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The Most Powerful People in American Politics Are Over 65 – The New York Times



LAS VEGAS — Joseph R. Biden Jr. wasn’t accustomed to overflow audiences.

It was a Tuesday evening in February and Mr. Biden had limped into Las Vegas, bruised from his disappointing showings in the Iowa and New Hampshire nominating contests. But at Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant, a dim sum spot here, a crowd of retirees had packed in to see the 77-year-old former vice president, forming a line that snaked out the door.

“I don’t like Warren and I don’t like Bernie because they want ‘Medicare for all,’” said Alan Davis, 80, dismissing the single-payer health care system promoted by Senator Bernie Sanders, 78. “I’m totally against it. I have a good health plan.”

Mr. Biden is “really human. He can feel how an ordinary person feels,” said Minerva Honkala, a retired teacher who identified herself as “65-plus.”

Mr. Biden’s ability to connect with Ms. Honkala’s age group — through his résumé and more centrist tendencies, his talk of shared values and his perceived general election promise — helped him regain his footing in Nevada, surge to victory in South Carolina and catapult to his perch as the likely Democratic nominee. It was a rapid reversal of fortunes fueled by overwhelming support first from older black voters and, ultimately, from older voters more broadly, a key part of his larger coalition.

Now that age group is top of mind for many Americans as the nation confronts the staggering costs of the coronavirus crisis. It’s a vulnerable population in terms of the outbreak — and has become the focus of the public conversation. Health officials are pleading for young people to stay home to protect their parents and grandparents, while in Texas, Dan Patrick, the Republican lieutenant governor, suggested that older people might be willing to take risks in order to protect the economy, sparking a national controversy.

But politically, the primary results this election season have highlighted the extraordinary, sustained power of older Americans: Exit polls, surveys and interviews with political strategists and demographers show that the concerns and preferences of these voters have played a critical role in defining the trajectory of the Democratic race so far, and are poised to do so in the general election as well.

In Florida, a state with a significant retiree population, Mr. Biden won the Democratic primary last week by nearly 40 percentage points, a reflection of both his momentum in the race and his strength with constituencies including more moderate Latino voters, African-Americans and college-educated white suburbanites. Among voters aged 65 and over, Mr. Biden’s advantage was even starker: He was the choice of 70 percent of those voters, while 5 percent said the same of Mr. Sanders, according to a National Election Pool pre-election survey of Florida voters.

“Older voters, after African-American voters, have been the single most important constituency for Joe Biden,” said Celinda Lake, a veteran Democratic pollster and political strategist who works with the Biden team but spoke in her personal capacity.

Younger voters have had “tremendous influence” in shaping the contours of the Democratic debate, pushing boldly progressive ideas on matters like student loan debt reform to the fore, said John Della Volpe, the director of polling at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.

When it comes to electoral outcomes, however, young people are being outflanked: “Rather than increasing their influence in 2020, what’s happened is, their parents and grandparents have increased their influence,” he said.

Those Democratic grandparents, especially, tend to be more moderate, more swayed by traditional government experience and more keenly focused on the tactics they believe are needed to defeat President Trump, strategists and pollsters said.

Mr. Biden, who once faced significant competition for older Americans, emerged in recent weeks as the dominant front-runner among those highly committed Democratic voters who have now helped bring him to the cusp of his party’s presidential nomination.

Older voters have punched above their political weight for years, with turnout among those 65 and older often double, or more, that of the youngest voters. As Americans age and become more rooted in their communities, political participation tends to rise with their stake in society.

Even in the midterm elections in 2018, hailed as a high-water mark for youth voting because the share of 18- to 24-year-olds nearly doubled from the previous midterm election, the gap with older voters remained about the same. About 66 percent of eligible older people turned out, compared with about 36 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.

“There’s no magic age for becoming a regular voter,” said Carroll Doherty, the director of political research at the Pew Research Center. “But when people move into their 40s, that’s when you see voter turnout grow.”

Certainly, Mr. Sanders, the overwhelming favorite with younger voters, is continuing to campaign. And while the Vermont senator has acknowledged that younger voters did not appear to turn out at the rate he had hoped for, polls and exit surveys show that Mr. Biden faces major challenges with that constituency, a liberal slice of the electorate that, his advisers acknowledge, he will need to energize if he is the nominee.

His standing with older voters is also poised to look different in a general election, where that demographic is again influential — but traditionally has tilted much more conservative.

“The irony is that the pattern is about to reverse in the general,” Ms. Lake said, pointing to Mr. Trump’s overall strength with older voters, even as she added that “Donald Trump is despised by younger voters.”

