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Four things to watch in US politics in 2021 – Al Jazeera English

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After a year of innumerable twists and turns in US politics, 2021 is shaping up to be a year of significant change.

President Donald Trump will exit the White House on January 20 and leave behind a Republican Party searching for a way forward with or without him as the centre of attention.

President-elect Joe Biden will re-enter a Washington political scene that he hopes to tame after years of intense polarization and will be confronted not only by resistance from Republicans but from within his own party as well.

Here are four things to watch as a new year in US politics commences:

Biden’s first 100 days

As with any new presidential administration, all the focus will be on what is accomplished in the first 100 days – an arbitrary measure, to be sure, but one that politicians use to set an agenda, and one that pundits use to gauge a new president’s initial governance.

Biden has laid out an ambitious plan, mostly as a reaction to Trump’s policies as president, but particularly to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The president-elect said that he will ask Americans to wear masks after he is sworn in as president on January 20. “Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days,” he told CNN on December 3. A few days later, Biden vowed that he and his health team will get “at least 100 million COVID vaccine shots into the arms of the American people in the first 100 days” and “will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.”

Biden has also said he would rejoin the World Health Organization. Trump withdrew from it in June.

On foreign policy, Biden has repeatedly signaled that Trump’s “America First” philosophy will be a thing of the past and has promised to rebuild alliances he argues suffered under Trump.

Biden has promised to rejoin the Paris climate agreement on his first day as president. Trump left that accord in 2017. The new president is also expected to undo many of Trump’s executive actions on the environment, as well as on immigration.

“On day one I’ll end Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim Ban”, Biden told a Muslim advocacy group  in October. Also on the list of expected immigration-related reversals: ending the emergency declaration diverting funding to build the wall on the southern US border, restoring protections for children who were brought the US illegally, and ending Trump’s stricter asylum laws.

In addition, Biden and congressional Democrats are expected to propose more pandemic stimulus funding, try to undo Trump tax cuts that benefitted the wealthy, expand Obamacare, and push for police and criminal justice reforms.

Will Congress get anything done?

Democrats will have control of the White House, the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate when January 20 rolls around, but that does not mean things will be smooth sailing, despite Biden’s optimism that he can restore bipartisanship to Washington.

Even if Democrats win both Georgia runoff races on January 5, resulting in a 50-50 Senate with Vice president-elect Kamala Harris the tiebreaking vote, the party’s control in both the Senate and House will be so slim that it will not be easy to get bills to Biden’s desk.

A 50-50 Democratic-majority Senate gives any single Democrat an inordinate amount of power to derail partisan legislation, leaving Biden and Democratic leaders to craft bills that can attract at least a few Republican senators or are written to guarantee all 50 Democratic votes. Hewing to the former likely alienates the most progressive Democrats, like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. And trying to come up with an idea that is palatable to all 50 Democrats without any defections will not be any easier.

Biden promises to work with congressional Republicans, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, left [File: Zach Gibson/AP Photo]

Combine that with a Democrat-controlled House that will have the smallest majority by either party in 90 years, and in this era of extreme partisanship it could shape up to be a recipe for gridlock or, at least, a Congress that is unable to move any groundbreaking legislation.

One other key factor to watch for as 2021 progresses: Members of Congress up for re-election, which includes every member of the House and one-third of the Senate.

“[L]awmakers will always think about the next election in 2022, a midterm vote that usually goes against the party holding the White House, making those members from swing or close districts — most of them from the moderate wing of the party — especially antsy and fearful of controversial issues or votes,” Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in the Washington Post this month.

Democratic resistance

One key problem for the Democrats is that they still have not decided on which direction they want to head policy-wise. As young progressives grew in numbers and became more vocal after the 2018 midterms, they have been trying to force the party further left. But with significant losses in battleground House districts as well as in over 200 counties won by Barack Obama and then by Trump in 2016 and 2020, the party’s moderates are blaming progressives for alienating middle-of-the-road voters.

These fights played out throughout the presidential primaries and are continuing through the Biden transition with progressives lashing out at old-guard Democratic leaders.

“For Democrats to succeed, [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and the rest of Congressional Democratic leadership have to be clear-eyed about their failures. Even as we celebrate President-elect Biden’s historic defeat of Trump, they must be held responsible for these disappointing down ballot results,” a coalition of progressive groups wrote in a November post-election memo.

From left, US Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib are among the vocal progressives criticizing establishment Democratic leaders [File: Steve Ruark/AP Photo]

Establishment and moderate Democrats argue that progressives’ unwavering insistence on unpopular policy ideas such as “defunding the police” and the Green New Deal, not only are turning off moderate voters, but they set up Democrats as easy political targets for Republicans.

