One day after two top UCP cabinet ministers announced they would not seek re-election in May there were still few answers to be had.
Some liberals seemed genuinely surprised by the results of the Kansas referendum on abortion. A reliably Republican state, a sweeping pro-choice victory. Who could have foreseen it?
Others suggested that only the pro-life side should be shocked. “The anti-abortion movement has long claimed that voters would reward Republicans for overturning Roe,” wrote Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern. “They are now discovering how delusional that conviction has always been.”
It’s true that activists often tend toward unrealistic optimism. But nobody who favored overturning Roe ought to be particularly surprised by the Kansas result. By the margin, maybe — but a Republican state voting to preserve a right to abortion emphasizes what’s always been apparent: With the end of Roe, the pro-life movement now has to adapt to the democratic contest that it sought.
Right now, majorities of Americans favor abortion restrictions that were ruled out under Roe, but only slightly over a third of the country takes the position that abortion should be largely illegal, a number that shrinks if you remove various exceptions.
That means that millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump favor a right to a first-trimester abortion — some of them old-fashioned country-club Republicans, others secular working-class voters or anti-woke “Barstool conservatives” who dislike elite progressivism but find religious conservatism alienating as well.
In many red as well as purple states, those constituencies hold the balance of power. Even with exceptions, a state probably needs to be either very Republican or very religious for a first-trimester abortion ban to be popular, which basically means the Deep South and Mountain (and especially Mormon) West. That was clear before Roe fell — that outright bans would be the exceptions, and the contest in many states would be over how far restrictions can go.
The Kansas result confirms that assumption. The state already has a late-term ban, and the prolix ballot measure didn’t specify an alternative, it just promised the legislature a general power to write new abortion laws. Would the result have been different if the referendum had proposed restrictions around 12 weeks? I suspect so. Can the pro-life movement settle for that kind of goal? Well, that’s the question, with different states supplying different answers.
In purple-ish Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law in 2019, which is now taking effect, banning abortion after around six weeks with various exceptions; he looks like he’s on his way to re-election. In reddish Florida, the popular governor, Ron DeSantis, is making his stand for now on a ban after 15 weeks.
On the other hand, Republican gubernatorial nominees in Pennsylvania and Michigan have a record of taking few-exceptions stances that seem ill-suited to their states.
I suspect that liberals are deceiving themselves if they imagine abortion becoming a dominant issue in an environment as economically and geopolitically fraught as this one. But at the margins there are clear opportunities: If Republicans run on no-exceptions platforms in moderately conservative states or back first-trimester bans in swing states, they will lose some winnable elections.
But again, serious pro-lifers have always known that if you bring abortion back to the democratic process, you have to deal with public opinion as it actually exists. And the way you change opinion is by proving the incremental version of your ideas workable, so that voters trust you more and more.
That requires addressing immediate anxieties head-on. It is not enough, for instance, for abortion opponents to react to stories about delayed care for miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies in pro-life states by pointing out that the laws are being misinterpreted. All officialdom in those states should be mobilized to make hospitals fear malpractice suits more than hypothetical pro-life prosecution.
And it requires longer-term creativity, so that every new protection for the unborn is combined with reassurances that mothers and children alike will be better supported than they are today.
When I make the latter point I get a reliable liberal retort, to the effect that Republicans could have done more for families already, and didn’t, so why would that ever change?
But this is the point of bringing democratic pressure to bear. Religious conservatives have pushed Republicans away from libertarian economics in the past — “compassionate conservatism” emerged from evangelicals and Catholics — but so long as abortion was essentially a judicial battle, the link to family policy was indirect.
Now that Republicans have to legislate on abortion, though, there are incentives to make the link explicit — especially in states where socially conservative Democrats, especially Hispanic voters, might join a pro-life coalition.
That doesn’t mean it will happen, just that the incentives of democratic politics are how it would happen. The end of Roe opens the door wide to a pro-life movement that’s incrementalist and creative; it doesn’t ensure that such a movement will emerge. But the results in Kansas show what will happen if it doesn’t.
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One day after two top UCP cabinet ministers announced they would not seek re-election in May there were still few answers to be had.
On Friday afternoon, both Finance Minister Travis Toews and Environment Minister Sonya Savage announced they were opting to spend more time with family instead of running again in the next provincial election.
Premier Danielle Smith on her Saturday radio show on QR770 noted Toews’ ability to manage through the pandemic and deliver two consecutive balanced budgets. She called Savage her “point person in dealing with Ottawa.”
