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Republican wave could prove emboldening for left-leaning Democrats on Capitol Hill

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WASHINGTON — Their arrival atop a cresting “blue wave” of Democrats in 2018, two years into the caustic presidency of Donald Trump, heralded a bold new era of young, diverse and left-leaning political power on Capitol Hill.

Four years later, the prospect of a countervailing Republican wave in the 2022 midterm elections stands poised to embolden and empower the bulk of the change-minded progressive caucus inside President Joe Biden’s party.

Wait, what?

Welcome to the polarized world of U.S. politics, where the forces of change tend to wash away the moderate swing-vote middle, leaving only the safe-seat edges of the ideological spectrum as shelter from the coming electoral storm.

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“In effect, if a party gets wiped out, the caucus becomes more extreme — it moves closer to the ideological end,” said Michael Berkman, director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State University.

“So I’m not sure that (progressives) lose power. In fact, they may gain power — both because they’re a larger percentage of the overall Democratic caucus, but also because they can say, ‘We lost —you should have listened to us.’”

They are far from infallible, of course: the perception that moderates are more electable is a big reason why Biden — not Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — won the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

A number of progressive Democrats failed to survive primary season, notably in New York, where the rise to power of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez four years ago was a breakthrough moment for liberals.

And while the state’s moderate incumbent governor, Kathy Hochul, steamrolled leftist rival Jumaane Williams in the primaries, she now finds herself in a closer-than-expected battle with Republican challenger Lee Zeldin.

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the most prominent and controversial members of the coalition of progressive Capitol Hill Democrats known as “the Squad,” narrowly squeaked through a primary challenge earlier this year — a closer call than she’s expected to face next week defending her solidly Democratic seat.

Nor are established progressives safe by any means: Cook Political Report, one of the most closely watched political barometers in Washington, this week moved California Rep. Katie Porter’s Orange County district into the “toss-up” category.

In a recent interview with Politico, Sanders, a self-described socialist who’s long served as the standard-bearer for progressive politics in Washington, dismissed the notion that liberal Democrats have been keeping a low profile this cycle.

Quite the opposite, said Sanders, who sees his mission as mobilizing younger voters.

“If we do not create a sense of excitement in young people and working-class people and our voter turnout is not high in a midterm election, I think Democrats may be in a lot of trouble,” he said.

“That’s what we are trying to do.”

Berkman is quick to point out that he’s not predicting a Republican blowout in next week’s midterm elections. But conventional political wisdom and recent polling both suggest the momentum is with the GOP.

Should that come to pass, the surviving progressive members of the Democratic caucus will likely find a measure of freedom in being out of power in Congress.

“Those more ideological members are at a real advantage now, because they don’t have to make policy, they don’t have to pass bills and they’re totally in an oppositional role,” Berkman said.

“They’re trying to make policy when they’re in the majority, but they’re not going to be trying to make policy when they’re in the minority.”

But while progressives may take on a more oppositional role in Congress, one place they are likely to find themselves with less leverage is the White House, said Chris Sands, director of the Canada Institute at the D.C.-based Wilson Center.

Previous Democratic presidents found themselves forced to adopt a more centrist posture when dealing with a Republican Congress — and that’s likely to be the case for Biden, whose party, too, will be dealing with a new political reality.

“The thing that happened to both Clinton and Obama is once they had a foil — whether it was a House or Senate chamber run by the Republicans — they had an ability to navigate closer to the center in American politics,” Sands said.

“They could say to the progressives pushing the envelope on one end, ‘Look, I don’t like them any more than you do, but if we’re going to get things done, we have to find a way to peel off some of these votes and we have to work with their leadership.’”

Whatever happens, the next two years in Congress are likely to be turbulent, Berkman said.

Republicans have vowed everything from impeachment proceedings against Biden to congressional investigations of his son Hunter, whose finances have long been an object of fascination for the president’s political enemies.

And noted bomb-throwers like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene could well find themselves playing more prominent roles within the House and the party machinery, he added.

“I’m not sure I can even imagine what the next couple of years is going to be like,” Berkman said.

“Marjorie Taylor Greene moving into the leadership of the House Republican party — what would it mean for the party if that were the case? All signals are to me that she probably is being elevated within that party.

“So what else is she interested in, beyond chaos?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2022.

 

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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The U.S. and Iran beef is what politics has become at the World Cup

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United States head coach Gregg Berhalter and Tyler Adams attend a press conference on the eve of the group B World Cup soccer match between Iran and the United States in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 28.The Associated Press

Over the weekend, U.S. Soccer sent out social-media posts containing an altered Iranian flag. Two lines of Islamic script and the country’s emblem had been stripped from it. A spokesperson for the American team said the change had been made to show support for Iranian women.