“We have to commit to not saying the words ‘defund the police’ ever again,” Representative Abigail Spanberger, who won an extremely tight reelection race in November, said on a post-election conference call with her fellow Democratic members. “We have to not use the words ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again.”

“If we are classifying [Election Day] as a success and we run this way again, we will get f—— torn apart in 2022,” she added.

With progressives and moderates signalling that these fights will spill over into Biden’s term, it appears some policy gridlock could be self-inflicted for the Democrats and not just a result of the parties fighting with each other.

Trump’s – and the Republican Party’s – political futures

While the Democrats’ internal political battles may affect whether anything gets done in Washington in 2021, the Republicans’ own political battles will determine their future and who will be the key leaders of the party moving forward.

Certainly, the immediate focus will be on what Trump does when he leaves office and how involved he stays in politics. If he continues to be the centre of the party’s orbit – especially if he announces a 2024 presidential bid – that will be a key factor in determining the direction the party takes, especially considering Trump remains extremely popular among Republican voters.

Trump has not been shy about threatening Republicans who he feels have crossed him politically, going so far as calling his party’s leaders “pathetic” this week for not backing him forcefully enough on his efforts to overturn the election.

There is a long list of Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s children, numerous US Senators, governors, and other Republican officials, who will surely be looking to make names for themselves either as Trump heirs or as advocates of pursuing a path away from Trumpism.

Vice President Mike Pence, left, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, center, and former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley are just a few of the Republicans expected to try to raise their profile in the coming year. [File: Chase Stevens/AP Photo]

Still, said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who has regularly spoken out against Trump and is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, Trump will continue to hold an outsized influence on the party for the immediate future.

“[T]here’s no question he’s not going away, and there’s going to be a big chunk of the Republican Party that’s going to still follow his Twitter page and listen to what he has to say,” Hogan said Sunday on ABC News.

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Canadian politicians have been scared straight by Donald Trump’s raging exit. Will it last? – Toronto Star

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Racism is definitely not a good trait for a politician. Nor is an inability to read the room.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet has been accused of both after his drive-by smear of new federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

The most harsh condemnation came from Justin Trudeau on Friday, pronouncing himself incredulous that a party leader would wade into “insinuations” about Alghabra, who is a Muslim, after what everyone witnessed in Washington last week.

Blanchet, the prime minister said, was “playing dangerous games around intolerance and hate” when purporting to be asking mere questions about Alghabra and Islamic political activism.

“That kind of political pandering to the worst elements and to fears and anxieties has no place in Canada and all of us need to stand up strongly to push up against that, anywhere it happens in this country.”

Trudeau’s link to events in Washington reflects a larger phenomenon rattling through Canadian politics since the Jan. 6 siege of Capitol Hill.

How long it lasts is anyone’s guess, but that mob scene south of the border has prompted some soul-searching among political types in Canada too.

Many of the ingredients of Donald Trump’s toxic political brand are now being vigorously disowned in Canada — almost at the same speed with which many Republicans are turning their back on the president in the U.S.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has revived a policy of refusal to deal with the Rebel News outlet, which traffics in the same kind of far-right disinformation that feeds Trump’s angry base in the United States. The reassertion of this rule came after a dust-up over O’Toole’s office emailing answers to Rebel questions, which were touted as an exclusive interview.

Two prominent Calgary women, meanwhile, both from the right of the political spectrum, have publicly denounced Twitter this week — slightly after Trump was banned from the medium, mind you, but in protest against the mob mentality it helps create.

Danielle Smith, the former leader of Alberta’s Wild Rose party, declared she was walking away from her radio-host job and Twitter, saying: “I’ve had enough of the mob.”

Meanwhile, Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner penned her own takedown of Twitter, describing it as the “biggest culprit of weaponized misinformation, hate, and the death of rational argument.” Rempel’s piece appeared in an online publication called The Line.

To her credit, Rempel acknowledged that she had fallen into the “trap” of Twitter, particularly its ability to reward politicians for generating instant emotion and black-and-white opinions. “It’s a threat because it eliminates nuance, and penalizes politicians who build relationships across the aisle,” she wrote.

Two other MPs, in that exact cross-partisan spirit, also wrote bluntly this week about how the poisonous politics around the Capitol Hill assault required active resistance in Canada. Liberal MP Anthony Housefather and Conservative MP Scott Aitchison collaborated on a National Post article headlined: “As Canadian MPs, we know our opponents are not our enemies. Let’s not become the U.S.”

Now, it should be pointed out that a week is a long time in politics and the road to partisan hell is paved with good intentions to be collegial. All of these resolutions to absorb the lessons of Jan. 6 in the U.S. capital could vanish like other New Year’s resolutions — most likely within the first five minutes of Question Period when Parliament resumes later this month.

