Friday, May 26, 2017

Italy, the Sick Man of Europe

France’s labor markets and productivity are a mess and one of President Macron’s biggest challenges. But, Italy’s are even worse, and there is no sense the politics of the next election will offer a solution.
Italy’s anti-establishment nationalism is intense. Most of the public in Europe support the Euro despite anti-Euro nationalism. Only in Italy does a plurality of the public see the Euro as bad (47%) for the country, not good (41%).

Slow growth, high unemployment, massive debt, low productivity, rigid labor, trade and professional rules, and a general dissatisfaction with the center parties gave birth to the Five Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo. The so-called party is mostly run as an online movement, but in 2016, it won the mayorships in Rome and Turin. It often looks more like a Bernie Sanders caucus meeting than a national party. But, there is passion and an anti-corruption, protectionist platform that appeals to Italian workers, businesses and dissatisfied voters. At 30 percent support, it is currently Italy’s largest political bloc.
Italy is currently run by an interim government since the constitutional reform referendum of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi failed in December and he resigned. A mid-2018 election is likely, and unless one of the major party groupings can get organized, Five Star could be asked to form a government.

Beppe Grillo, found of the Five Star Movement and Rome’s Mayor
Virginia Raggi during a demonstration in November | Gregorio Borgia/AP

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Election Dashboard

Although it is more than a year and a half until the next congressional elections, Washington, D.C. is watching the calendar early, mostly due to the chaos of Trump administration’s start-up. House Republicans are worried about holding their majority and Democrats are busy recruiting candidates.
Democrats need 24 House seats and 3 in the Senate. Both goals appeared unlikely after the November elections, but the beginning of Donald Trump’s second 100 days brings early speculation that Democrat could take both houses.
We will begin regularly publishing the 2018 political Dashboard to quantify and comment on the status of the congressional races, which are likely to be the most watched and analyzed in recent history. Control of Congress, especially the House, will not just decide the Trump and Republican legislative agenda, it may decide Trump’s survival as president. Bills of impeachment are in drafting, with many of the particular charges already identified. It is no doubt premature, but it reflects the President’s vulnerability and the Democrats’ passion.
The elements of the Dashboard are: presidential approval, congressional approval, the generic congressional ballot test, direction of the country, and the number of seats Democrats and Republicans need or enjoy respectively for a majority.
The President’s approval is at a record-low for this early in a term. There are more than 500 days until the November 2018 elections, but now is the time for recruitment and fundraising. Democrats have been benefiting from post-election activism and Obamacare rage. Now, of course, the White House and Trump’s performance are energizing them.
The RealClearPolitics presidential average rating is 40 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval, a 14-percent negative spread. And, the polls of the last few days have uniformly been below 40 percent.

The campaign for the House has already begun with heated town hall meetings for Republican incumbents and Democratic support organizations buying ads in 23 House Republican districts where Hillary Clinton won last year, including Colorado’s Mike Coffman’s 6th district. He won in November by 7 points, while Clinton was carrying the district by 9 points. Coffman voted against the Republican AHCA repeal and replacement legislation.
Democrats also need to defend 12 seats that Trump won, but with Trump’s low approval and the Republicans’ AHCA legislation having only a 25 percent public approval, it’s Republicans who are the most concerned.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How About the French Transition?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R)
greets visiting French President
Emmanuel Macron in Berlin
on May 15, 2017 | Xinhua/Shan Yuqi
The first round of the French presidential election was April 23, the second round 14 days later on May 7 and the transition completed on Sunday, May 14. It was a simple ceremony at the Élysée Palace, a speech by the new president and the brief ride down Avenue des Champs-Élysées in a military vehicle. A wreath was laid and President Macron went to work.

One day later, he was in Berlin building an essential relationship with German Chancellor Merkel. Nice transition – less money spent and time wasted and no arguments about crowd size.

New French President Emmanuel Macron waves from a military vehicle as
he rides on Avenue des Champs-Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe
in Paris, France, May 14, 2017 | AP Photo/Michel Euler, POOL

The EU Gets a Boost. Next Up: England, Germany and Italy.

With the victory of Emmanuel Macron, the EU gets a moment to reconfigure its future. It would be wise not to waste time. European electorates are in considerable stress with far-right and far-left movements adopting nationalist, anti-EU positions to compete with old center parties.

The next European elections are as important as Brexit, Trump and Macron. Prime Minister Theresa May wants to strengthen a governing majority in Great Britain for EU negotiations. Chancellor Angela Merkel must renew her five-year mandate. She represents the dean of world globalists, and with the new French president, the essential partner in preserving the EU. And finally, the most troubled Mediterranean EU member, Italy, will likely have an election in 2018. It could put an anti-EU populist party in control. Italy’s parliamentary election isn’t set yet. It’s likely to be in mid-2018 and the Eurosceptic Five Star Movement could be the largest party.

