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Politics is not a game. But Republicans are winning big at the moment – The Boston Globe

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For a long time, American politics was often treated as something of a game. Red and blue states were the new Xs and Os on the game board. Rapid political polarization made parties into teams to root for, and the goal was to win, not to implement sound policy.

But some time around the election of Donald Trump, politics was no longer a game. Both sides felt the stakes were too high And certainly, the political conversation was about things much deeper and less trivial.

That said, in the fall of 2021, if the old framing still held sway, it could be said that Republicans are winning at pretty much everything right now.

One can deeply disagree with what Republicans stand for, but at the same time acknowledge that politically the party is in about as good of a position as it has been since 2010 when Republicans last took over Congress. In fact, Republicans are in a better position than they were that year.

Let’s look at the ways.

Republicans in the US House are united

Before the 2020 election, one of the major dynamics in American politics was the split among House Republicans. For a quick refresher, there was the Republican House leadership, many of whom came to power during the Tea Party wave, and they were being challenged from the right by the Freedom Caucus, who were often the biggest supporters of Donald Trump.

No one is talking much about the Freedom Caucus these days. And that isn’t just because Republicans aren’t in power, but because House Republicans are defined by one thing: the impeachment vote of Trump earlier in the year. There are the 10 Republicans who voted in favor and then the 201 who didn’t. And on nearly every piece of legislation, House Republicans have voted in a near-perfect block every time, without any drama.

Further, Republicans are set up to take over the House in the midterm elections next year. Historically, the president’s party loses dozens of seats in the midterm, and this time Republicans only need to pick up five seats. But even before the elections are held, many experts think that Republicans could pick up that many seats from the Congressional redistricting process alone.

In the Senate, the Democratic agenda is stalled

One can blame Republicans for continuing to filibuster nearly all pieces of legislation, or one can look at the fact that not even enough Democrats are on board to pass bills deemed important by President Biden, but the fact is that nothing of significance has become law since the spring.

The dynamic is simple, and it revolves around the calendar. For Democrats, there are only so many days in the Biden term and if they want to pass an ambitious agenda they had better get on it. For Republicans, then, it is the opposite. And for the past two months the only things that have been done in Congress is are routine items like keeping the government open and preventing it from defaulting on its debt. The fact that both of those things will need to be taken up again in December only means these issues will take up yet more time that could have been spent on Democratic priorities.

Then again, Democrats aren’t even in agreement on much these days, especially given that they are negotiating against themselves on a reconciliation bill.

Republicans are united about 2024, Biden is lagging

Typically this is a moment when the party out of power has a lot of people thinking about running for president, and there is some big national debate these candidates use to define themselves against others. Four years ago, Democrats did this with Medicare for All and eventually with the Green New Deal.

In previous cycles, it was about votes for the Iraq war. But this time around, Republicans might be in a historical anomaly: they have already coalesced behind one candidate three years ahead of the election.

Who knows if Trump will end up running, but it’s looking more and more likely, and if he runs, he will have weak primary challengers.

With that sorted out, Republicans can get ahead on raising money and building infrastructure with three years to go until 2024.

Biden, meanwhile, is saddled with an average of 45 percent approval rating, his lowest ever, and there are no signs of that improving.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.

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Venezuelan government suspends negotiations with opposition

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 Venezuela on Saturday said it would suspend negotiations with the opposition that were set to resume this weekend, after Cape Verde extradited Colombian businessman Alex Saab, a Venezuelan envoy, to the United States on money laundering charges.

The announcement was made by Socialist party legislator Jorge Rodriguez, who heads the government’s negotiating team. Rodriguez said the Venezuelan government would not attend the talks set to begin on Sunday.

The Venezuelan government in September named Saab – who was arrested in June 2020 when his plane stopped in Cape Verde to refuel – as a member of its negotiating team in talks with the opposition in Mexico, where the two sides are looking to solve their political crisis.

Rodriguez, reading from a statement, called the decision to suspend negotiations “an expression of our deepest protest against the brutal aggression against the person and the investiture of our delegate Alex Saab Moran.”

Opposition leader Juan Guaido condemned the decision.

“With this irresponsible suspension of their assistance in Mexico, they evade once again urgent attention for the country, which currently suffers from extreme poverty of 76.6%,” he said on Twitter. Guaido said he would continue to insist on finding a solution to the country’s crisis.

Venezuela, in a Twitter post by the Ministry of Communications, denounced the extradition as a “kidnapping.”