Iran has had a torrid first week in Qatar. Its Portuguese coach, Carlos Queiroz, devotes huge chunks of his near-daily remarks to alternately lashing the team’s critics and begging them to back off.

Here was a main chance to change the story, courtesy of their old enemy. The fight is so silly, you’re tempted to think the two teams – who play each other on Tuesday – cooked it up together.

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Iran saw the provocation from the U.S. and raised it. It demanded FIFA suspend the American team for 10 games – effectively eliminating it from the World Cup. FIFA ignored it.

On Sunday, in the midst of a U.S. news conference, an Iranian journalist scolded America’s media operation, telling it to “respect international media.”

“This is World Cup, not MLS Cup,” he said.

The presser was cut short.

By Monday, Iranian journalists were pressing American manager Gregg Berhalter to move the U.S. Fifth Fleet out of the Persian Gulf. Shockingly, Berhalter doesn’t have any juice with the Navy.

Berhalter explained that neither he nor his players knew anything about the flag flap, but still apologized for it. No one wanted to hear it. This is what happens when athletes become political advocates. Everyone ends up looking clueless.

FIFA has spent years trying to strip the World Cup of its political symbolism and replace it with a commodified, pop-culture, politics-lite. That would be the sort of politics that gooses viewership, but doesn’t upset anyone.

It hasn’t helped itself by placing the event in military autocracies (Argentina 1978), functional dictatorships (Russia 2018), and developing nations that can’t afford to host it (a few).

A high-water mark for political tensions created by soccer goings-on was the 1982 semi-final, France vs. Germany. The two nations didn’t like each other going in. They liked each other much less after watching their countrymen kick the tar out of each other for 120 minutes. At one point, the German goalkeeper delivered a flying knee to an onrushing French player, knocking out several teeth.

Afterward, the German – Harald Schumacher – was told about the missing teeth. “I’ll pay for the crowns,” Schumacher said, glibly.

That went over as well as you’d imagine. Tensions mounted to a postwar high. The Germans learned the French hadn’t really forgiven them, and the French figured out they were still piping hot over it.

The situation was only defused when the then German chancellor publicly apologized to his French counterpart. The incident – referred to as ‘The Tragedy of Seville,’ after the city in which the match was played – remains a potent touchstone in both countries.

That was back when politics in sports had guardrails. You only went so far, for fear that a shouting match might become a shooting match.

Those limits have come off in recent years. People feel perfectly entitled – compelled, even – to show up at events such as this and start delivering speeches and tossing around insults.

As usual, FIFA is mostly to blame. By inveigling teams to engage in soft advocacy, it has persuaded the human brands in its temporary employ to speak the sort of truth that makes sponsors comfortable. But once the complaints get anywhere near the money, FIFA becomes a stickler for rules as written.

So, ‘OneLove’ armbands? Out. ‘No Discrimination’ armbands? In.

What does ‘no discrimination’ mean? Who, exactly, are these people who are for discrimination? When’s that press conference, because I’d like to attend it.

‘No discrimination’ means less than nothing, because it pretends to be something. Proper protest is organic. It isn’t approved by the marketing department, then sent off to the printers to be colour-matched and sized for overnight delivery.

After FIFA nixed the armbands, Germany came up with its own stunt. During the prematch team photo ahead of its first game, German players put their hands over their mouths. Presumably, this means they can’t speak their minds. Who exactly this is a shot at – FIFA? The state of Qatar? The World Cup writ large? – wasn’t defined.

And yet, they can speak. They’ve got cameras on them every hour of the day. People are itching to tell their stories. The German players haven’t been prevented from speaking. They’ve opted not to speak because they fear sanction.

So what is it? You’re taking a principled stand, or you’re doing a photo op? You can’t have both.

Now you’ve got USA and Iran taking pops at each other for kicks, hoping a few callbacks to the bad old days will jazz up their current sports chances.

Is it now totally out there to say this stuff ought not be taken so lightly? You want to start an international slapping contest with a sovereign country? Maybe your foreign service should be the one doing that, rather than the guy who runs the Instagram account at U.S. Soccer.

If you’re the United States of America, maybe don’t do that at all. You’re in no moral position to lecture anyone else.

But stripped of actual menace, that’s what politics has become at the World Cup (as well as the Olympics). It’s gamesmanship. It’s theatre. It’s for funsies.

And it can be fun. Until one day, something silly that happens here leaks out into the real world, where everyone doesn’t slap hands and trade jerseys when the game ends.

