 seats held by Democrats or Independents who caucus with the Democratic party were up for grab and only 9 seats held by the Republicans. Against this picture, the Democrats or Independents who caucus with the Democrats won 24 seats, Republicans won 9 seats and two are undecided as I write: Florida most likely will go Republican and Mississippi will decide in a run-off on 27 Nov.
    The Democrats were (1) able to take over the control of the House and (2) maintain their share in the Senate. As far as the Senate is concern, in two and four years the ball will be where the Republicans hold seats: 20 Republican Senate seats and 11 Democratic Senate seats are up for grabs in 2020 and 22 Rep/12 Dem in 2022.

    What will the Democrats do with the new powers?
    First, control Mr Trump. He won’t be curtailed, but the struggle will continue.
    The deep challenge in the US is similar to the Polish case: how to bring back the populist Republican party/Law and Justice into line with the principles of a liberal democracy?

  3. The UK Brexit chaos with the deal (Withdrawal Agreement) published on 14 November
    It seems Britain prepares for the “Hard Brexit” on 29 March 2019, but the chain of events remains largely unknown. As explained before, the majority for the Withdrawal Agreement will be difficult to find. Still, the final deal (political declaration) will be signed only during the special summit on 25 November. Then it will be a subject for ratification. Nobody expects EU to have problems – it got all it wanted from the agreement. Problems may be in the UK.

    (1) If Withdrawal Agreement is voted through the House of Commons we will have an orderly withdrawal on 29 March 2019 and future negotiations on future relationship between the UK and EU, while UK remains a part of the single market, hence yes – is a vassal state to the EU. What is a vassal state? A vassal state is a state which follows rules it did not negotiate. It applies foreign rules. Well, in the EU context it was Britain decided to leave the Union and it wants to keep the cake (access to the single market)? If Britain leaves the Union and wants to keep the goodies, it has to be ready to pay – to become a vassal state. Is this a downgrade of the British position in the world? Sure yes, but this is what the British have voted for. With time, possibly, this notion sinks in and Britain reconsiders and joins the EU to co-decide the rules it lives by.

    (2) If WA is voted down there seems no reason for the Prime Minister to continue her role. She still may cling to power and ask for a prolongation of the negotiations. This way the “Hard Brexit” is avoided. In most likely scenario the European Union would agree to the request – and… what? A new deal would be negotiated? Most likely if there is a prolongation of the deadline for Brexit in the UK we should see either a) early elections, or b) second Brexit vote, or both. In a completely new political climate a new deal can be negotiated from the beginning.

    (3) if WA is voted down and there is no prolongation: Hard Brexit happens, new government is formed, elections are held, shocks to the system takes place (potential shortages of food, medicine, fuel) and battered Britain has to re-interpret itself.

    In all three scenarios all is down to the British society. What the British want. If they still want Brexit, they should get one. Vote the second time and get over with. If they changed their mind, let it be, remain in the EU. This Brexit process has shown all the many benefits of EU membership which were previously rarely or never mentioned. The public is better informed today.

The bottom line is this: the Western societies got used to the age of social media, fake news and populists. There are still major problems that need to be addressed of inequality, personal freedoms in the digital age, digital monopoly, jobs, healthcare, education, mobility, sovereignty, migrations and terrorist threats. The democrats compete for support among each other and with populists. Will they prevail? In recent years the populists were on the rise. They still are in many places – the populists rule in Poland, Hungary, Italy and in the United States, and are present elsewhere. But those two last weeks of November show that the Western democrats are gaining support of a new, wide social coalition of urban, open voters.

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On Brexit 16 Nov 2018

Yesterday the Brexit deal was presented. The draft deal is available here.

Today almost everybody in the UK seems to believe there is no way Prime Minister May will have the agreement agreed to by the House of Representatives. Watch this video Can May Get Her Deal Through Parliament? to seek the answer to the question of the day.

The bottom line is that not only the British society is divided over the issue, but so is the Conservative Party of the UK. There are three approaches to Brexit within the Tories, and PM May’s is only one of three. Most people have heard about Boris Johnson and other hard liners from the European Research Group. The further away from the Union, the better – seems to be what this approach argues. Probably this group not only is against a deal May has negotiated; many of the hard liners are probably in favour of the no-deal Brexit on 29 March 2019.