Hours after Saab’s extradition, Venezuela revoked the house arrest of six former executives of refiner Citgo, a U.S. subsidiary of state oil company PDVSA, two sources with knowledge of the situation and a family member told Reuters.

The U.S. Justice Department charged Saab in 2019 in connection with a bribery scheme to take advantage of Venezuela’s state-controlled exchange rate. The U.S. also sanctioned him for allegedly orchestrating a corruption network that allowed Saab and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to profit from a state-run food subsidy program.

Saab’s lawyers have called the U.S. charges “politically motivated.”

Cape Verde national radio reported the extradition on Saturday. The government of Cape Verde was not immediately available to comment.

A U.S. Justice Department spokesperson confirmed Saab’s extradition and said he is expected to make his initial court appearance on Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

In a Twitter post, Colombian President Ivan Duque called Saab’s extradition “a triumph in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption by the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro.”

The former Citgo executives, who were arrested in November 2017 after being summoned to a meeting at PDVSA headquarters in Caracas, were taken from their homes to one of the headquarters of the intelligence police, two sources said on Saturday.

The six former executives had been released from jail and put on house arrest in April.

The group is made up of five naturalized U.S. citizens and one permanent resident. The U.S. government has repeatedly demanded their release.

“My father cannot be used as a bargaining chip,” said Cristina Vadell, daughter of former executive Tomeu Vadell. “I’m worried for his health, even more given the country’s coronavirus cases.”

The Ministry of Communications and the Attorney General’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas and Julio Rodrigues in Praia; Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Writing by Bate Felix and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler)

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Politics Briefing: Trudeau to visit Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation next week – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accepted an invitation to visit Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation on Monday, after not visiting the community two weeks ago on the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

The B.C. First Nation had previously said that Mr. Trudeau did not response to an invitation to attend a ceremony near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to mark the inaugural event. Mr. Trudeau apologized last week for travelling to Tofino for a vacation on that day instead, calling it a mistake that he regrets. He said he was looking forward to visiting the community.

Monday’s visit will not be a public event, according to a press release.

People listen as drummers begin to play after a moment of silence during a Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc ceremony to honour residential school survivors and mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, in Kamloops, B.C., on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Mr. Trudeau’s office also confirmed Friday that the swearing-in ceremony for his new cabinet will take place on Oct. 26, and that Parliament will resume a month later on Nov. 22.

The release from the Prime Minister’s Office said that early priorities for the government will include introducing legislation to ban conversion therapy, 10-day paid sick leave for all federally regulated workers, accelerating climate action and working with Indigenous communities on reconciliation.

There will also be a focus on vaccination against COVID-19: the government outlined five vaccination commitments in the first 100 days, which includes ensuring everyone 12 and up who travels by air or rail in Canada has had their shots.

Speculation continues about which MPs will be in the new Liberal cabinet, though Mr. Trudeau promised last month that his cabinet will once again be gender-balanced, continuing a trend established in his first two mandates. He’s also confirmed that Chrystia Freeland will remain Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

The party lost four female cabinet ministers in the last election: three who did not win re-election and one incumbent who chose not to run again.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. Today’s newsletter is co-written with Menaka Raman-Wilms. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Opposition parties and military observers are criticizing the federal government for not disclosing the latest sexual misconduct investigation into a senior military officer during the recent election campaign. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and acting chief of the defence staff General Wayne Eyre were notified about the investigation into Lieutenant-General Trevor Cadieu on Sept. 5, but neither the military nor government disclosed the information publicly at the time.

Canada could retaliate against American companies should the U.S. go too far with a Buy American approach, suggested Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, after meetings on Thursday with her counterparts in the G20 and International Monetary Fund. U.S. President Joe Biden said this summer that Buy American provisions would be an important part of boosting a postpandemic recovery.

David Amess, a Conservative MP in the U.K, died on Friday after being stabbed during a meeting with constituents in Essex, England. A 25-year-old man has been arrested and a knife recovered. From the CBC.

Ontario launches its digital vaccine passport app on Friday, a week ahead of the initial Oct. 22 target date. The province has had a paper-based proof of vaccination system since Sept. 22, and the new scannable app moves Ontario to a system like the ones already in place in B.C. and Quebec.

The U.S. will announce on Friday that it plans to reopen its land borders on Nov. 8 to non-essential vaccinated travellers, according to a White House official.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

The Prime Minister is in private meetings in Ottawa on Friday, according to his public itinerary.

LEADERS

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in Toronto on Friday morning, where he delivered remarks to the Ontario Building Trades Convention.

No public itineraries were issued by the other leaders on Friday.