You feel like protesting the injustice inherent in staging this World Cup in this place? Or how your opponents comport themselves? How about not coming?

Why not apply the same standards of total commitment to your protesting that you do to your play? Otherwise, make room for serious people willing to take actual risks.

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Scott Moe continues his embracing of faux-masculine politics

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Given my particular age (78) and my propensity to ask my wife what day it is, I am baffled by the path the current Saskatchewan Party is following (or forging) in the Marble Palace. Am I missing something here, or are these events actually occurring?

• We’re in a situation at the moment where hospital waiting rooms are filling up and patient beds are becoming as scarce as those proverbial hen’s teeth. The province is only now starting its campaign to “recruit nurses” – in the Philippines, no less, thus continuing past practices we’ve employed with doctors in raiding the health wellness trained resources of one of the poorer nations on Earth that at least had the foresight to train its own citizens with the meager fiscal resources of their own government, and

• While it will take some time for such persons to both come to Saskatchewan and “acclimatize” to the province, our hospital problems only get worse as we are “hit” with a triple whammy of SEASONAL maladies, flu and RSV (syncytial virus), duly accompanied by yet another strain of Covid-19 sating its appetite upon the very young, and

• Due to our propensity of late to accept online versions of reality versus life in the increasingly crowded corridors of our hospitals, and what with uneducated “helicopter” parents accepting disinformation as to the effectiveness and “dangers” to children in getting the Covid vaccine (not to mention the ones – mumps, measles, rubella, smallpox and polio that we’ve been immunizing our children with for decades), thereby increasing the very young and innocent being exposed to such maladies (which is now being documented as occurring in increasing numbers), and

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• Since these illnesses are ALL viruses, antibiotic treatment is useless as a “cure”, yet until yesterday (Friday) most of our pharmacies were without even the basic pain treatment remedies that could alleviate the suffering occurring in our ailing children, including baby Tylenol – which, ironically, was produced as a “safe” product years ago and created through the usage of m-RNA technology, thus,

• We ask: WHAT actions are also being taken by the provincial government to IMMEDIATELY address medical staff shortages?

Please note that we’ve failed at the moment to address a more serious and consequential question, that being, WHY is it that we’re losing so many health care workers in the first place, and why isn’t the government working on a plan to actually RETAIN them?

Saskatchewan Union of Nurses President Tracy Zambory, while acknowledging the ethical dilemma of our recruiting health care workers from Third World nations, knows that her membership would throw massive “Welcome to Your New Home” parties for anyone who chooses to come to Canada under such circumstance if it meant occasional relief from typical 60 hour work weeks and double shifting.

What the membership wants, however, is to have a thoroughly incompetent Minister of Health, Paul Merriman, actually draw up a committee of field advisory staff to go to the “front lines” of this fight and CONSULT with nurses, beginning with committing greater resources towards education and training of more recruits.

Thus, having been given a key strategy for tackling this issue, what does Scott Moe propose to deal with its sensibility? Well, in a statement on Thursday widely reported in the Toronto Sun, then restated on his Twitter account he noted that “The Trudeau Liberals aren’t even hiding it anymore, they are coming for hunting rifles and shotguns.”

Wait – WHAT?

As I have intimated in previous columns, the premier’s interests in dealing with issues about which the NDP have more than an ample amount of evidence to point to areas of concern and how to deal with them is literally non-existent. A list similar to what I developed at the start of this column could equally be provided when it comes to the major issues facing provincial educators.

The problem here is that with the extremely contagion rates of the three viruses now causing strain on our health care system, there has to be some manner of “control” exercised in minimizing the potential for distress. The simplest way to deal with that problem is that, at a minimum, at least ask students coming to classes to wear masks. That, of course, would be in turn misrepresented as an enforceable “mandate” (even though a lot of students are already doing just that, especially the younger ones). It would be immediately opposed by the yahoos who support the fringe element of the political spectrum – the Buffalo Party, Maverick Party and the Peoples Party of Canada (not to mention Harper apostle and current Conservative Party leader, Pierre Poilievre) as some mythical violation of their ego-enlarged “freedoms”.

The Sask Party believes such voters are theirs by fiat. Therefore, to avoid being mocked as merely advocating for policies pandering to this collection of misfits, they are seeking “alternative” pathways I refer to as “Chicken Little” to deny the obvious.

The whining about the amendments now occurring with Bill C-21 changes and their reference to assault weaponry are almost comical in that it again reinforces the Sask Party’s fixation with the faux-“manhood” concerns of fighting for a “strong Saskatchewan”. What better manner is there to re-instill the faith in the party’s governing prowess than to be pictured as grasping onto an issue of obvious masculine appeal as the guns used by everyone for hunting or pest control – and pointing their “weaponry” now in the direction of the federal Liberal Party?