In the case of the Bloc Québécois leader, Trudeau is correct: it does not seem that Blanchet gave much thought to how anti-Muslim remarks would be seen in the wake of the Capitol Hill rampage.

Islamophobia is a dark current running through a lot of the alt-right and white supremacist sentiment on display in Washington that day and Trump has tapped that current when expedient too.

Of all the times to “raise questions” about Alghabra’s Muslim background, the immediate days after the Capitol Hill assault would not be one of them.

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If politicians are serious about holding back the tides of political hate that fuelled the pillage in Washington, they have to take ownership not just of their own words, but what they’re whipping up among their supporters.

Rempel’s born-again embrace of collegiality is worth watching on that point. Several years ago, I actually asked her whether she was uncomfortable with what her social-media fans were saying about Ahmed Hussen, when he was federal immigration minister and she was the critic. She answered that bad things were said about her too on social media.

Right now, it looks like some Canadian politicians have been scared straight by Trump’s fiery exit in the U.S. But it’s not enough to denounce their rivals or Twitter or even Trump — the test of any new resolve will be in whether they’re willing to call out toxic politics when it happens in their own ranks.

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Week In Politics: Capitol Riot, Trump's 2nd Impeachment And Inauguration – NPR

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NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly talks with Hoover Institution fellow Lanhee Chen and Errin Haines of The 19th about the Capitol riot, President Trump’s second impeachment and the incoming administration.



MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

When a week in politics feels like a month, we know it’s a good time to pause and ask what just happened. Well, for the first time in U.S. history, a president was impeached for a second time. Also, we’ve learned more about how violent the insurrection at the Capitol was intended to be. The inauguration and more security threats loom. And the Biden-Harris administration is pushing forward with its plans for the next four years.

Well, joining me now, Lanhee Chen, a Hoover Institution fellow and policy director for the Romney presidential campaign. Welcome to you.

LANHEE CHEN: Thank you.

KELLY: And Errin Haines, editor-at-large of the news site, The 19th. Welcome to you.

ERRIN HAINES: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

KELLY: We are going to kick off with the big-banner, historic news – an impeachment, a second impeachment, which this time included 10 Republican votes in the House. Congressman Kevin McCarthy was not one of them. He did not vote against the president, but he did say this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: That doesn’t mean the president is free from fault. The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.

KELLY: Lanhee, I’m going to let you take this one on first. And I should note for people listening that you are informally advising some Republican members. Speak to how fractured the Republican Party is after all of this and especially this week.

CHEN: Well, I think there are significant divisions, and, you know, it goes a lot deeper than just how one feels about Donald Trump. I think there are questions about the future arc of where the party goes in terms of policy. I think there are great disagreements about how the Republican leadership ought to deal with the misinformation, frankly, that’s been spread to a lot of voters, for example, about claims of election fraud recently.

And I think a lot of these issues are going to get sorted out over the next few years. I think some of it’s going to come in the form of elections, primary elections, in the coming years. But also, I think there has to be a very direct conversation between Republicans about what the party stands for – exactly what the agenda is and should be going forward. And I think all those questions will demonstrate the degree to which there is division but also the degree to which Republicans can come together in the coming weeks and months.

KELLY: Well, and speaking of the coming weeks, I suppose we have a Senate trial to get through in those coming weeks. Errin Haines, let me bring you in. What struck you this week watching the second impeachment of Donald Trump?

HAINES: Well, certainly, what was different this year from where we were really just about a year ago is that you did have those 10 Republicans joining Democrats, including the highest-ranking woman in the Republican Party, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

You know, it – hearing, you know, the case for or against impeachment, you know, on both sides was really striking. And hearing from Republicans, some of whom, you know, certainly were wanting accountability in terms of the insurrectionists but not wanting to go so far as to hold the president accountable despite the fact that he was at the Stop The Steal Rally just ahead of the storming of the Capitol and the weeks and weeks that he, you know, has perpetuated the false claims of a rigged election – not really wanting to tether him directly to the events of January 6 was really remarkable. And so I think that maybe foreshadows, you know, how a final vote may go once this goes over to the Senate along party lines and the justification for that.

KELLY: Now, all of this – impeachment – is happening, of course, against the backdrop of a pandemic. We watch vaccines being slowly rolled out. And, of course, we’re bearing witness to the staggering economic impact of this pandemic, which Joe Biden referenced last night when he announced his new $1.9 trillion pandemic plan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: And it’s not hard to see that we’re in the middle of a once-in-several-generations economic crisis with a once-in-several-generations public health crisis. A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight. And there’s no time to waste. We have to act, and we have to act now.

