Friday, May 24, 2019

Nationalism on the Rise

As the global order of the post-World War II era continues to recede, the self-interest of aggressive nationalism is becoming the dominant replacement. The EU elections this week will likely witness a surge of Eurosceptics into the EU’s parliament.

While many of the candidates don’t advocate withdrawal from the EU or breaking it up, they uniformly aim to change it to benefit the perceived interest of their own country. The result is likely to be reduced power in Brussels due to less consensus on overall goals and more decentralization of authority over specific areas. The changes are also likely to be less supportive of democratic structures and norms in member states. It will also provide opportunities for Russia and China to achieve geopolitical and economic goals.
From left, Geert Wilders, leader of Dutch Party for Freedom, Matteo Salvini,
Jörg Meuthen, leader of Alternative For Germany Party, Marine Le Pen, Leader
of the French National Front, Vaselin Marehki leader of Bulgarian 'Volya' party,
Jaak Madison of Estonian Conservative People’s Party, and Tomio Okamura
Leader of Czech far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy, attend a rally
organized by League leader Matteo Salvini, with leaders of other European
nationalist parties, ahead of the May 23-26 European Parliamentary elections,
May 18, 2019 | Photo: Luca Bruno/AP

Is “America First” Headed to Conflict?

The Trump administration’s “America First” policy is now engaged in at least four dangerous regions, any one of which could produce a conflict. President Trump’s personalized foreign policy sets aggressive goals (denuclearization, regime change) and proclaims extreme threats (fire and fury, totally destroy North Korea, official end of Iran), but no conflict, yet.

However, for now, there is very little accomplished. To some extent, his targets are discounting the threats. If his mostly go-it-alone strategy ends in failure, will it lead to a shift to military solutions?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Colorado Ballot Issues Could Pass in Off-Year Election

Historically, the effort to increase taxes for Colorado state government responsibilities, such as K-12 and higher education and roads, has floundered. And, proposals haven’t fared any better in odd-year elections.

But, the Colorado State Legislature just put two proposals on the ballot: Proposition CC, a permanent TABOR override, and Proposition DD, allowing and taxing sports betting, that could pass.

Proposition CC: Retain revenue for education and transportation
WITHOUT RAISING TAXES AND TO BETTER FUND PUBLIC SCHOOLS, HIGHER EDUCATION, AND ROADS, BRIDGES, AND TRANSIT, WITHIN A BALANCED BUDGET, MAY THE STATE KEEP AND SPEND ALL THE REVENUE IT ANNUALLY COLLECTS AFTER JUNE 30, 2019, BUT IS NOT CURRENTLY ALLOWED TO KEEP AND SPEND UNDER COLORADO LAW, WITH AN ANNUAL INDEPENDENT AUDIT TO SHOW HOW THE RETAINED REVENUES ARE SPENT?

Proposition DD: Authorize and tax sports betting
SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED BY TWENTY-NINE MILLION DOLLARS ANNUALLY TO FUND STATE WATER PROJECTS AND COMMITMENTS AND TO PAY FOR THE REGULATION OF SPORTS BETTING THROUGH LICENSED CASINOS BY AUTHORIZING A TAX ON SPORTS BETTING OF TEN PERCENT OF NET SPORTS BETTING PROCEEDS, AND TO IMPOSE THE TAX ON PERSONS LICENSED TO CONDUCT SPORTS BETTING OPERATIONS?

Why the better chance for more revenue in November 2019?
  • A five-year TABOR override barely passed in 2005, but since then, local governments’ TABOR overrides have become commonplace. A recent survey in Arapahoe County showed a TABOR override for the county, one of the few counties in the state without an override, would be approved by 60 percent.
  • Sin taxes remain popular. Marijuana and gaming produce revenue much of the public is willing to allow and anxious to tax. A gaming activity increase (higher table betting limits) was approved handily in 2008 and the tax dollars put into community colleges and gaming towns.
  • Although there will be a defense of TABOR from longtime supporters, they will be countered by a well-oiled advocacy group for TABOR reform, especially override of its “caps.”
  • Without a rival gaming group willing to oppose the sports gaming legalization the public is likely to see as a painless source of tax revenue for a good cause – the well identified need for state water programs and projects.
  • Colorado’s changed political climate appears to offer some additional support for proposals that have a progressive consensus, especially if supported by the legislative leadership and Governor Polis.
Of course, a lower turnout electorate and a long history of mistrust of state government will still have to be overcome, but 2019 may change the direction on giving state government some, if not much, additional tax revenue.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Threat to Overturn Roe v. Wade is Major Blunder of Republicans for 2020 Elections