The second approach is supportive of the deal and PM May. This approach can be summed up this way: we are in a business of negotiating a lose-lose, so we are negotiating not exactly the best of the worlds, but limiting the negative consequences of Brexit. There might be an alternative vague positive universe somewhere down the road (remember Global Britain?), but for the moment the London government is in the business of limiting the outflow of jobs and capital from Britain.

The third group are the Tory supporters of the Second Vote, like the ex-transport minister Jo Johnson. The argument goes: the Brexiters lied in 2016, the nation took a decision misled and today the pros and cons are more clearly visible. Let the nation vote again for only now we can know what the British want.

The problem with this approach is that it is unclear what happens if the current majority would be “for staying” in the EU, because this option will be off the table as of 29 March 2019. If Britain has a Second Vote after 29 March, it is effectively a vote to start accession into the Union. Accession terms today might look very differently than they looked in 1970s. It may well be that Britain would no longer secure its many opt-outs, most visibly, from the Eurozone.

If you divide the cake into three, who gets the biggest piece? And, what if we talk not even the half of a cake, but just under 50%? Here’s the House of Commons membership:

  • Tories, 316 seats – divided over the Withdrawal Agreement (WA)
  • Labour, 257 seats – mostly opposed to the WA
  • Scottish National Party, 35 seats – most likely opposed to the WA
  • LibDems, 12 seats – opposed to the WA
  • DUP, 9 seats – unknown (probably opposed)
  • Others, 11 seats

Clearly if the House was to vote today it would be a negative vote.

The next opening is crystal clear. It is PM May who holds the cards in the process. The alternative to the deal is a no deal Brexit. She will negotiate with partners to obtain a majority vote. As negotiations go, there could be new developments and surprises.

I wish for this miracle to happen: in order to get a “yes” to the deal from the House’s various corners what if PM May made a U-turn on the issue of the Second Vote? What if she was to promise that following the Brexit in March 2019 the “future deal” would actually include a renewed UK’s membership in the EU and for that to happen there would need to be a Second Vote?

 

#Brexit

 

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Tectonic changes in US politics

There are mid-elections coming up in the US this Tuesday. Democrats are expected to take over the control over the House of Representatives, but lose seats in the Senate. This is not, however, focus of my today’s post.

The focus of my post is to detect the tectonic shifts in US elections between 1990 and 2010 as regards how many seats in the House each state has. In the US the seats are reallocated every 10 years, following the census. Last time round the House mandates have been redistributed, again, to reflect the changes in demographics between states. Who is the winner and who is the loser in the process? The biggest “gainers” are Texas (+6 mandates, 1990-2010), Florida (+4) and Georgia (+3), whereas the biggest “losers” are New York (-4 mandates), Ohio (-3) and Pennsylvania (-3).

When I saw this I thought: how strange, the three states that got new mandates have a recent history (2016) of voting Republican in US Presidential elections. Mind you, seats in the House are identical (+2 Senators per state) to the number of electors, who chose the US President. Texas votes for Republican candidates for US Presidency since 1980 every time. Florida is more a flip-flopper and usually goes with the winner, voting for a Republican in 2016, Democrat in 2008 and 2012, Republican in 2004 and 2000. Georgia votes Republicans continuously since 1996. In 2016 all three voted Trump.

New York votes Democrats since 1988 every time, Ohio bets on the winner since 1964 (hence, a flip-flopper) and Pennsylvania is more consistently voting for Democrats, having voted for Trump in 2016 more as an exception than the rule. Between 1992 until 2012 PA state voted for Democratic candidates for Presidency.

Hence the result: three “winners” are 2 Republican states (TX, GA) and a flip-flopper Florida. Three “losers” are 2 Democratic states (NY, PA) and a flip-flopper Ohio.

The conclusion is the following: the tectonic shifts in US demography has been favourable for the Republicans. The only viable strategy in the future for the Democratic party is to take the ball to the states with a growing population: Florida and Georgia is where the focus should be. Texas is the obvious test ground already in 2018: the senatorial clash between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke is an outlook for the future: does the “old” Texas still hold, or the dreams of electing O’Rourke is just a wishful thinking of coastal liberal opinion providers? The answer shall come shortly.

#US #Elections #USElections #MidTerm2018 #USvotes2018 #UnitedStates

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