Some years have a way of giving countries, even continents, a shove in a new direction. In 1945 Europeans decided that the state had to take the lead in establishing a modern economy, a broader welfare state and a more peaceful continent. In 1979 a doubling of oil prices, which followed a decade of stagflation, brought about a swing away from cosy co-operation between the state and business towards a bigger role for markets and private enterprise. Might 2023 be another such year? It comes as a decade of low interest rates is ending, as high energy prices and inflation return to the world economy, and as war stalks Europe. It also comes in the wake of one of the deadliest pandemics in history and as China retreats from closer global integration.
If these trends were to presage broad political shifts in rich countries, you might expect politics to move left, if only in reaction to the mainly centre-right governments that dominated rich democracies during the previous decade. That already appears to be happening. In 2022 in the Bavarian Alps, at a meeting of the G7, a group of rich countries, Joe Biden could look around the table (see picture) and count five other leaders from the centre-left: those of Canada, France, Germany, Italy and, stretching a point, Japan—Kishida Fumio describes himself as a dove on foreign policy. (An election later moved Italy to the right.) In contrast, when Mr Biden’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, met his counterparts in 2010, all of them came from the right or centre-right.
This might, of course, be just an unusually synchronised swing of the pendulum, rather than the start of a broader shift. The right-wing success in the Italian general election of late 2022 is a reminder of the importance of national exceptions. Still, there are reasons for thinking that something more profound may be going on than just bashing whoever happens to be power. It is something that cuts across national borders.
Public opinion appears to be shifting to the left in rich democracies. In the United States, the share of respondents to surveys by the Pew Research Centre who said that banks had a positive impact on the economy fell from 49% in 2019 to 40% three years later (see chart 1). The decline for tech companies was comparable and for large companies greater; only a quarter of Americans thought they were a net plus. This seems a far cry from the 1980s’ belief that private enterprise would solve many of the world’s problems.
Anti-corporate sentiment is only a start. Half or more of respondents in America, Britain, France and Germany told Pew that their economies needed major change or a complete overhaul. The majority of those demanding greater reform described themselves as on the left. The public’s desire for sweeping changes may be underpinned by climate-change worries and a belief that not enough is being done about them. In another Pew poll in 19 countries, three-quarters of respondents described climate change as a major threat, making it a bigger concern than even the world economy and pandemics (see chart 2). On the face of it, people want more than business as usual.
The possibility that 2023 might prove to be some sort of turning-point is supported by the sort of tectonic shifts that lead to broad change, even if they rarely make headlines. For decades, the working-age share of the world’s population grew, producing more workers relative to children and retirees, and providing a so-called “demographic dividend” to the global economy. That exerted downward pressure on interest rates and wages, and pushed in the direction of greater income inequality, faster economic growth and high valuations of large companies. But as Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan, both economists, point out, these trends can change—and sometimes quickly. The working-age share of the world’s population has been falling for ten years, interest rates have started to rise and the value of companies has sunk, at least as measured by the adjusted price-earnings ratio of S&P 500 companies, which dropped from 39 at the end of 2021 to 27 in December 2022.
Whether all this translates into a significant change of direction for democratic politics, however, is a different matter. For that to happen, public opinion or economic shifts are not enough. The turning points of the past were made possible not just because political parties espoused new beliefs but also because they were able to make the compromises needed to put ideas into practice. It is far from clear that political parties have the mandates, power or will to do that now.
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan won landslide victories in the 1980s, but such decisive outcomes have become rarer. Between 1980 and 1996 the winner of the American presidency took the popular vote by a margin of almost ten points. From 2000 to 2020 the margin was less than 2.6 points. Joe Biden has the additional problem of managing a divided government. In Britain, the governing party won an average of 48% of the vote in elections from 1945 to 1960; since 2010, the winners’ share has been less than 40%. Voter turnouts have fallen sharply in most rich democracies. Parties cannot count on big popular mandates. And even if they get one, they may not last. In the French presidential election of April 2022 Emmanuel Macron beat Marine Le Pen convincingly by 59% to 41%. In legislative elections two months later, his party lost its majority and Ms Le Pen’s National Rally won more new seats than any other party. Like Mr Biden, Mr Macron is weakened by divided government.