“I’m grateful to both of them,” said the premier. “I’m looking forward to finding out how we might be able to continue to use their incredible talents post-election in an advisory role, because I think that they’ve done so much for our province and I want to continue to see them have an opportunity to contribute.”
Smith, in a press release on Friday, said she will appoint replacement UCP candidates for Toews’ riding in Grande Prairie-Wapiti as well as for Savage in Calgary-North West.
The two are the latest cabinet ministers who have withdrawn from the coming spring election. They join former Jobs, Innovation and Economy Minister Doug Schweitzer, who stepped down before the UCP leadership race last summer, and Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism Rajan Sawhney and party whip Brad Rutherford who have withdrawn since Smith took office in October.
Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt said it is not uncommon to have a 25 per cent turnover in MLAs. What is different is to have so many cabinet ministers — especially single-term politicians — decide not to run again.
Adding to the intrigue is both were at one point prepared to run again. Toews was the first runner-up to Smith in the leadership race, while Savage had already secured the nomination for her riding.
He called the reasoning to spend more time with family a mere cliché but said it is difficult to know their full reasons for not running again.
He also does not expect this to be the end of the withdrawal of cabinet ministers, pointing to the potential of two more members of former premier Jason Kenney’s inner circle — Health Minister Jason Copping and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro — stepping away before May.
“You wonder how united the party is as Smith was able to rally them,” said Bratt.
Smith said Toews promised to stay on to at least deliver his fifth budget, which he did on Feb. 28. The implementation bill was passed on Thursday and he then informed the premier he was not going to run again.
Bratt said the deal could potentially have been that Toews was to stay on to get the budget passed before stepping away all along, while Savage was just “hedging her bets and keeping her options open” until the legislative session was over.
“I don’t know how you could ignore the shift in leader and the role that that plays,” he said.
Melanee Thomas, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, said it is curious what changed for the finance minister. If he didn’t share the premier’s vision, he likely would not have been given the power to put the budget together.
The question is, how this will play out come election time, especially with Calgary considered to be a key battleground with both the UCP and the NDP needing to win the city to win the election.
While Calgary-North West has been a long-time conservative stronghold, Thomas said Savage stepping down could mean the riding is up for grabs.
“The NDP vote is inefficient in Edmonton. The UCP is inefficient in rural areas, which means that it comes down to who wins all the seats in Calgary,” she said.
Bratt said the fact two more high-profile ministers have decided not to run again, regardless of the publicly stated reasons, will play on the minds of the undecided electorate when it comes to the UCP leader.
“You know, people do have questions and wonder, ‘if I have doubts about Smith, well, maybe Toews and Savage and Schweitzer and Sawhney have doubts about her as well,’” he said.
Sanctions have become all the rage in international politics. The United States and its allies are imposing them on rivals with increasing frequency and severity. And those rivals are reciprocating where they can.
Now, American states, too, are increasingly getting in on the act. And that’s bad news — for the world, and for US foreign policy. A much-publicised episode of a Chinese balloon entering US airspace seems to have created new energy for such restrictions and has led to legislation being proposed in at least 11 states.
On Wednesday, the South Carolina State Senate passed a bill barring ownership of land in the state by citizens of US geopolitical adversaries Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Cuba. The bill’s top sponsor even compared a planned purchase of South Carolina land by a Chinese biomedical firm with the Trojan Horse plot of Greek mythology.
Meanwhile, Texas State Senator Lois Kolkhorst has proposed a similar law that has drawn strong condemnation on human rights grounds but has been defended by Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican governor. A simple reading of the original version of this bill would lead one to conclude that any individual who holds citizenship from any of the mentioned countries, or any firms which they own, would be barred from owning property. This would have included American citizens who hold dual citizenship. Since then, the language has been softened to protect dual citizens and permanent residents but not citizens of those countries residing in Texas on a visa.
Implementation of such language would impose new and unusual due diligence requirements on common land transactions. Meanwhile, creating special restrictions on various immigrant communities to own property poses human rights concerns.
Existing sanctions laws and Treasury Department designations already block leaders from those American adversaries from transferring money into the US or owning property in the country. Meanwhile, recently introduced federal legislation aims to ban US adversaries from purchasing large swaths of farmland in the US.
So why would a state engage in what is essentially a foreign policy and national security matter?
On the one hand, some scholars see sanctions as often being a product of domestic politics, aimed at portraying muscle to the electorate, at times influenced by pressure groups such as “ethnic lobbies”. Those in this camp of scholars are more inclined to believe that sanctions are not particularly effective. If sanctions are for the satisfaction of domestic onlookers, they will not be designed and implemented with an eye towards efficacy and the security context.