Most such policy pronouncements of late promoted by the government have their roots in the reaping of vast rewards caused by the Ukraine – Russia conflict through royalty payments. The party has thus invested much in the creating of the Saskatchewan First Act, its only purpose being to grant further powers to the legislature to stop the federal government from interfering in its exploitation of our non-renewable resources and supposed federal “overreach” – powers it already has under our Constitution.

Police associations have also condemned the setting up of the Saskatchewan Marshals Service, preferring that such monies instead by directed towards expansion of existing law enforcement forces and training specifically designed to handle the types of investigatory services such a force would be expected to perform.

Faux-masculine grasping or the production of non-content in proposed legislation that confirms the existence of a gravitational vacuum in the legislature is only my way of introducing a gallows sense of humour as to the direction in which the Saskatchewan Party wants to move this province. The problem is, given the current unpopularity of Premier Moe and his party and the direction being taken by their policy agenda, one can only wonder if the actual victim of such policies will become a stifling of democratic freedoms and the ability of our citizens to redirect us away from this dangerous creep towards autocracy.

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How Your Politics Could Affect Your Job Prospects

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A study a few years ago from Penn State came to the fascinating conclusion that the increasing political polarization of society is affecting our mobility. The last few years have seen a clear divide emerge between the politics of big cities, and those of rural regions, and the study suggests that this ideological divide may be discouraging many people from making the rural-urban migration.

“We found that the places that were most likely to exhibit same-party preference in movement are counties that are politically extreme,” the researchers explain. “What we saw was that movement from very Democratic or very Republican counties tended to be isolated to migration to other counties that are politically similar.”

Party loyalty

Research from the Kellogg School suggests that political differences might also have an impact on our careers once employed by a firm. The researchers find that our political views have a distinct impact on our careers, including whether we’re hired for a job or not.

In some ways, this makes sense, as the Penn researchers found, politics plays a part in where we live but also increasingly who we’re friends with and the people we date. It stands to reason, therefore, that it would play a role in our professional lives too, especially when companies place such an emphasis on culture and social cohesion at work.

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The study found that business owners at small and medium-sized firms are much more likely to hire someone if they’re also members of the same political party as them. This also translates into benefits when they are hired, including better pay, more promotions, and a longer average tenure with the firm.

Career impact

Indeed, the impact was so strong that the study found that it was more influential on our career outcomes than any other factor, including our gender, our race, or our skills. The phenomenon was so striking that workers were 50% more likely to belong to the same party as their employer than one would expect if they were randomly assigned.

What’s more, employees who were “politically aligned” were, on average, paid nearly 4% more than their nonaligned peers, and were also more likely to get promoted. Sadly, this political concentration appears to be worsening.

Research from Harvard Business School suggests that executive teams are growing more and more partisan. The researchers looked at the political allegiances of bosses across America and found that 69% align themselves with the Republicans, versus just 31% with the Democrats. The analysis revealed that the likelihood of partisanship grew by around 7.7% between 2008 and 2020. What’s more, this trend was around twice that seen across the population more broadly.

The Kelloggs research suggests that this growing partisanship at the top of our organizations is highly likely to be trickling down across the workforce. This is worrying, as while research from ESMT suggests we increasingly want our leaders to be politically and socially active, this is perhaps not quite what we had in mind.

Does it matter?

This political homogenization is likely to have a significant impact on the workplace. A few years ago research from University College London found that it is making us poorer judges of talent.

The research found that when we know the political leaning of our colleagues, we tend to rely heavily on those with the same political identification as ourselves rather than relying on the skill level of the people in question.

“When we examined participants’ impressions of the co-players we found they overestimated how good the politically like-minded were at the shape categorisation task. This misperception drove the participants to seek advice from the politically like-minded,” the researchers revealed.

Diversity wins

This was followed by research from the University of Chicago, which showed that politically diverse teams were usually more effective. The researchers examined contributions to over 200,000 Wikipedia pages to explore whether contributions from politically diverse people resulted in higher quality pages than more partisan teams.

This study doesn’t say we can always get along,” the authors explain. But if we’re diverse along political lines, it actually means that we bring separate perspectives, and when we’re able to work together, then we’re able to produce a more complete and balanced perspective. If we’re imbalanced, then this study also suggests how bad it can be.”

So, while it may be prudent for job seekers to keep politics out of their resume as much as possible, it’s also beholden on managers to do a much better job of ensuring their decisions are not clouded by their political sensibilities.

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