In Europe in the 1960s parties were mass movements, with millions of members. No longer. Take Britain. The six parties in Parliament (excluding those from Northern Ireland) now have a combined membership of 846,000, below that of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Voters are also more fickle, while fewer people see parties as vehicles for advancing political goals. “Our partisan allegiances”, Robert Talisse of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, told the BBC “have become lifestyles, rather than principled views about what the government should be doing”. Parties have become expressions of narrow interest groups—or in some cases, megalomaniac egotists—rather than of broadly based social movements.
In the absence of mass membership and with elections turning on ever-finer margins, the incentives in most democratic countries are for parties to keep as many of their supporters as possible happy and not to take risks. That is not good news for anyone expecting a new direction in politics. There may be an appetite for broader change, but governments and hopeful oppositions will be cautious of taking advantage of it.■
More than two months after his presidential announcement, Donald Trump now has the key tools he will need to make his entry into the race complete: access to social media.
Recently, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced reinstatement of Trump’s social media accounts following a two-year suspension.
The suspension was levied in the aftermath of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
This was certainly good news for the Trump campaign and his legion of loyal and dedicated supporters.
However, as the wreckage inflicted on that cold January day still lingers, political opponents, real and perceived, are bracing for the potential dangers that could lie ahead.
In 2016, Trump used social media to great effect in his bid to win the U.S. presidency. During his tenure in the White House, he often made news and kept the entire media landscape on edge with a robust social media presence. His posts ran the gambit from inflammatory to bewildering.
CLAIMS SHATTERED NORMS OF PRESIDENTIAL ETIQUETTE
The unceasing and outlandish claims made by the former reality television star shattered the norms of presidential etiquette. Even accusing former president Barack Obama of spying on him! Like a maestro leading an orchestra, his cadre of henchmen and followers soon began to play along as if on cue.
Donald Trump, over the years, enlisted a powerful chorus of voices from Congress, the media, state capitals and beyond all belting out conspiracy theories, laced with violent undertones, on one note; one accord; in unison.
The twice-impeached ex-president has access to all the social media tools that not only fuelled his political rise but also served as a catalyst to the growing political violence playing out across the nation.
With 34 million followers on Facebook; 23 million on Instagram; and 87 million on Twitter; Trump has built a formidable and engaged audience that hangs on his every word.
AN ALREADY FRAGILE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
Showing no remorse and characterizing the suspension as an injustice, the ex-president said on Truth Social, his own social media platform: Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting president, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!
Trump has continued his penchant for perceived grievances and victimization exacerbating an already fragile and unstable political landscape. Now, with the ability to enact a mob in 280 characters or less, Donald Trump wields these accounts like a loaded weapon.
This “real world harm” Murphy describes is already a stark reality. Recently released video footage of the violent attack on the husband of former U.S. House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is sending a collective shiver through the political class.
The assailant, David DePape, 42, claimed: “I’m sick of the insane f——— level of lies coming out of Washington, D.C.” He is charged with attempted murder, residential burglary, false imprisonment and threatening a public official. Some on the right, including Donald Trump Jr., made fun of the attack, sharing an image of a Paul Pelosi Halloween costume that included a hammer, as it was a hammer that was in the assault.
In the aftermath of the recent 2022 midterm elections, the nation breathed a sigh of relief as the results came and went with no acts of violence and the results reported largely without incident. Unfortunately, that moment of euphoria was only fleeting.
Trump’s proclivity for subjecting maximum cruelty on others has been a mainstay since he entered politics. His affinity for tyrannical government; fascist and dictatorial leaders; combined with an ambivalence for democratic institutions makes his return to the political arena fraught with peril.
TRUMP FIRMLY BACK IN CONTROL OF SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
In a recent article, columnist Charlie Sykes described Trump’s penchant for violence as: Brutality is an ideology, not just an impulse. Many of the MAGA crowd eagerly subscribe to this ideology. Close confidante and fellow MAGA conservative, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene, said recently at a Republican event in New York, if she had organized the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “we would have won” and “it would’ve been armed.”