KELLY: Errin, let me return to that number – $1.9 trillion. It feels crazy to ask is that enough (laughter), but would that be enough financial support for Americans to get through what the CDC is projecting will be the deadliest months of the pandemic, and they’re still ahead?

HAINES: Well, we are in the worst of the throes of this pandemic. And, you know, this huge challenge needs a huge response. And that is what President-elect Biden is proposing in this $1.9 trillion plan, which is going to provide wide-ranging relief, the campaign says, to millions of workers, including the women who have been disproportionately economically impacted by a pandemic that is not interested in the peaceful transfer of power, did not stop, you know, amidst, you know, a racial reckoning and did not stop even, you know, in the midst of that insurrection, where we saw members, you know, coming down with the coronavirus during the insurrection at the Capitol. And so, you know, a lot of these – the pillars of that plan are going to center around issues that have affected women, from child care to school reopenings…

KELLY: Yeah.

HAINES: …To hunger to evictions.

KELLY: Yeah. Lanhee, your thoughts on the Biden plan and, I suppose, whether Republican lawmakers will vote for it.

CHEN: Well, I think there are elements in here that some Republicans have already expressed support for. For example, you had a few Republicans like Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley express support for expanded direct payments at the $2,000 level, which is essentially what this plus up in the Biden plan would do – increase the level of direct support to $2,000.

I think that the question is going to be, of course, whether some of the other elements in this package that, quite frankly, probably don’t belong in a COVID relief package – whether things like, for example, a debate over the minimum wage – if that is going to turn off some Republicans. But in my view, it’s going to be very difficult for those Republicans who are already on the record supporting elements of this package – the enhanced unemployment insurance, the direct payments, you know, assistance for COVID-19 vaccine distribution…

KELLY: Yeah.

CHEN: …It will be a challenge for those Republicans to then turn around and oppose elements of this simply because Joe Biden is the one that’s put them on the table instead of a…

KELLY: We just have a…

CHEN: …Republican president.

KELLY: Forgive me – we just have a minute or so left. But a quick parting thought from each of you as we look ahead to what promises to be another remarkable week in politics – an inauguration in what is basically a green zone. The Mall is closed, the outgoing president – President Trump – says he’s not going to be in attendance. What are you watching for next week, Lanhee?

CHEN: Well, I’m hoping that the country can begin to come together, and we can begin to deal with some of these challenges. I do think it’s important that Congress takes up action on this stimulus package quickly in order to help move the country ahead and begin to heal some of these divisions that we’ve seen.

KELLY: Errin Haines – last word to you.

HAINES: Well, we are marking this inauguration in the wake of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday. And I leave you with this quote from King who said that in the days ahead, we must not consider it unpatriotic to raise certain basic questions about our national character.

KELLY: Well, there are certainly a lot of questions about our nation and its character and what may come next. That is Errin Haines, editor-at-large of The 19th news site, and Lanhee Chen, Hoover Institution fellow and policy director for the Romney 2012 presidential campaign.

Thank you to you both.

CHEN: Thank you.

HAINES: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DATA’S “ELECTRIC FEVER”)

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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National Rifle Association Files Bankruptcy Citing NY Politics – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — The National Rifle Association of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday with plans to regroup in Texas, citing opposition in New York.

The group intends to restructure and reincorporate, according to a statement on its website. The gun rights group said the filing will help it “exit what it believes is a corrupt political and regulatory environment in New York,” according to the statement.

“The move will enable long-term, sustainable growth and ensure the NRA’s continued success as the nation’s leading advocate for constitutional freedom – free from the toxic political environment of New York,” the NRA said.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows entities to continue operating while working on a plan to repay creditors. The petition listed assets and liabilities of as much as $500 million each.

The organization has been beset by complaints over lavish spending and internal battles as it has battled a lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James to dissolve the New York-based organization. She accused the NRA’s leader Wayne LaPierre and three others of fleecing it. Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a separate lawsuit against the NRA’s charitable arm, accusing it of misusing donor funds.

The NRA counter-sued James in federal court, accusing her of violating its First Amendment rights. The organization also accused her of weaponizing her regulatory and legal power under the guise of protecting state residents.

For years, the NRA has received millions of dollars annually from the NRA Foundation, whose donors get a tax deduction. But the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the grassroots fund-raisers that have been so successful.

“The plan can be summed up quite simply: We are DUMPING New York, and we are pursuing plans to reincorporate the NRA in Texas,” LaPierre, the NRA’s chief executive, wrote in a letter on the organization’s website, citing “costly, distracting and unprincipled attacks” by politicians.

Story Link: National Rifle Association Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

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