Connect with us

Politics

Battleground power plays rage as everyday politics go quiet – CityNews Vancouver

Published

 on


DES MOINES, Iowa — Door-knocking? Over.

Local party activity? Some Facebook traffic, if that.

Across an arc of vital swing states, the coronavirus has put politics on an uneasy pause.

Instead, political fights among state leaders from Iowa to Pennsylvania over the handling of the pandemic’s impact are raging as it spreads over this electoral heartland.

Protecting public health versus restarting the economy, along with arguments over the limits of executive authority, have taken the place of the national political debate typical of presidential campaigns at this point.

They reflect, unlike the political armistice that followed the 2001 terrorist attacks, a willingness to politicize this crisis. It’s one more clear measure of a polarized era.

“Yes, politicos and pols will always have November on their mind,” said Iowa GOP strategist John Stineman. “But, in my mind, what we are seeing right now is more about each base criticizing the other side for being wrong, a product of the political environment we have allowed to take root.”

Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Democratic nominees had won regularly for more than 30 years, tipped to Trump in 2016, sealing his victory with their combined 52 electoral votes.

While politics have slipped to an afterthought for most Americans behind a toll of mounting coronavirus deaths, lost wages and closed schools, the campaign buzz of a little more than a month ago has silenced.

In swing-voting Bay County, Michigan, Democratic activity had been humming, as it was statewide before the March 10 presidential primary when participation jumped by 32% over 2016.

A week later, Bay City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade — the state’s largest and a Democratic tradition — was cancelled. So was the county’s Democratic fundraising dinner, to feature Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“I see chatter on social media. But as far as activity, it’s pretty much down to nothing,” said Bay County Democratic Chairwoman Karen Tighe.

Iowa cancelled Democratic conventions in its 99 counties, a setback after 2018 Statehouse and congressional gains and a yearlong parade of presidential candidates vying for support in the February caucuses.

Republican Ron Forsell cancelled plans for his fundraiser in Dallas County, Iowa, an emerging suburban battlefront.

“Politics is going to be there again,” he said. “But raising money now just doesn’t feel right.”

Democratic organizer Angela Lang’s door-to-door canvassing in struggling north Milwaukee had to shut down in late March, hurting her ability to reach this pivotal African American bloc before Wisconsin’s April 7 primary.

“I think for most Americans, politics is taking a major back seat to survival for some, and the adjustment to this new normal for most of us,” said former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat.

Even as the virus raged in Pennsylvania, Republicans in Harrisburg pushed through legislation aimed at reversing the shutdown edicts of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, painting him as unconcerned with struggling families.

During debate Thursday, Republican state Sen. John DiSanto said Wolf had forced “1.3 million Pennsylvanians out of work so far, put businesses at risk of permanent closure and imperiled the long-term health of Pennsylvania residents and our economy.”

Democrats countered that Republicans were trying to throw workers back into the pandemic’s path.

“Let the world know whose lives are we willing to sacrifice,” Democratic Rep. Jordan Harris of Philadelphia said a day earlier.

In Iowa, Democratic State Auditor Rob Sand has questioned the data Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is using to justify allowing more freedom of movement than in neighbouring states. Reynolds’ aides were quick to point out public affirmation from Dr. Anthony Fauci after the federal government’s top infectious disease expert praised Reynolds’ actions during a White House event this month.

The tension is most pronounced in Michigan, where the outbreak is far worse than in any of the other northern political battlegrounds.

Republicans last week sharply trimmed the emergency order Whitmer hoped to extend to June, before she struck back with a sweeping disaster declaration.

“Michigan’s recovery will take much longer and its economic impact will be much more devastating than it needed to be,” Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield said.

Democrats accused Republicans of racial bias for floating plans to open regions outside the predominantly African American Detroit area.

“It’s an us-versus-them thing with the rest of the state versus Detroit,” said Amy Chapman, an informal Whitmer adviser. “That’s another dog whistle of sorts.”

More than 1,700 people had died in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, the heart of metro Detroit, as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Whitmer’s criticism of the federal response in Michigan devolved into a public tiff with President Donald Trump, who responded by suggesting Vice-President Mike Pence, his coronavirus task force leader, not call “the woman from Michigan.” Michigan Democrats echoed Whitmer’s criticism of the federal response to Detroit’s crisis, while GOP figures urged Trump to deescalate tension with the swing-state governor.

Meanwhile, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has built little campaign structure across the region. Trump is relying on state GOP headquarters for his operations, though they too have been largely empty.

Pro- and anti-Trump groups unaffiliated with the candidates have carried what little presidential campaigning has gone on here. Democrat-backed groups Priorities USA and American Bridge have aired millions of dollars in advertising savaging Trump’s handling of the crisis.

“Only the die-hards are paying attention to election politics,” Vilsack said. “However, opinions have formed and will continue to form on politics of how the administration is handling the situation.”

___

Associated Press writers Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

Thomas Beaumont, The Associated Press

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Politics

EU prepares new round of Belarus sanctions from June

Published

 on

The European Union is readying a fourth round of sanctions against senior Belarus officials in response to last year’s contested presidential election and could target as many as 50 people from June, four diplomats said.