Donald Trump’s inner circle continues to push the big lie and foment violence. Now that Trump is firmly back in control of his social media accounts, nothing stands in his way of once again eschewing political safeguards and standards in favor of amplifying sharp, abrasive, and yes, violent rhetoric aimed at perceived enemies and institutions.
Trump’s hold on rank-and-file Republicans remains just as strong today as it did the day he descended that gold-plated escalator in 2015. His loyal lieutenants continue to engage in violent and inflammatory language and some have even escalated to full-scale physical attacks on their opponents as evidenced by recent events in New Mexico and San Francisco.
Trump 2024 is locked and loaded and many would-be targets are in the crosshairs. By allowing Trump back on social media, companies such as Meta and Twitter might think they are lowering the political temperature. However, Trump’s truculence knows no bounds and could certainly end up backfiring. That fire nearly consumed the nation on January 6. Now, with a second chance, Trump gets to finish what he started.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that he would sit down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday to discuss private health care ahead of next week’s summit with premiers.
Trudeau is expected to meet with provincial and territorial leaders in Ottawa next Tuesday to discuss a new health-care funding deal.
“The deal will be a failure if it doesn’t include major commitments to hire more health-care workers,” Singh said Monday, adding that the funding should be kept within the public system.
The last time Trudeau and Singh met one-on-one, as outlined in the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, was in December.
Singh said now is the time for the Liberal government to make clear that funding private health-care facilities will not improve the shortage of health-care workers Canada is facing.
On Monday, legislators’ first day back at the House of Commons after a winter break, the NDP requested an emergency debate on the privatization of health care. The request was denied.
During the first question period of the year, Trudeau said his government will continue to ensure the provinces and territories abide by the Canada Health Act.
“We know that even as we negotiate with the provinces to ensure that we’re delivering more family doctors, better mental-health supports, moving forward on backlogs, supporting Canadians who need emergency care, we will ensure the Canada Health Act is fully respected,” Trudeau said.
“In the past, this government has pulled back money from provinces that haven’t respected it. We will continue to do that.”
Singh said that while health care falls under provincial jurisdiction, he believes the federal government could be using the Canada Health Act more aggressively to challenge for-profit care.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced earlier this month that it’s moving some procedures to publicly funded, private facilities to address a growing surgery wait-list, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan have already made similar moves.
“We think the federal government should be making it very clear that the solution to the current health-care crisis will not come from a privatization, for-profit delivery of care. It’ll only come by making sure we hire, recruit, retain and respect health care,” Singh said.
“Health care is already dramatically understaffed, and for-profit facilities will poach doctors and nurses — cannibalizing hospitals, forcing people to wait longer in pain and racked with anxiety.”
The New Democrats say they’re also concerned that private facilities will upsell patients for brands and services not covered by the province, and tack on extra fees and services.
Singh spent some of Parliament’s winter break holding roundtable discussions on health care in British Columbia to discuss emergency room overcrowding and worker shortages.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood by his newly appointed special representative on combatting Islamophobia as the country marked the sixth anniversary of the deadly Quebec City mosque shooting, while the Quebec government and federal Conservatives called for Amira Elghawaby to step aside.
Outcry over her appointment dominated headlines in Quebec. The backlash stemmed from a 2019 article co-authored by Ms. Elghawaby – a particular line of which was perceived as showing anti-Quebec sentiment. The piece opposed Bill 21, the Quebec law that bans some public servants from wearing religious symbols, such as hijabs.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Ms. Elghawaby, a human-rights advocate and journalist, pointed out that the specific sentence that has raised ire – that Quebeckers appeared to be swayed by anti-Muslim sentiment – was not her opinion, but rather, a description of a poll’s findings.
After criticism was raised last week, Mr. Trudeau said he expected Ms. Elghawaby to clarify her remarks, which she did, saying she does not believe Quebeckers are Islamophobic. Mr. Trudeau said Monday he is satisfied and wants to move forward.