Other scholars, however, argue that sanctions are indeed imposed due to a meaningful effort to address national security concerns.
Like many in the national security decision-making scholarship community, I feel both of these binary constructions frequently fail when confronted with the history of economic sanctions. The truth is that foreign policy choices are a product of complex national security matrices that accommodate both foreign policy and domestic political considerations.
Yet irrespective of one’s overall view on the efficacy of sanctions more broadly, it is hard for anyone to deny that policies against foreign nationals adopted by state governments can have little explanation other than domestic and even local politics.
In the US, the executive branch has always been best suited to make foreign policy decisions due to its clear mandate and wherewithal in this field. Congress has a constitutional role in foreign policy matters but it’s far more likely to be influenced by domestic political pressures and national anxieties.
The executive branch largely controlled sanctions policy throughout the Cold War era. But after the fall of the Soviet Union, as major threats to the homeland faded, Congressional and sub-federal forces became increasingly involved in this field.
While Congress has largely ceded its war power authority in the modern era, it has become more active in sanctioning due to an impulse of members to be seen as projecting power against American adversaries even when it interferes with the president’s efforts to engage in strategic policy.
What about state legislators and governors? They have no real national security staff nor the relevant mandate, as their elections almost always lack any meaningful foreign policy discussion and are decided based on provincial issues, whether taxes or abortion rights.
Yet their meddling in foreign policy isn’t superfluous — it can actually be reckless, for global diplomacy and for US foreign policy. Here’s how.
As written, the mentioned measures are unlikely to meaningfully interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its foreign policy. But one can imagine a scenario in which sanctions imposed by states do just that.
New York state and California preside over major nodes of the global banking community and the international technology supply chain. Texas itself is a major player in global energy markets. Other states can wield a more narrow version of such powers as well.
There are already examples of when New York State has targeted European firms for their perceived violation of sanctions, ignoring objections at the federal level. States can, as the federal government has often done, impose restrictions on firms operating in their jurisdiction in a way that has extraterritorial consequences.
This in turn sets up a precarious dynamic. The federal government might have to mollify or negotiate with state governments led by ambitious politicians responding to special interests or catering to local constituencies.
Equally, state governments of the party in opposition can actively undercut diplomatic efforts of the federal government using such sanctions. For example, a federal effort to ease sanctions on Cuba could create political momentum for state sanctions in Florida, where families of those who fled communist rule are a powerful lobby.
Ultimately, sanctions are a tool of foreign policy and the capacity to modulate or even repeal them is critical to accomplishing the political goals behind sanctions campaigns. For the president or Congress to have to lobby with state governments, each representing a fraction of the overall population, to alter America’s sanctions against a country would represent a bizarre new obstacle to the federal government’s ability to carry out its foreign policy obligations.
The proposed Texas and South Carolina laws are textbook examples of sanctions as political grandstanding meant for domestic consumption. They are also a reminder of the jingoistic zeal that can be nurtured and exploited by foreign policy amateurs at the state level.
As we embark upon what scholar Peter A G van Bergeijk calls the “second wave” of global sanctions, states will likely look further to getting in on the act with human rights and global affairs.
Washington’s basic ability to carry out a coherent foreign policy hangs in the balance.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
OTTAWA — Beijing says it has nothing to say about ongoing allegations that China has meddled in Canadian affairs, including those regarding a member of Parliament who has left the Liberal caucus.
Han Dong is now sitting as an Independent as the Liberal government has a rapporteur investigate claims of Chinese interference, including allegations the Toronto MP willingly received electoral support through Chinese officials.
Dong resigned from the Liberal caucus Wednesday night after Global News, citing unnamed security sources, published a report alleging that he spoke about Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig with a Chinese diplomat in Toronto in February 2021.
The MP says he met with the diplomat but disputes any suggestion that he urged China to delay releasing the two Canadian men, who by that point had been detained for more than two years.
Dong told the House of Commons he would defend himself “against these absolutely untrue claims” and that he did nothing to cause Spavor and Kovrig any harm.
Asked about Dong’s resignation at a press conference today in Beijing, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry says “the Canadian side may be in a better position” to comment, and that “China opposes interference in other countries’ internal affairs.”
He adds that this applies to broader allegations about Chinese interference.
“We have no interest in and will not interfere in Canada’s internal affairs,” Wang Wenbin said in the official English transcript. “There should be no irresponsible comments on this.”
China’s detention of the men who became known around the world as the “two Michaels” occurred in apparent retaliation for the December 2018 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant.
Beijing has insisted the cases are not linked, despite a close alignment in the timing of each being detained and then released the same day in September 2021.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023.
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