Nationalists and Eurosceptics continue to have clout. They control the Polish government and are a force in Britain, France, Austria and various parts of Eastern Europe. In fact, a snap election has been called in Austria due to the instability of old governing coalitions and politicians.

Although Ms. Merkel’s party appears well-positioned to be the dominant player in the September 24 election, this will continue a government that has lasted 12 years, a very long run in current European politics. Her challenge comes from the center-left more than the far-right.

Monday, May 15, 2017

French Nationalism Now the Main European Opposition to Globalism

Although the National Front, the main French party representing anti-immigrant, anti-EU sentiments, lost the presidential run-off; the anti-global position in France continues to grow. Marine Le Pen received 21% of the vote in April’s French first round election, but the total of right and left anti-global parties equaled nearly half the total vote (49%).
She increased her vote share 13 percent in the second round run-off to 34 percent. Hence, a third of the French electorate supports an extreme nationalist party, a steady increase from 2002 when the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, received just 18 percent.
The party (which may be renamed) is also now the leading opposition to Emmanuel Macron’s globalist position. Will nationalist elements of weakened left and right parties join it or can the Republican, Socialist and Communist parties reconstitute into viable alternatives?
The National Front post-election strategy is likely to affect the next steps in development of French
Marine Le Pen | Michel Euler/AP
nationalism. But, the new government will also shape the party’s development. If Macron fails to build a working parliamentary majority or if his solutions disappoint, the National Front and its allies will likely benefit.
Even in losing, the National Front has repositioned French politics from a left-right continuum to a nationalist-globalist framework, although ideologues are more flexible than fixed today. As the second largest party in the second most populated country and largest economy in Western Europe after Germany, the National Front is now the vanguard of the continent’s nationalistic movement.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Lavrov and Trump Meeting as Comey Fired

Just as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak conferenced with the President at the White House, the Russian cyber-attack investigation was dominating the airwaves with the FBI Director Comey firing.

Good news for the Russians in short term. The President reaffirms his commitment to build a relationship with Russia in spite of the Russian hacking investigation of the U.S. election. In longer-term, the firing will keep the issue in the news and in political turmoil. Vladimir Putin’s strategy here and in France is producing considerable blowback. It’s empowering political enemies and making it difficult for friends.

Putin personally requested a photo shoot between Trump and the Russian team. In fact, it was only covered by Russian media, which Trump allowed as he kept U.S. media at bay. In other words, in spite of Putin’s hostile intervention in the U.S. election, he managed to self-extol on Russian TV. What a master strategist he is!

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, President Donald
Trump and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak
meet in the Oval Office, May 10, 2017 | Alexander Shcherbak/
TASS via Getty Images

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Battle Over Obamacare Repeal Comes to Colorado: KOA Interview

April Zesbaugh and Steffan Tubbs interview on KOA May 9, 2017 on challenges congressional Republicans face from grassroots groups fighting the Obamacare repeal and replacement.

Floyd Ciruli: Two political fights are underway. In one fight, Democrats want to win back the House of Representatives. They need to pick up 24 seats in 2018. In the other, they want to stop the Obamacare legislative changes that came out of the House last Thursday, which are now in the Senate.

Health care policy has dominated American politics since what came to be known as Obamacare was first introduced in 2009. It cost the Democrats their majority in 2010 with a 30-seat loss. The losses continued in 2014. In a reversal of fortune, they are hoping the resistance is as potent as the Tea Party and health care will put them back in power in 2018.

But the fight is also over controlling the narrative as much as specific seats and candidates at this point. Democrats are arguing millions will lose coverage and that protection for pre-existing conditions has been emasculated. Republicans argue Obamacare is collapsing and the new law will stimulate private coverage, lower premiums and limit budget-busting Medicare expansions.

Part of the message battle is at congressperson town halls and constituent meetings. In Colorado, both Congressman Mike Coffman and Senator Cory Gardner have been targeted by the Democratic resistance and other health care activists.

A standing-room-only crowd in gymnasium of Byers Middle School during an
“in absentia”  town hall meeting directed at U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who was
invited, but did not respond to the invitation, Feb. 24, 2017 | Andy Colwell/
Special to Denver Post
Washington pundits believe that the embattled Trump presidency hovering over the health care debate has made the political environment very volatile and potentially competitive for 2018. In fact, the respected Cook Report just moved Coffman’s seat from lean Republican to toss-up in spite of his voting no on the bill. And although it is premature to downgrade Coffman, who wins re-elections in good and bad Republican years, health care has been a Republican-only bill with President Trump as the chief promoter.

It is now up to the Senate with its narrow Republican margin to craft something the House Republicans will accept and the party will want to run on in 2018.

The Buzz: Democrats could retake the House
FiveThirtyEight: A very early look at the battle for the House in 2018
New York Times: ‘No district is off the table’: Health vote could put House in play