Ms. Elghawaby’s mandate – to support the federal government in rooting out Islamophobia and highlight the diverse experiences of Canadian Muslims – has grown increasingly urgent. In recent years, hate crimes against Muslims have skyrocketed. And, over the past five years, Canada has taken the dark title of the Group of Seven nation with the highest number of Islamophobic killings, advocates note.
“There are anti-Muslim sentiments across Canada,” Ms. Elghawaby said. “This is not a Quebec issue. This is a Canadian issue.”
Amid the fracas, Ms. Elghawaby’s appointment is being celebrated by Muslim and non-Muslim advocates alike.
Stephen Brown, chief executive officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, or NCCM, said they are very happy to see Ms. Elghawaby’s appointment, noting she has a long history of advocating for Muslims, is bilingual and very dedicated.
He said the recommendation for the role came out of the National Summit on Islamophobia, in 2021, after the killing of four members of one Muslim family – the Afzaals – in London, Ont., which police said was motivated by anti-Muslim hate. Six Muslim men were killed and another 19 injured in the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017.
Born in Egypt, Ms. Elghawaby was a baby when her family immigrated to Canada, where her father worked for decades as an engineer with the federal government and her mother raised her and her siblings in an east-end Ottawa suburb.
When Ms. Elghawaby decided to start wearing a head scarf – while studying journalism at Carleton University in the early 2000s – she recalled her father warning her against it. He worried about the barriers that a visible marker of faith could pose, she said.
“I remember telling him, ‘I really believe that Canada is a place where I can put on the head scarf and I can still contribute and I can still succeed,’” she said.
Despite the realities of Islamophobia – ones that cause her to be on guard while at mosque – Ms. Elghawaby said she has always had immense hope for Canada.
Over a career spanning two decades, Ms. Elghawaby has written for CBC News and held forth as a contributing columnist for the Toronto Star; been a founding board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network; and worked with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and, most recently, for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
In interviews, several people said Ms. Elghawaby is known for her work building connections across communities.
Debbie Douglas, the executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, described Ms. Elghawaby as very concerned with how Islamophobia ties into women’s rights and to anti-Black racism, as well as issues of antisemitism.
She pays attention to “the need for real bridge-building and conversations,” Ms. Douglas noted. “You often found her where there’s lots of cross-cultural communications happening.”
Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, called Ms. Elghawaby the “perfect appointment.”
“We are living in very dark times,” he said. “Most people allow the darkness to envelop us. Amira is quite the opposite. She insists that there is light.”
He said Ms. Elghawaby has been instrumental in bringing Jewish and Muslim leadership together for difficult conversations. He also described doing trainings – he on antisemitism and she on Islamophobia – for police agencies.
And together, the pair authored the 2019 column that elicited criticism from some.
The pair wrote: “Unfortunately, the majority of Quebeckers appear to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment. A poll conducted by Léger Marketing earlier this year found that 88 per cent of Quebeckers who held negative views of Islam supported the ban.”
Ms. Elghawaby said the pair had seen Montreal Gazette reporting on the poll, which stated that “anti-Muslim sentiment appears to be the main motivation for those who support a ban on religious symbols,” and that the pollfound most Quebeckers supported Bill 21.
Mr. Brown, of the NCCM, said no one felt that Léger was “Quebec bashing” when it put those numbers out.
Sarah Mushtaq, a community advocate in Windsor, Ont., who writes columns for the Windsor Star, said Ms. Elghawaby’s kindness and wisdom – and ability to navigate tense issues – have made an impact on her.
Part of being a Muslim in the public sphere means that, sometimes, “no one is ever happy with what you said,” she said.
“You never know how certain comments are going to get dug up and misconstrued,” she added.
She said the role of a federal representative dedicated to combatting Islamophobiais “long overdue” and it’s important that a visibly Muslim woman is filling it.
“Despite the naysayers, there’s a lot of people who are grateful that this role exists,” she said. “We are behind her.”