Along with the United States, Britain and Canada, the EU has already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on almost 90 officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, following an August election which opponents and the West say was rigged.

Despite a months-long crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by Lukashenko, the EU’s response has been narrower than during a previous period of sanctions between 2004 and 2015, when more than 200 people were blacklisted.

The crisis has pushed 66-year-old Lukashenko back towards traditional ally Russia, which along with Ukraine and NATO member states Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, borders Belarus.

Some Western diplomats say Moscow regards Belarus as a buffer zone against NATO and has propped up Lukashenko with loans and an offer of military support.

Poland and Lithuania, where opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya fled to after the election she says she won, have led the push for more sanctions amid frustration that the measures imposed so far have had little effect.

EU foreign ministers discussed Belarus on Monday and diplomats said many more of the bloc’s 27 members now supported further sanctions, but that Brussels needed to gather sufficient evidence to provide legally solid listings.

“We are working on the next sanctions package, which I hope will be adopted in the coming weeks,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting.

The EU has sought to promote democracy and develop a market economy in Belarus, but, along with the United States, alleges that Lukashenko has remained in power by holding fraudulent elections, jailing opponents and muzzling the media.

Lukashenko, who along with Russia says the West is meddling in Belarus’ internal affairs, has sought to deflect the condemnation by imposing countersanctions on the EU and banning some EU officials from entering the country.

“The fourth package (of sanctions) is likely to come in groups (of individuals), but it will be a sizeable package,” one EU diplomat told Reuters.

More details were not immediately available.

 

(Reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels, additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin, editing by Alexander Smith)

Continue Reading

Politics

Belarusian President signs decree to amend emergency transfer of power

Published

 on

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed a decree allowing the transfer of presidential power to the security council if he is murdered or otherwise unable to perform his duties, state Belta news agency reported on Saturday.

Lukashenko said in April he was planning to change the way power in Belarus is set up.

Previously, if the president’s position became vacant, or he was unable to fulfil his duties, power would be transferred to the prime minister until a new president took oath.

 

(Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Continue Reading

Politics

Scottish nationalists vow independence vote after election win

Published

 on

By Russell Cheyne

GLASGOW, Scotland (Reuters) -Pro-independence parties won a majority in Scotland’s parliament on Saturday, paving the way to a high-stakes political, legal and constitutional battle with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the future of the United Kingdom.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the result meant she would push ahead with plans for a second independence referendum once the COVID-19 pandemic was over, adding that it would be absurd and outrageous if Johnson were to try to ignore the democratic will of the people.

“There is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson, or indeed for anyone else, seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our own future,” Sturgeon said.

“It is the will of the country,” she added after her Scottish National Party (SNP) was returned for a fourth consecutive term in office.

The British government argues Johnson must give approval for any referendum and he has repeatedly made clear he would refuse. He has said it would be irresponsible to hold one now, pointing out that Scots had backed staying in the United Kingdom in a “once in a generation” poll in 2014.

The election outcome is likely to be a bitter clash between the Scottish government in Edinburgh and Johnson’s United Kingdom-wide administration in London, with Scotland’s 314-year union with England and Wales at stake.

The nationalists argue that they have democratic authority on their side; the British government say the law is with them. It is likely the final decision on a referendum will be settled in the courts.

‘IRRESPONSIBLE AND RECKLESS’

“I think a referendum in the current context is irresponsible and reckless,” Johnson told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Alister Jack, the UK government’s Scotland minister, said dealing with the coronavirus crisis and the vaccine rollout should be the priority.

“We must not allow ourselves to be distracted – COVID recovery must be the sole priority of Scotland’s two governments,” he said.

The SNP had been hopeful of winning an outright majority which would have strengthened their call for a secession vote but they looked set to fall one seat short of the 65 required in the 129-seat Scottish parliament, partly because of an electoral system that helps smaller parties.

Pro-union supporters argue that the SNP’s failure to get a majority has made it easier for Johnson to rebut their argument that they have a mandate for a referendum.

However, the Scottish Greens, who have promised to support a referendum, picked up eight seats, meaning overall there will be a comfortable pro-independence majority in the Scottish assembly.

Scottish politics has been diverging from other parts of the United Kingdom for some time, but Scots remain divided over holding another independence plebiscite.

However, Britain’s exit from the European Union – opposed by a majority of Scots – as well as a perception that Sturgeon’s government has handled the COVID-19 crisis well, along with antipathy to Johnson’s Conservative government in London, have all bolstered support for the independence movement.

Scots voted by 55%-45% in 2014 to remain part of the United Kingdom, and polls suggest a second referendum would be too close to call.

Sturgeon said her first task was dealing with the pandemic and the SNP has indicated that a referendum is unlikely until 2023. But she said any legal challenge by Johnson’s government to a vote would show a total disregard for Scottish democracy.

“The absurdity and outrageous nature of a Westminster government potentially going to court to overturn Scottish democracy, I can’t think of a more colourful argument for Scottish independence than that myself,” she said.

(Writing by Michael Holden and Andrew MacAskill;Editing by Gareth Jones, Helen Popper, Christina Fincher and Giles Elgood)

Continue Reading

Trending