HOW TO BE A PRIME MINISTER

From Governing Canada, A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics by Michael Wernick (Published by On Point Press, an imprint of UBC Press)

The Politics Briefing newsletter is featuring excerpts from Governing Canada, a new book by Michael Wernick, the former clerk of the privy council. Our focus is a key chapter, Advice to a Prime Minister. (Parliamentary reporter Kristy Kirkup reported on the project here.)

Today’s concluding excerpt sums up Mr. Wernick’s advice to Prime Ministers:

“The tenure of our prime ministers has ranged from a few months to 21 years. In the “modern era” of politics, the attention and the pressures are unrelenting, and at some point personal burnout and weariness by the electorate will set in. However long you hold the office, every week will be an opportunity to make a difference. If you are mindful of what you want to accomplish and pay attention to time management, to team dynamics, and to your own personal resilience, you will get a lot done and leave important legacies. Try not to govern one day at a time, fighting fires and feeding media cycles. Managing the short-term challenges is just a shield, one that lets you aim higher and bend the curve – of history.”

DATA DIVE WITH NIK NANOS

Nik Nanos, the chief data scientist at Nanos Research, writes about how the 2021′s federal election was a wake-up call for Canada’s leaders – but awakening to what? “The campaign should make us ask whether it’s time for a rethink of our parliamentary democracy – and remind us that Canada is not immune to populist politics.”

OPINION

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on how the Prairies are showing Canada what a COVID-19 disaster looks like: “Thanks to the governments’ slow adoption of vaccine passports and other measures designed to halt the spread of the virus, the unvaccinated have not been convinced to do what is necessary – which has produced the bedlam we are now witnessing.”

Diane Fu and Emile Dirks (contributors to The Globe and Mail) on how Ottawa may have emerged a loser after Meng Wanzhou’s release, but it can still challenge and co-exist with Beijing: “Many contentious issues will continue to haunt bilateral ties, including Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan. What’s more, even if relations thaw in the short term, the political values of the two countries remain fundamentally at odds.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on how politicians who recently travelled now have a message for Canadians: Don’t travel: “Travelling a year ago was a hard thing to justify. But fully vaccinated individuals who have followed the rules until now ought to be able to escape for a mental-health reprieve without the scorn of federal officials who might not even have unpacked yet from their campaign jaunts across the country.”

Parag Khanna (special to The Globe and Mail) on how if you’re searching for the American Dream, go to Canada: “After all, the “Canadian Dream” is much more attainable. Canada is a policy lab for experiments in reducing inequality. The country is far from perfect, but it ranks far higher than the U.S. in social mobility.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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LETTER: On politics and medicine – SaltWire Network

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The irrational hysteria and conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 vaccines are an integral part of what historian Richard Hofstader called “The paranoid style in American politics.” This phenomenon has now permeated Canadian politics as well and suggests that “My ignorance is as good as your knowledge.”

Vaccines against disease and pestilence have been viewed as major advances for humanity. But few vaccines have been subjected to the scrutiny and public vilification that COVID-19 vaccines have. Why? The statistically minute number (percentage) of negative reactions to vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, is rarely mentioned by their detractors; similarly, every surgical procedure has a small probability of a complication.

Over the course of the past two centuries at least 15 life-saving vaccines have been developed without a similar public outcry. Those vaccines include (selectively): smallpox (1796), typhoid fever (1896), diphtheria (1923), whooping cough (1923), polio (1952), measles (1963), mumps (1967), chicken pox (1974), meningitis (1978), and malaria (2021). Defoe’s classic, A Journal of the Plague Year (1772) gives us an idea of what the world was like without vaccines.

Why COVID-19 vaccines have created such vitriol warrants serious sociological and political study. One suspects that there is a close correlation between right-wing populism, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion politics, and anti-vax sentiment. They are all part of the same political culture that promotes this paranoia. It would be easy to dismiss anti-vaxers as “know nothings,” but they are more than that. They mirror the social divisions within our society. And their ignorance is dangerous.

Canadian constitutional law is premised on promoting “peace, order and good government.” A corollary is that the courts attempt to follow John Stuart Mill’s dictum of creating, “The greatest good for the greatest number of people,” rather than the highly individualistic American approach of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Within this context, collective rights will supersede individual rights, which may be “reasonably limited” by circumstance such as a national emergency. The Canadian Charter of Rights was never intended to promote a wild west show like our neighbours to the south.

In the interest of public health policy, it is time to defend the history of science and its many advances.

Richard Deaton,

Stanley Bridge, P.E.I.

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