The virus has thrown politics completely, and unpredictably, up in the air. What will happen in Florida’s retirement communities — some of the most vulnerable in the nation to the virus — if Mr. Trump’s push to reopen the country fast comes to pass? It’s a question with potentially partisan implications.

Older people have long leaned Republican. A majority have chosen Republicans in four of the last seven presidential elections, according to Mr. Frey. In recent years they have also become more demographically distinct from the rest of the country: About 78 percent of eligible senior voters are white, compared with just 67 percent of eligible voters in the country as a whole.

Older voters favored Mr. Trump in 2016. In Pennsylvania, they preferred him by a 10-point margin, Mr. Frey said. In all, 52 percent of older people — and 58 percent of white seniors — voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Frey said.

Seniors also show up, particularly in swing states. In the Midwestern states of Michigan and Wisconsin in 2016, turnout among older voters was higher than the national average for that age group, according to Mr. Frey. In Michigan, for example, 74 percent of older eligible voters turned out, compared with just 38 percent of 18- to 24-year-old eligible voters.

This presents a challenge for Mr. Biden, should he win the nomination: how to get younger voters — who did not prefer him to begin with — to turn out for him, while persuading their older counterparts, who tend to choose Republicans, to vote for him over Mr. Trump.

In recent weeks, Mr. Biden has increased his efforts to appeal to younger and more progressive voters, ramping up outreach and embracing portions of proposals from Mr. Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren that take aim at the student debt burden.

But throughout the primary contest, Mr. Biden’s most consistent overtures were to older voters, both substantively and through explicit and more subtle messaging.

His inaugural bus trip across Iowa was called the “No Malarkey” tour, a phrase that struck some younger voters as dated, following Mr. Biden’s proactive mention, in an autumn debate, of a record player. It didn’t seem out of step with the older crowds at his events, where Mr. Biden would often aim to connect over what he cast as similar upbringings.

“The way we were raised, all of you were raised, the way I was raised, everything’s about integrity and decency,” he said in Emmetsburg, Iowa, in December.

On the policy front, his experience in foreign affairs and his support for building on the Affordable Care Act while allowing Americans the option of maintaining their private insurance resonated with older voters.

There were “almost pragmatic, urgent worries about health care that people want addressed in the short term,” Stanley B. Greenberg, a longtime Democratic pollster, said when asked about the age gap at play in the primary. Several Sanders priorities, he continued, including “Medicare for all, climate change and student debt — almost all of them are kind of long term.”

Younger voters who were focused on the future, he added, “have more space to deal with it.”

Mr. Biden struggled in Iowa and New Hampshire, when he faced a crowded primary field and significant competition for many demographics. Over the summer and into the fall, older people often voiced concerns about Mr. Biden’s sharpness and stamina. Voters who were close to Mr. Biden’s age were often keenly aware of their own limitations — and some worried about whether he faced the same challenges they did.

“Early on, they weren’t sold on Joe Biden,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Many of them felt he was too old.”

Those voters, he said, were also drawn to candidates like Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota or former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. But as those candidates dropped out and endorsed Mr. Biden on the eve of Super Tuesday, he shored up his strength with older white voters, while his appeal to older black voters continued apace: He went on to win the support of a stunning 94 percent of black voters over the age of 60 in Mississippi, according to exit polls.

Older Americans will soon be even more important. Mr. Frey noted that the large “Baby Boom” generation has only just begun entering the older American voting bloc. He has calculated that the number of senior eligible voters will rise to 68 million in 2028 from 47 million in 2016.

“The second half of the boomer generation has yet to turn 65,” he said. “When more of them do, they are going to make this older voting bloc even more prized, especially in the northern swing states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.”

Mr. Biden, who was born in Scranton, Pa., and emphasizes his working-class roots, is not ceding those voters, and his allies argue that his strong performance with older voters in the primary signals an ability to cut into what has historically been a Republican advantage in the general election.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said that Mr. Biden would offer a clear contrast with Mr. Trump’s record on health care and social safety net matters, promising that “older Americans will remember whose values align with theirs this fall.” Sarah Matthews, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, defended that record, calling Mr. Trump a “proven champion for seniors” — a sign of possible clashes to come.

But first, there is still a primary contest, and the age gap between Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders has been on vivid display all year. The senator favored large rallies that attracted devoted young people, while Mr. Biden’s events, even in his strongest states, tended to be smaller, with crowds that tilted older.