Republicans have benefitted from extreme rhetoric concerning outlawing abortion. It has activated their evangelical voters without producing a backlash from suburban women and others who might have moral qualms about abortion, but are a part of the two-thirds of Americans who do not approve of reversing Roe v. Wade.

But, near total abortion bans have now passed in a host of southern states and may force the issue into the Supreme Court for a review challenging the fundamental 1973 decision. It will put the issue front and center into the long run-up to the 2020 election.

Democrats will attack the lack of exceptions and the denial of protections afforded for 46 years by Roe v. Wade. Republicans will be divided and forced to play defense. In fact, divisions are already apparent as various Republican leaders claim they support exceptions related to rape and incest. These reservations won’t help if the fundamental law is challenged.

Giellis Stumbles, Loses First Week

Jamie Giellis at the Denver Post's mayoral
debate, April 1, 2019 | Getty Images
In spite of a strong start with important endorsements from colleagues who she beat for second place, Jamie Giellis’ verbal stumble in a podcast of low or no audience became by week’s end, a major distraction and put her on the defensive.

The inability to correctly identify the acronym, NAACP, is a very small deal, but it nicely reinforces a major theme of her opponent – Giellis lacks important government- and political-related knowledge and specifically does not know the city or its diversity. The Mayor and his allies are arguing to go with the experienced hometown candidate, and this reinforces it. Michael Hancock’s base in the minority community demonstrated its usual low interest in the May 7 first round election with low turnout. This strengthens his case to the minority community that something important is at stake in this race.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Democrats Bail on Senate: It has Lost Stature

A host of top ranking Democrats have said no to running for winnable senate seats and yes to long-shot White House bids. John Hickenlooper is one of the most obvious, but newly announced Governor Steve Bullock was a highly recruited Montana senate candidate. In Texas, both Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro were considered top recruits against Senator John Cornyn in a state that Democrats covet for a presidential transition.

Why are top candidates balking on senate races, preferring to join two dozen Democrats in a scrum of hard to distinguish presidential candidates? Seth McLaughlin of the Washington Times runs the list.

My view is that the Senate “has lost stature.”

“The Senate has lost — particularly for Democrats — some of its attraction,” said Floyd Ciruli, a veteran Colorado-based pollster. “There was a time when you were a senator, there was a sort of the majesty of the Senate. It had its rules, it had its prestige, you had recognition and authority even in the minority, but it has a lot less stature now.”
  • In alignment with a diminished Senate, Hickenlooper and others argue that they are executive personalities who want to get things done and not be locked into the slow pace of the Senate and a second-class minority position.
  • Enhancing the attraction of a presidential run is its heightened status in the Trump authoritarian era. Neither opinion leaders nor the public look to Congress, especially the Senate, to solve critical problems. From health care, to immigration, to infrastructure, Congress seems irrelevant at the least and a barrier at worst.
The bottom line result is that Democrats’ chance to take back the Senate declines with each decision.

Do Endorsements Matter? Not in Hancock’s First Election.

Politicians and campaigns spend a lot of time acquiring endorsements, especially from rivals, but it’s not clear it makes much of a difference.

When Mayor Michael Hancock was first elected in 2011, third-place close finisher, James Mejia, endorsed topliner Chris Romer. Yet, in the runoff, Hancock beat Romer by 16 percentage points, or nearly 20,000 votes, a major reversal of the first election position. There was also an increase of 8,000 additional votes in the total.