Now, because the coronavirus outbreak forced an end to traditional campaigning, Mr. Biden’s efforts to reach voters — old and young — are typically online anyway.

He and his team are working on a podcast and he has hosted a virtual happy hour with younger supporters — but his efforts have faced technological difficulties, and Mr. Biden has admitted it is challenging to adjust.

“As you can tell,” he wrote in a newsletter on Wednesday, “I’m still getting used to this virtual world we’re campaigning in.”

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Modi and Erdogan thrive on divisive identity politics – Financial Times



“The wait of centuries is over” were the words of Narendra Modi, as the Indian prime minister laid the foundation stone of a new Hindu temple in Ayodhya last week.

“This was the greatest dream of our youth, and now it has been accomplished” was how Recep Tayyip Erdogan put it, shortly before the Turkish president led the prayers in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on July 24, after its reconversion to a mosque.

Mr Modi is a Hindu nationalist. Mr Erdogan is an Islamist. The Indian and Turkish leaders look like potential rivals in a clash of civilisations. But they are pursuing political projects that are mirror images.

Both are champions of a brand of politics that seeks to fuse religion, the nation and the leader. Both lead countries with secular constitutions but want to place religion back at the heart of the nation and the state. 

Mr Modi launched his political career in the 1990s, by campaigning for the destruction of a mosque at Ayodhya and its replacement with a Hindu temple — an ambition he finally realised last week. Mr Erdogan has long demanded that the Hagia Sophia — inaugurated as a basilica in 537, converted into a mosque from 1453 and then a museum from 1935 — should once again become a Muslim place of worship. After 17 years in power, the Turkish leader has achieved his ambition.

Both leaders have grandiose views of themselves as refounders of their own nations. Mr Modi calls himself the champion of a “new India”. Mr Erdogan talks of a “new Turkey”. This common language reflects more than a weakness for the same kind of marketing-speak.

In rejecting secularism, both the Indian and the Turkish leaders have placed themselves tacitly in conflict with the founding fathers of their modern nations. Kemal Ataturk, the creator of the Turkish republic, was an alcohol-drinking secularist. Mohandas Gandhi, who led the campaign for Indian independence, was a champion of religious pluralism and was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist. 

In rejecting secularism, Erdogan-supporting Islamists and Modi-supporting Hindu nationalists argue that their chosen leaders are returning Turkey and India back to their authentic religious and cultural roots — and away from the alien traditions of the west, championed by secular urban elites. The most ardent fans of Mr Modi and Mr Erdogan argue that, in time, the current leaders of India and Turkey will come to be seen as greater and more significant figures than Gandhi or Ataturk.

Both Mr Modi and Mr Erdogan also aspire to be leaders of a global faith community. Digital renderings of the new temple in Ayodhya were beamed on to a giant billboard in Times Square in New York, presumably as an inspiration to expatriate Indians. Mr Erdogan has claimed that the “resurrection of the Hagia Sophia” represents the “will of Muslims all over the world”.

For two such important nations to turn their backs on secularism and liberal values is significant in itself. But the changes in India and Turkey are also part of a broader global story of the rise of identity politics at the expense of liberal universalism. This is a story that, in different ways, is also playing out in China, Russia, the US and Europe. It is closely linked to the rise of strongman leaders, who claim to be protectors of a faith, a nation or a chosen ethnic group, or some fusion of all three.

In China, President Xi Jinping’s “great rejuvenation” of the Chinese nation involves an increasingly ruthless suppression of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has forged close links with the Russian Orthodox Church as part of his nationalist project. In the US, Donald Trump has promised evangelical voters that with him in the White House, “Christianity will have power”.

The current coronavirus-driven economic slump strengthens the temptation for strongman leaders to play the identity card. In their first terms in office, Mr Modi and Mr Erdogan stressed their credentials as economic reformers. But with the Turkish and Indian economies in deep trouble, both leaders need other means of rallying support. 

The ceremonies at Ayodhya and the Hagia Sophia were perfect ways of stirring the emotions of their core supporters. Secular liberals in India and Turkey were mostly reluctant to come out in open opposition to these crowd-pleasing measures. In both countries, liberals are already aghast at what they see as an assault on fundamental liberties, such as the freedom of the press and independence of the courts. The process is significantly more advanced in Turkey, but Mr Erdogan has been in power for a decade longer than Mr Modi.

Identity politics thrives on division and distinctions between friends and enemies. Often, the focus is on the “enemy within”, such as religious or ethnic minorities, or liberal elites. But strongman leaders also have to be seen to be tough with the nation’s enemies overseas. Mr Erdogan has committed Turkish troops to wars in Libya and Syria. Mr Modi authorised a bombing raid on militant camps in Pakistan, just ahead of the 2019 election.

A rejection of secularism and an embrace of identity politics is a potent way of rallying political support. But, both at home and abroad, it is also a recipe for conflict.

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China sanctions 11 U.S. politicians, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – Global News



China has announced unspecified sanctions against 11 U.S. politicians and heads of organizations promoting democratic causes, including Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who have already been singled out by Beijing.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday said the 11 had “performed badly” on issues concerning Hong Kong, where China has cracked down on opposition voices following its imposition of a national security law in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city last month.

Read more:
U.S. sanctions Hong Kong officials, including government leader Carrie Lam

The number of Americans named by the ministry exactly equals the number of Hong Kong and Chinese officials placed on a sanctions list by the U.S. last week over the crackdown.

China showed its determination to defy such pressure on Monday by arresting leading independent media tycoon Jimmy Lai and raiding the publisher’s headquarters.

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Others named by the foreign ministry included Senators Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton and Representative Chris Smith. Heads of organizations including the National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House were also named.

Beijing already placed a travel ban on Rubio, Cruz and Smith last month after Washington announced similar measures against Chinese officials linked to measures taken against Muslims in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang.

U.S. impose sanctions on senior Chinese official over alleged Uighur rights abuse

U.S. impose sanctions on senior Chinese official over alleged Uighur rights abuse

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Crass politics lie behind Trump's tariff war –



When it comes to Donald Trump, the one thing you can absolutely count on is that you absolutely cannot count on him.

Just one month ago, the American president officially celebrated the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, touting it as “the largest, fairest and most advanced trade deal every reached by any country, and it will bring enormous prosperity.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wisely opted to forego those festivities in Washington, D.C. It’s possible he was aware even then that the ever-fickle Trump was already plotting to launch a new trade war with his northern neighbour.

And that’s what Trump did last Thursday in announcing new tariffs on Canadian aluminum, in violation of the spirit, if not letter, of the new trade deal he so lavishly and recently praised.

While the move will hurt millions of people on both sides of the border, Trump hopes it will help him, his Republican party and their increasingly precarious re-election hopes. How selfish can he get?

Trump’s justification for slapping a 10-per-cent tariff on most Canadian aluminum as of Aug. 16 is, like so many of his other arguments, a rotten fish wrapped in a tissue of lies.

First, he alleges there’s a “surge” in Canadian aluminum entering the U.S. When the two countries resolved a previous trade dispute in 2019, both sides agreed the U.S. could reimpose tariffs on Canadian steel or aluminum if there was a sudden surge in either product.

The Grand-Canyon-wide hole in Trump’s defence of his latest tariffs is that there is no “surge” in Canadian aluminum exports to the U.S. Canadian metals producers as well as most of the American industry agree on that. In fact, overall imports from Canada are on par with their levels in 2018, when Trump imposed the first round of his politically-motivated tariffs.

Second, Trump says the new aluminum tariffs are necessary for the “national security” of the U.S. What clap-trap. Shipments of Canada’s raw aluminum are hardly packed with electronic devices that hack into Pentagon secrets.

On the contrary, those shipments promote America’s economic security by providing a product that U.S. manufacturers need and cannot be solely supplied by the domestic aluminum industry. Ford Motor Co., relies on Canadian aluminum. So, too, does the U.S. military.

Far from benefitting Americans, Trump’s new tariffs will ensure that U.S. products that use Canadian aluminum cost more to make and buy. That’s bad for American consumers as well as manufacturers that use Canadian aluminum. Meanwhile, this trade dispute is escalating. A day after Trump announced his tariffs, the Canadian government unveiled retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products, a reasonable defensive response but one that could sting Canadian consumers.

More costly goods, new trade barriers, rising protectionism — these are lead weights on the economies of both Canada and the U.S. as they struggle to escape from the pandemic-induced recession.

But sadly, there is method to Trump’s madness. With just three months before the next presidential election, he’s badly trailing in public opinion polls. He needs an enemy around whom he can rally his dwindling band of supporters. Canada, which he accuses of “taking advantage of us, as usual,” is a convenient scapegoat.

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Trump’s ploy might even work in places like Kentucky, where Century Aluminum Co., which lobbied for the tariffs, is located and where Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is in a tight race for re-election.

Whatever good the Canadian government’s pushback accomplishes, real salvation can only come on American Election Day. The best way to get rid of these mutually-destructive trade wars is for American voters to get rid of Trump. Oh, may that happen.

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